Drawing on life
Illustrator, musician, artist and children's book author Peter Suart has created his first comic book, The Black Book of Falling. An exhibition of pages from the comic are on display at the Hong Kong Arts Centre (HKAC).
The book is an extension of a comic series that is part of HKAC's Comix Home Base Project, which was conceived with the aim of cheering up Hong Kong people after Sars and the economic downturn.
'The first 12 pages were penned for ArtsLink [a monthly magazine by HKAC],' said Suart, who grew up in Hong Kong and returned to Britain in 1999 after living here for 23 years.
'They set the topic as hope. But after I decided to extend the project, I dropped the theme. It could then be anything else.'
The comic tells the adventures of a boy, Tik, and his dog, Tok.
The idea stemmed from Suart's love of The Adventures of Tintin, one of the artist's favourite comics.
'I once had a rag doll of Snowy [Tintin's dog]. I decided to turn the doll into Tok seven years ago.'
The doll, given to Suart in 1967, has worn out. But Tok, after featuring in seven books, survives.
At the beginning of the comic book, Tik and Tok find their way out of the dark and end up in a bizarre world.
There they come across many strange people and surreal situations that allow them to think about perennial human problems, such as war, slavery and death.
Their adventures mirror the artist's hopes and fears and how he sees the world.
'Tik and I are quite similar. . . but in a subconscious manner,' said Suart.
'I'm not perfect, but I guess there is good and bad in everyone. [Like Tik] I retain a certain sense of innocence. When I see terrible things happen, I still feel shocked and surprised.'
Suart recalled how shaken he was when he heard a news report about a six-year-old child who was killed by organ thieves in Eastern Europe for his heart.
'If [humans] could do such a thing, how can one be positive about life?'
But the artist is far from being a pessimist and sees life as wonderful and beautiful.
The Black Book of Falling is created from simple images and lines that convey glimmers of hope for the world.
'There are two sides to the world. There are many beautiful things, and that makes you wonder where the world comes from, why there is a world, whether there is a force
behind its creation, and what it was like before the world was created.
'These are all basic philosophical questions that I am very interested in. I think living itself is already a wonderful thing,' said Suart.
The artist also adopts a dualistic approach to his art. Like his other books, The Black Book of Falling has layers of meaning, which makes it appealing to children and adults alike.
'This is the goal of my books. The story has a simpler and clearer level for children, who will see it as an adventure story. But there are many underlying meanings for the children when they grow up and reread it, as well as for their parents.'
The Black Book of Falling - Comic Drawing by Peter Suart will run until April 15 at The Pao Gallery at the HKAC . Fifty-eight black-and-white pages of dip pen and Indian ink drawings from the book are on display.