Art from comic artist and comedian John Cooper’s “Distance” project included in this year’s “Manchester Open Exhibition”

The Manchester Open Exhibition, currently showing at HomeMCR, has over 450 pieces on display, and among them are pages from an autobiographical comic strip, the creation of illustrator and comedian John Cooper.

Distance - A comic strip diary about life during Covid by John Cooper

John began drawing his comic strip diary, “Distance” back in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic saw comedy clubs closed, when Britain went into lockdown. Created one page at a time as it happened, the strip gets inside the head of a comedian looking for humour and positive things during dark times.

In 2021, two collections of strips were successfully crowdfunded into print, and now two pages have been chosen as part of Home’s most popular exhibition, showcasing new artists.

Distance - A comic strip diary about life during Covid by John Cooper
Distance - A comic strip diary about life during Covid by John Cooper
Distance - A comic strip diary about life during Covid by John Cooper

“Like so many performers, I was left with an empty diary during the pandemic,” says John. I’ve always drawn comics for myself, so when I saw the way things were going I in March (2020) started thinking about ways to stay sane.

“Comics are great at dealing with real stuff,” he adds, “because they can take horrible events and add pathos to lighten the mood.”

“I’m really pleased to see my work on the walls, of course,” John says of the exhibition, which runs at HomeMCR until Sunday 27th March 2022. “I’ve never really thought I of myself as a wrote, more a performer, through the strip has definitely given me a new voice.

“Self-publishing was really affirming,” he finishes, “but I’m now looking for a publisher who might be interested.”

For the duration of the exhibition, all of the strips are available to read here – but you can also buy the collections, too.

John Cooper has performed two Edinburgh Festival solo shows, and is a member of Comedysportz improv team. He’s also worked as a freelance illustrator based in Manchester for over 20 years, including, recently, illustrations for a history of Cheadle Hulme School.

Launched in 2019, the Manchester Open Exhibition is a major annual open-entry art show, celebrating the creative talent of Greater Manchester residents. This year’s free exhibition at the HOME Gallery features work from 400+ residents, selected by a panel consisting of art experts and community representatives.

With an amazing 2271 artwork entries, the judging panel was impressed by the range, quality, differing artistic styles, and inspirational work being created across Greater Manchester.

• The Manchester Open Exhibition runs until Sunday 27th March 2022 at Home MCR 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester M15 4FN. For full details check out this page on the HomeMCR web site – tickets are free but booking is required

Read “Distance” by John Cooper and buy the collections here

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