Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On Writing #130 : Billy Mavreas

On writing
Billy Mavreas

I write sporadically although I more often work with text. I find it easy to convince myself that my text-based visual arts practice is the main part of my writing practice. This gets complicated because my visual arts practice is quite multi-disciplinary, involving collage, concrete and visual poetry making and comics/visual storytelling. If that wasn’t enough my habit of collecting paper ephemera and found paper scraps has insinuated itself into my art.

When I actually get around to using just words in writing, the context is either random semi-foolish tweets (an extension of my long standing practice of bumper sticker poetry and band name poetry) or earnest blog posts mostly about creative process.

This all doesn’t stop me from telling myself stories about things in life and using personal (unfolding, unwritten) storytelling as a guiding principle in life. Neither does it stop me from self-identifying as a writer. As in writer/artist.

I’ve been drawing all my life and writing on and off since adolescence. I studied undergrad English Lit for what that’s worth. I worked on my college paper and university literary journal. I wrote poems. In university I shared my poems with another student writer and he unceremoniously suggested I stick to drawing. The advice of another 19 year old froze my poetry for decades. Kids, don’t listen to kids.

At the time I was increasingly self identifying as a writer (art was something I always did, hence took for granted, was known about me so it didn’t have the same weight or loftiness to me as did calling myself a writer). That silly episode broke the spell and I continued - a little- writing in secret. Mostly awesome song lyrics and slogans. I started writing graffiti more seriously, always in clear capitol letters. I got way weirder with my text. Invented alphabets, channelled entities.

I cannot successfully extract ‘writing’ from a myriad other creative processes. My visual poetry is composed with collage and found fragments more than type or text. My drawing is heavily informed by the minute strokes and gestures well known to the calligrapher or long-hand writer. My hand writing is an odd semi-cursive that grew out of all caps lettering. I am a decent letterer. I enjoy sigil crafting and logo designing.

I am glad I’m well over forty now so I can presume I have something to say. I am able to express myself competently in short personal essay form however choppy. If I have writing goals they include more graphic novels, at least one solid fantasy short story, at least one decent YA novel, and some children’s books. I have little interest carving out a larger place for myself in the various literary writing scenes I’ve been around for years although I do want to find the opportunity to write more, straight up word after word writing.

I love reading and I love books. I love odd puzzling books that aren’t necessarily hard to read. I want to make odd puzzling books. I’ll make them, as I already do, regardless of the kind of writing they are made with.

The challenge for the multi-disciplinary writer/artist, as I see it, is to achieve a balance in output, a union of voices and tendencies, that speak of a whole person. It’s ok if I am known as the guy who paints bunnies or the person who draws stoner comix or the guy who makes Xerox abstractions or yet another one who publishes small collage zines, as long as I know that I am cresting towards a unification process, wherein all my offerings are part of the same coherent universe. Writing can function as a glue of some sort as I use it most to explicate to myself and others what I am doing as an artist, as a writer/artist, as a writer.

Billy Mavreas is a Montreal based multi-disciplinary artist/writer and co-director of Monastiraki, an art shop in the Mile End neighbourhood.

He is the author of three graphic novels, one book of posters and many mini books, prints, zines, pamphlets and assorted ephemera.

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