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Sab Meynert's artwork goes madly off in all directions

Toronto artist Sab Meynert has one foot in fine art work and another in comics. Releasing their first graphic novel, Sprawling Heart, at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this month, Meynert’s work is both graphic and lush, whether it’s a hand-printed zine or full-scale drawing.

Toronto artist is releasing their first graphic novel at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival

An inside spread from Breaking Is Opening, a 2015 comic by Sab Meynert. (Courtesy the artist)

Who are they?

Toronto artist Sab Meynert has one foot in fine art work and another in comics. Releasing their first graphic novel, Sprawling Heart, at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this month, Meynert's work is both graphic and lush, whether it's a hand-printed zine or full-scale drawing.

I really don't believe in linearity in any way.- Sab Meynert, artist

After studying illustration, Meynert "got rid of" all their thesis work and started fresh, moving into a fine art context and exhibiting in commercial galleries and venues like the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. At the same time, Meynert was involved in running a small press, Sever Press, with printmaker Eli Howey. Together they created hand-printed art books and comics, which introduced Meynert to printmaking and bookmaking.

The power of multiplicity

Meynert's imagery draws heavily on organic matter and repetition: plants, hands, knives and gold appear over and over. They're attracted to the idea of growth and multiple pathways, both in a botanical and philosophical sense.

A Fever Swelled in Me. Sab Meynert, 2013. Ink, gouache, brass dust on paper. (Courtesy the artist)

Meynert attributes much of their personal development to the influence of Rhizome Theory, advanced by French theorists Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in the 1970s and based on the biological rhizome structure. Deleuze and Guattari's work challenged the historically common root-tree way of depicting and understanding relationships, dismissing it as as narrow and binary; the rhizome structure allows more points of approach and expansion, something that Meynert identifies with on a personal level.

The cover of Breaking Is Opening, a 2015 comic by Sab Meynert. (Courtesy the artist)

"My work documents that kind of growth — the personal growth that you go through, through offshoots, through multiple trajectories at once."

Changing course after art school gave Meynert's work the direction it needed, but both fine art galleries and the Toronto small press and comic scene informed their practice. A group exhibition with painter and sculptor Nep Sidhu led to a collaborative friendship and introduced Meynert to the Black Constellation, an American multidisciplinary artist collective interested in art, music and questions of race that "pushed me into the world I want to be in."

We can never get away from the sprawl

Sprawling Heart is being released by 2D Cloud, a relatively new Minneapolis-based publisher of art comics and alternative comics. There is a narrative to the story, Meynert says, though an ambiguous one. They describe the book as a narrative about navigating through life without taking a typical path — about appreciating ambiguity and not following a linear trajectory.

"Sprawling Heart is kind of like a document of being on the middle path and moving through the world, with your heart leading it, and your emotions leading it."

The Final Exchange Is Forever Fluid With You. Sab Meynert. Seven-Layer silkscreen print. (Courtesy the artist)

How do these images fit into comics?

Meynert's work is heavy on imagery and uses minimal text. Wordless comics tend to fit a typical comics style with panels and gag jokes, but Meynert's work doesn't use gags, panels or even figures. Still, comics are, at their most basic level, sequential art.

"I think comics is about sequential narratives. It's not about panels and it's not about speech bubbles and it's not about autobio slice-of-life stuff all the time. And all of that is fine, but ...I feel like there are more ways to push a story," Meynert says.

A spread from Sprawling Heart by Sab Meynert, showing metallic gold used in original drawings. (Courtesy the artist)

Ultimately, whichever medium they are working in, Meynert wants to create work that reflects the multiformity of life.

"It's all sort of documenting the middle path and documenting navigation towards constant growth, that is in a circle, as opposed to a linear thing, because I really don't believe in linearity in any way and I do believe in multiplicty in all ways."

Sab Meynert will be signing copies of Sprawling Heart at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival on Sat, May 14 and Sun, May 15 in the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge, Toronto. Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-5pm. Free to attend. 

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