In October this year six graphic novelists participated in the first leg of a residential exchange between Taiwan and New Zealand.
Courtesy of a joint initiative between the Publishers Association of New Zealand, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation and the New Zealand Book Council, the exchange will see three New Zealand artists (Tim Gibson, Rachel Fenton, Ant Sang) collaborate on the creation of a graphic novel with three graphic novelists from Taiwan (Chuang Yung-shin, 61Chi, Ahn Zhe).
The first stage of this exciting opportunity was held in Auckland last month, and the second phase will take place in Taiwan in February 2015.
The completed work will be jointly published by the Publishers Association of New Zealand and the Taipei Book Fair Foundation and launched in February 2015 at the Taipei International Book Exhibition, at which New Zealand is to be Guest of Honour.
The New Zealand graphic novelists report back on the first half of their collaborative journey:
The first week of the residential exchange at Vaughan Park was extremely enjoyable. The accommodation was clean and comfortable, with views of Long Bay regional park and beyond to Whangaparaoa Peninsula, and provided a relaxed environment for meeting and getting to know the other artists.
I learnt that 61 Chi and I share an interest in wildlife, Sean and I like a lot of the same old movies and Ahn likes poetry as much as me. We each found some common interests to talk about, to break the ice and develop into ideas for our collaborative project.
Highlights from the week include the trip to the museum; meeting representatives from the Publishers Association of New Zealand and Allen & Unwin at the National Library, introducing the Taiwanese artists to other New Zealand graphic novelists and artists; watching the artists at work – their styles are so different – Ahn's fantasy, Chi's realism, Sean's humorous and comical. And I especially enjoyed playing team games on the last evening, particularly learning the Taiwanese game 'hit and run' and trying to pronounce its Chinese name, which sounds like 'doe bee cho' and is similar to, rather appropriately, the word for sorry.
It was also good to reach a consensus on the work we will produce for the Taipei Book Fair in February, which I am looking forward to, when I can improve my language skills some more.
I had a wonderful time meeting and living with the Taiwanese (and New Zealand) graphic novelists. They're a talented group so the pressure is on to produce something really special for this project. We had the opportunity to show the visitors around Auckland and as we spent more time with them, we got to know them, and discovered common interests and ideas which will serve the project well.
With the promises of the technologists accosting us every day, the idea of a physical Graphic Novelist Exchange where people actually use planes to plan and converse rather than Basecamp seemed absurd. Then we tried an eight person skype call. If writers were cats to be herded, and Kiwi broadband was a dog – well, I’ll not labour on.
It turned out that the meeting of the three Taiwanese and three Kiwi artists was essential to crossing language barriers and assisted in the sharing of Fish and Chips (in the wind) on a beach.
We spent a lot of time brainstorming about the work that we would create, pulled between our collective need for constraints and blue skies. We drew each other. We had meetings, like real grown-ups, and we occasionally disagreed. We even found some time to mingle at the National Library where every kiwi cartoonist we’d ever met let it be known that they didn’t apply for the exchange that we were now taking part in. Pull back, perhaps every second cartoonist.
Importantly, among all the discussions and drawing, we got to spend time learning about our Taiwanese brethren; their families, their culture and their history. Beyond the duty of the hosts, this is important because we will be creating a comic for each of them. A gift just for them, and so hopefully for their countrymen as well.
Read more about the Graphic Novel and Comic Artist Exchange. We also recommend this report from the Publishers Association of New Zealand.
Photo by Catriona Ferguson of the artists on the first day of the exchange. [Right-Left] Ant Sang, Tim Gibson, Chuang Yung-shin, Rachel Fenton, Ahn Zhe, 61Chi and Aho Huang (translator).
About the participating artists:
Tim Gibson has a background in illustrating worlds, characters and monsters for films including Tintin, District 9 and Avatar. His website www.mothcity.com offers a fresh take on the traditional murder mystery and is distributed through digital comics distributor ComiXology. Tim’s work has been widely anthologised and Moth City is considered a ground-breaking approach to storytelling.
Rachel Fenton is a novelist, poet and graphic novelist. Her work has been published both online and in print and includes cross-genre collaborations with other creative professionals. In 2012 she was awarded the AUT Creative Writing Award and has held an artist in residence position at Counterexample Poetics.
Ant Sang is an award-winning graphic novelist who has also produced numerous short comics for local anthologies and educational purposes. Shaolin Burning was awarded an Honour Award at the 2012 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards and was selected for the Storylines Notable Books list that same year. His 2004 comic series The Dharma Punks will be reprinted in graphic novel form for the first time in 2014.
Chuang Yung-shin is one of the most well-known commercial film directors in Taiwan. In 1997 he published Film Maker’s Notes, a comic which recorded his life and works and has been reprinted 18 times. Since then he has gone on to publish further award winning works, including The Window and ‘80s Diary in Taiwan1.
61Chi graduated from the Art Department of Taiwan Normal University. Her first book of comics, Room, was published in January 2014. 61Chi belongs to the new generation of Taiwanese comics artists with versatile drawing talents and a broad range of skills across genres, including children’s illustration, American style realistic drawing and Japanese aesthetic style.
Ahn Zhe was born in Taipei in 1985. While his work encompasses graphic design, illustration and storyboard design, his true passion lies in art as well as image and word creation. His works include The Dream Under the Bed, published by TITAN Publishing Co. Ltd. in 2011, and he has also contributed to collections such as 80s Taipei x 90s Hong Kong.
We gratefully acknowledge support from Creative New Zealand and the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan, for this project.