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Raymond Biesinger launches Black and White Illustrations at Wurm Gallery

By Diane Bond on November 23, 2012

What does an illustrator do with over a decades’ worth of work?

Raymond Biesinger has collected his into a 208-page book, Black and White Illustrations, which launches in Ottawa tonight at Invisible Cinema‘s Wurm Gallery. In addition to the book launch, 11 of Raymond’s screenprints will be on display at the gallery until December 12. The event is shaping up to be a good time, with a presentation talk and slide show given by the illustrator, as well as music by DJ Skid Vicious. And drinks.

The self-taught artist has garnered quite a resumé over the years, having published work in (to name a few) Billboard, Broken Pencil, the Economist, the Globe & Mail, the New York Times, Quill & Quire, SPIN, Walrus, and WIRED. Raymond and I exchanged a Q&A over email this week to talk about his upcoming show.

Apt613: What is your connection to Invisible Cinema? Have you exhibited in Ottawa before?

Raymond Biesinger: While I haven’t exhibited visual things in Ottawa before, I am in an band called the Famines that’s played Ottawa a half dozen times. We have a thorough visual side to us–we’ve published things before, including LPs and art books, pennants, posters, and all the other things you might expect a touring band to have. Oh, and you can find all of that Famines material in the book–there is an entire chapter based on the band.

Thinking about it more, though, I’ve sold prints at the Idle Hands craft fair before, and I actually made some illustrations for the Ottawa Citizen in April of 2006 (two big section-front drawings for the politics section). I have a feeling they no longer have the budget for such things? I did one 11×17 Xerox show poster that was up in Ottawa sometime in the early 2000’s, too.

Anyways, I’ve never been to Invisible Cinema before, but the good people at Ottawa Explosion and Bruised Tongue have been great friends to the band and thought it was a good match. While we’ve all done the “music show” thing before, we’re all new to this “book launch” thing and curious about how it could turn out.

Apt613: How did the idea for Black and White Illustrations (the book) develop?

RB: There is a problem that comes from being an illustrator who works a lot: my archives bulge with old work that I still like, and there are limited ways to display that work. I’ve done over 1200 assignments over the last eleven years, so a collection book has always seemed like a good idea–I could fill a few hundred pages with work without being embarrassed by what’s in them. And given that black and white illustrations have always been my favourite kind, it seemed like a good theme to start on. I expect next year I’ll do a similar collection of colour work.

Apt613: You are quoted as saying “We live in a fantastically rich time and place, and almost anything is possible. In that environment, the most original and interesting thing you can do is impose limitations on yourself.” What are some limitations you impose upon yourself, artistically?

RB: Shunning decoration, having all content in an image directly express an argument or concept, working (at absolute most) with five flat colours that repeat, most often working with only black, white and one more. Working fast, not being precious. Rejecting overt digital effects. Rejecting backgrounds and setting–I think I’ve only drawn one or two things with a background colour other than white. Being efficient. I avoid the complexities of realism by reducing objects to simplist forms and symbols, etc. That kind of thing.

Apt613: What can we expect to see and/or hear tonight?

RB: There will be an art show of eleven silkscreened prints of mine, all black and white. Also, DJs. And people drinking, I imagine. And I’ll do a presentation that could go one of two ways. Or it might be a mix of two ways? I imagine one approach would embrace the “retrospective” part of the book, and dwell on what’s inside it. Another would be to discuss the projects that thematically fit within the book but broke my heart by being completely impossible to fit in the book format. Like my An In-Progress Chronology of Edmonton Bands chart, or my Doom pamphlet, or the Famines’ cassette-plus-perfect-bound-320-page-liner-note-book release titled 14 July 2003. I think I’m leaning towards that, and it’d probably be a lot more fun and interesting than the alternative.

Apt613: Will the slide show have actual slides and carousels?

RB: I could wish. It’s probably going to look a lot like a laptop hooked up to a digital projector connected to the internet. Also, there’ll be a nervous looking guy hitting some buttons on it while talking. As I’ve said, book launches are a new thing to me.

Black and White Illustrations opens on Friday, November 23 (8:00pm) at Wurm Gallery (319 Lisgar Street at Bank). Books and prints will be available for sale. The show continues until Wednesday, December 12.

Cow. Screenprint by Raymond Biesinger.