Saturday 3 February 2007

Ordinary decent crims.

Damn, I nearly forgot to cover this in my new blog. I just remembered it because I was phoning them to get my art back. This was a job I drew in the middle of 2005. I spoke a little about it in my Comics Journal interview a year ago. It was for an exhibition described as follows:
City of shadows: inner city crime & mayhem 1912-1948 - Sydney at the Justice & Police Museum. (great old building, shown left)
"The extensive collection of police forensic negatives casts a fascinating light on the shadowy underworld of Sydney between the wars. In the mugshots we encounter people of that world - thieves, breakers, receivers, 'magsmen', 'spielers', 'urgers', 'gingerers', false pretenders, 'hotel barbers', shoplifters, dope users, prostitutes, makers of false oaths - and the occasional murderer."

Crime writer Peter Doyle is the curator of the exhibition, and also put together the marvellous book that goes with it.
My pal at Top Shelf, Brett Warnock came across it over Christmas and wrote on his blog: "In Sydney i revisited a gorgeous bookstore called Ariel... They had a copy of Lost Girls under glass, retailing for $175 Aussie!! I picked up a stunning book called City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs 1912 - 1948. My god some of these people looked rough & tumble." (I don't think he knows there's an exhibition and I'm connected with it).
Anyone with an interest in film noir would love this book. And it's all real, from police files of the period. Some of it is pretty ugly and horrible, bodies dragged out of the river, or found shot up in their living rooms. Characters on every page, and old cars too.

"Another room is devoted to the notorious Ernst Hofmann murder of 1942, which triggered one of the most comprehensive investigations ever conducted by Sydney police. Presented as a black-and-white comic strip by artist Eddie Campbell, it’s a compelling and salacious tale of prostitution, murder, false identities and very nasty crims."
Peter had the idea of bringing one of the documented cases to life by making it into an illustrated narrative running all around the walls of one of the small rooms of the museum, and contacted me to provide the drawings. I was in the middle of Fate of the Artist at the time, which I put aside for three weeks, as I recall. He used a line from the recorded dialogue as the title of the piece, "The fat shiela hit me!" (for my foreign readers, a 'sheila' is common Australian slang for a woman, or it used to be, in less pc times). It amused me when the statement that came with my cheque had the job itemised with that title, on the official headed notepaper of the Historic Houses Trust, maintainers and preservers of the museum, as well as publisher of the book. I filed it as one of the humorosities of the year. That's the illustrious Mr Doyle standing in front of my title panel.

Reproductions of relevant evidence, photos, fingerprints, handwritten police notes etc., were attached to the wall in appropriately relevant positions, footnotes as it were, to make for quite a complex read. These photos are from the launch night, taken by my pal Breach, who went along as my representative as I couldn't fly down there at the time.
The exhibition was supposed to run till last october, but has been so popular that it has been extended to 11 feb, which is next week. If you don't get to see my part of it on the wall, before it goes, all is not lost. It will be appearing in Deevee 2007 (cover shown) and will occupy perhaps 14 pages. We still have to figure out how to break it down into page portions, since it was designed to run a round a room.

The style of the piece changes according to who is giving their version of the story. Thus the detective's voice is represented by a style that looks like a movie detective story, like Gangbusters say, and another voice is given a more stressed artistic treatment, as you can glimpse here.
The job was quite a different experience for me, and Peter Doyle was a great guy to work with.

* * * *

Update 5.33 am Eastern standard (9 in the evening here). Hayley Campbell has a couple of better photos of the show. They also happen to have Neil Gaiman in them, from when he was over here for a convention last summer.

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Blogger spacedlaw said...

I think I will not be able to make it. I just shall have to order the Deevee then (not quite the same thing though).
That exhibition book looks interesting. I tried to see if Amazon would have it but apparently it is not available anymore. Would you happen to know of a on-line store that would have it ?

3 February 2007 at 02:12:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Aaron F. Gonzalez said...

Amazon UK has it shipping in 4 to 6 weeks:

3 February 2007 at 18:10:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

Thanks for the tip Aaron.

5 February 2007 at 02:48:00 GMT-5  

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