February 3, 2016
Comix Creatrix: celebrating female comic book artists after Angoulême
by Zeljka Marosevic
The UK’s largest ever exhibition of female comic book art opens on Friday at the House of Illustration in London.
As we wrote about last month, the well-known Angoulême Comics Festival caused controversy in January when it revealed an all-male shortlist for its annual Grand Prix. As comic book artists began to boycott the event, many spoke of the embarrassment of being associated with a prize that did not value or honour the contribution to comics by female artists.
Comix Creatrix is an exhibition that directly opposes Angoulême’s backward attitudes. According to the gallery’s website, the exhibition showcases “100 innovative creators and debunks the myth that women have a limited stake in the world of comics.” Speaking to Tola Onanuga at The Guardian, the exhibition’s co-curator, Olivia Ahmad, said of the Grand Prix:
It shows an astounding lack of appreciation for the important and influential work of women creators, past and present, and also of the way history is constructed – often to the disadvantage of women.
Instead, the exhibition offers a more complete history of comic book art by showing how female artists have pioneered new styles and introduced fresh themes and concerns to the art form. The exhibition includes work by one of the first female caricaturists, Mary Darly, as well as contributions from contemporary artists such as Alison Bechdel, Roz Chast, Posy Simmonds and Audrey Niffenegger.
As the gallery’s website describes, female artists have had a significant part to play in the development of the form:
From their early incarnations as sequential satires and newspaper strips to today’s countercultural zines, webcomics and award-winning graphic novels, comics have evolved into a complex and powerful literary form. Women have been present throughout this evolution, creating some of the most defining and provocative works of the medium.
Take that, Angoulême. The exhibition runs until May.
Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.