Marlene Yuen is a Vancouver-based artist who received her bachelor’s of studio arts in 1998 from the University of British Columbia. Marlene has exhibited at galleries, artist-run centres, and cultural events in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Japan. Although she is a multidisciplinary artist, her current focus is on illustration and handmade books; her artist books have been retained in special collections nationally and internationally.
Ho Sun Hing Printers is Marlene’s most recent book. It is about Canada’s first Chinese-English letterpress printing shop located in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown. It is a co-publication with the grunt gallery.
Works at KOMA:
How Do We Do the Right Thing? pen and ink comic, 2021
This is my contribution to a collaborative book, To Become the Next Generation’s Ancestors, curated by Dan Starling. This book explores the topic of anti-racism through art and experimental narrative. According to Dan, the project was sparked by an interest in providing an opportunity for 17 Vancouver artists to imagine alternative to the status quo, and to exercise a creative response to the topics of social justice, equity, and intergenerational change.
For my assigned chapter, I was given this phrase: HELP OR TESTS FROM ALLIES OR OPPONENTS, who are met on the journey.
I thought about the 1989 film by Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing. For my comic, I examined a pivotal scene near the end of the film. Racism is apparent throughout this entire film. Animosity is demonstrated amongst the various people (black, white, Jewish, Asians, & Latinos) that live and work on Stuyvesant Avenue in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighbourhood. As Sal’s Pizzeria burns down, across the street, Korean corner store owner Sonny fears that his business is the next target. He screams and declares to his black neighbours that he isn’t white. Sonny’s store is spared.
Gingerbread Blahs, originally a letterpress printed book, 2010
In April 2010, I was an artist in residence at Frans Masereel Centrum in Kasterlee, Belgium. Frans Masereel Centrum is a centre that hosts international artists and primarily focuses on printmaking processes. By using photopolymer plates, I printed a limited edition comic book, Gingerbread Blahs. This comic book is an expansion of the short, humorous comic that I made in 2008 for a Portland, Oregon publication called Puddleville. At the time, I was one of seven artists who contributed to comic anthology, but the collective disbanded in 2008. For the last anthology, the theme was fairy tales. I thought about the tale about the Gingerbread Man. In my version, the gingerbread is going through a midlife crisis and struggles with growing older, getting married, starting a family and aging gracefully. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would ever have a child, but as it turns out, I would become pregnant a year after making this comic. Life is funny that way sometimes.
Gingerbread Blahs, digital comic, 2008
In 2007, I attended a one week graphic novel intensive program hosted by Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. It was a condensed program that taught storytelling, illustration and writing. Scott McCloud, comic theorist and artist, and Trina Robbins, cartoonist and historian, taught very engaging workshops. I met a keen group of comic enthusiasts in the program. As a way of staying in touch, we decided to form a collective, Puddleville, and work towards a comic book anthology. Puddleville because the Portland-based artists felt that it rains a lot in Portland, but as a Vancouverite, I beg to differ. For the second volume of Puddleville, artists had to base their comic on a fairy tale. I decided to base my comic on a gingerbread cookie character from The Gingerbread Man. In my version, the gingerbread character is experiencing a mid-life crisis.