ComMission-2006 held in the Centre of Contemporary Art MARS from April 27 to May 14 is really an event."> ComMission is Five Years Young. Where are the Russian comics, huh? :: Russia-InfoCentre
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ComMission is Five Years Young. Where are the Russian comics, huh?

The fifth international festival of comics ComMission-2006 held in the Centre of ComMission-2006Contemporary Art MARS from April 27 to May 14 is really an event.

Many Russians are interested in the art of comics nowadays. Many Russian people get settled in the Internet gaining access to everything, and to numerous comics in particular.

Hardly any comics were available in the Soviet past. In the 1990s, after the perestroika, comics artists endeavored to arrange production of comics magazines but most of the projects went broke in that crisis economic situation. Sheer enthusiasm was not enough. In the teeth of frustrating circumstances artists went on living and creating.

Captain Donkey [1990] by Vladimir SakovMost remarkable are comics by the marvelous artist Vova Sakov, especially his Adventures of Captain Donkey, a witty philosophic story of mans adventures in hell and heaven, with both the realms strangely reminding of modern reality. The talented story promised to be continued and even to be screened as an animated cartoon. Butfor 16 years already nothing is heard from Captain Donkey. Where are you, Captain?

By the 2000s they started taking the comics genre in earnest in Russia. The annually held international festival ComMission is to prove it. The festival aims to bring together soul-mates from various corners of the planet and popularize the genre of comics in Russia via exhibiting comics, holding lectures and master-classes, along with an on-line competition of comics.

ComMission-2006Having missed the previous ComMissions I was curious and expecting to see something special at the exhibition. Amidst a featureless host of graphomaniac and plagiary works there stood out a few worthy creations, some serious and some very funny. The variety of styles somehow confuses you; you can hardly enumerate them all.

One room is even displaying Soviet posters on safety rules and emergency measures in case of chemical attack, etc. The project wants to bring home to the viewers that the comics existed in the USSR, though disguised as propaganda posters. Set in the frame of comics some posters with gas-masked greenish people at the orange background look like ugly cartoons about Martian invasion and thus make you smile.

As a matter of fact comics were scarce in the Soviet times because the genre was condemned as bourgeois; but there were plenty of caricatures, grotesque portraits, illustrations for childrens books and magazines (Vesyolye Kartinki and Murzilka) and the mega popular humorous journal Crocodile.

As for today, the Russians seem to have got hooked on Japanese manga and anime: at the exhibition you cannot overlook the prevalence of these styles.

Its a pity to say, most of the comics turned disappointing: what you see there is congestion as everything blends into one confusing picture, like in a narcotic hallucination. Oh gosh, what mad and gloomy mess is in your heads, guys! thats what some comics made me think. It looks as if the authors are still kids playing and making up their own realms, but the kids that now have too much adult garbage in their heads. And the garbage is heavily dumped out on you.

Many works are professionally drawn, but it doesnt make up for commonplace plots and shallow ideas. I and my friend were looking for something different. And we found it!

Then jump out of the window, and find out how real this life is. It is not improbable that the next level will be more interesting, The Cat [2006] by Oleg TischenkovIt was real joy for our eyes and minds to rest on the series The Cat by talented artist and designer Oleg Tischenkov. His stories in pictures about Man and Cat are really refreshing! Very simple in drawing and profound in meaning, witty and subtly ironical they stay with you as a helper for good spirits.

In the same room we had a chance to feel ourselves comics characters with the help of hanged fabric cloudlets with some phrases on them.

In the next room we came across a herd of Urban Animals, vinyl toys from Hong Kong originally painted by artists. If you are patient enough to watch them all you might probably find among them those akin to your mood.

ComMission-2006It was also interesting to look through the collection of French comic books provided by A. Venediktov, editor-in-chief of the radiostation Echo of Moscow and to listen to an interview with a French comics artist.

At the exhibition one can buy some books and magazines with Russian and foreign comics.

In spite of the contradictory feelings after the exhibition I still believe that there are good comics artists in Russia. Comics are magic. They can inspire positive feelings in a person and help overcome predicaments of the mind, if any. That is the sort of comics that should be developed and promoted. I hope to see more such comics at the next ComMission.

However, this ComMission is not over yet. It will last till May 14. So, go and see yourself.

7 May, 2006

May 11, 2006 15:53

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