Keith Jones talks about BACTER-AREA in the Montreal Hour

“Ode to the odd” / The Montreal Hour / Isa Tousignant / January 12, 2006

New Montrealer Keith Jones launches a crazy cornucopia of signs and symbols

Keith Jones moved to Montreal two weeks ago because he was fed up with Vancouver. "I like drawing here more, because there's more snow on the ground and I don't have to go out," he says with a chuckle. "I usually just get up when the sun goes down and draw all night. It's fun."

He's just put out a jewel of a comic within Drawn and Quarterly's Petits Livres series, the series' most successful yet. Bacter-Area is what you'd call a comic art book, just because narrative is sparse and each drawing is a universe. Jones has worked with his friend Marc Bell in the past, and the kinship is apparent in the obsessive doodley detail of his panels: His world is a candy-coloured land of excessive and obsessive repetition where things and words are discombobulated until they reach the plane of symbolic surrealism.

He told me a little about recurring themes.

Automobiles were the first thing I actually got into drawing when I was a kid. I was drawing ant farms at first, just dots on paper, but one of my friends I met when I was eight years old was drawing hot-rods and I was totally blown away by them. It got me into drawing; cars were one of my biggest influences as a kid. I just like the way they look, I guess, these neat weird things that you get inside and move around in, almost like robots that need a brain, and you're the brain inside of them.

Then it got to a point where I didn't want to draw whole cars riding around roads any more, I was more interested in drawing the road with crap growing out of it and the cars used as these shelters, like if there was this weird energy crisis and cars became useless again. It just seems more interesting to use them as junk on the sidewalk.

Wise hooded beings brandishing sceptres:
I listen to a lot of Coast to Coast with Art Bell, which is a radio show on at night that goes over every facet of unexplainable situations in existence. I was trying to find things that were more than just people walking down the road. So on all levels, the car started to get torn apart, and then for a while I was drawing weird animals everywhere, and then the people now, lately they all have gas masks on, and some of them don't have faces any more, and it just seemed more interesting.

I guess using hooded cloaked people, if I wasn't listening to that radio show, at that time I got into this mode where I would turn every light off in my house, and I was living in this decrepit old building that had all these old men that were coughing through all the walls all the time, and it felt really dank and harsh. I'd listen to Gregorian chant with one light on and listen to the coughing in the background, and look at these weird biblical books - I just felt like I was wanting to get into that more!

Birds are these weird fowls, they're these things that are everywhere, pesking around and observing, and they're almost untouchable because they can go anywhere and do anything and witness anything.

But honestly, when I put them in there it's mostly just to fill in that little space with something interesting that's reacting to everything else. That's what I do with almost everything - the great challenge is to just find more props to cram into the page.


Launches Jan. 25, 8 p.m., at Zoobizarre (6388 St-Hubert)

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