Finding Lights at the end of the tunnel

Lights has a new exhibit at Artscape Sandbox ahead of her free show at Yonge and Dundas Square for NXNE


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Electro-pop artist Lights (image: Ryan Emberely)

Lights is looking pretty ecstatic. 

The Timmins-born electro-pop singer is standing between the blown-up panels of her new comic book, Skin & Earth, a companion art piece to her fourth studio album of the same name.

Ahead of her show at NXNE show at Yonge and Dundas Square this Saturday, her works will be on display at Artscape Sandbox as part of the Bombay Artisan Series, an art competition by Bombay Sapphire that gives young Canadian artists an opportunity to exhibit their work in three cities across Canada, win a handsome stipend, and exhibit at Art Basel Miami. 

Though she’s always dabbled in visual arts, this is her first exhibition, and a culmination of years of deeply involved work. 

“I knew right away that if I wanted to make this dream project come true, I had to start from the beginning,” she says. She started by constructing the storyline, then divided the story into twelve parts, and wrote a song for each part. “I ended up writing three songs for each of those twelve parts, but then picked the best one for each of those parts.” 

Artwork from Skin & Earth, Bombay sapphire artisan series (image: ryan emberely)

 

The comic book, which was rolled out in six issues, was all drawn and written by Lights herself, and takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. It follows a young woman named Enaia Jin from the wrong side of the tracks, who embarks on a journey to find hope and self-discovery navigating a doomed landscape of gods and cults, divided by class, where the opulent class take advantage of the “Red Sector” of the lower class, abusing their land, and have numbed themselves to the plight of the disappearing world. 

“In a world where everyone else has given up on [hope], she was always taught to look for it,” says Lights. “She doesn’t fit into this world because she’s the only one who still believes there’s a chance for people, or at least, is still aware of what’s going and fights through it.” 

The lead character shares more in common with Lights than the signature mane of striking red hair. 

“She’s not a hero,” said Lights. “She doesn’t feel like a hero. She doesn’t feel strong all the time, and she doesn’t feel like she’s a bad-ass.” 

A panel from Skin & Earth

 

Instead, the journey her character goes through is closely aligned with Lights’ own battles with mental health issues, and the depression that she battled for years. 

“‘Giants’ ultimately sounds like a big, anthemic song, but it’s actually about being controlled, and wanting to break past that,” she said. “The verses talk about how you’re trapped in this place; you’re trapped by all these walls and you’re trying to get out of it. This story is commentary on the depression that I faced for a few years, and how I’m not ashamed of it.” 

And her journey with Skin & Earth doesn’t stop with this art exhibit. The full graphic novel, of all issues of the book, comes out in early July, and fans who buy a copy will find a few surprises between the pages. 

“I went back through all the art, and integrated QR codes into all the chapter pages, so when you scan it, it’s going to bring you to a microsite that will autoplay the music that’s associated to that chapter, and the music videos,” she said. 

That microsite will also offer merch, including items of clothing that show up in the comic book. This is all in addition to the four music videos released prior to the album launch, which follows a live-action Lights/Enaia Jin as she wanders through a neon-bathed industrial post-apocalypse, encountering lovers and villains alike. 

“This is the most cool and immersive music experience,” she said. 

And the experience continues in Toronto through the weekend: The artwork from Skin & Earth will be on display at Artscape Sandbox until June 16, culminating with a free concert at Yonge and Dundas Square as part of NXNE. 

For more information on the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series, and to submit your work, check out bombaysapphire.com/artisanseries

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Jessica Wei is an associate editor for Post City. She has lived and worked as a journalist in Montreal, Hong Kong and, now, Toronto. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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