Is this the start of a beautiful Friday review slot? No idea. But it’s a friday again, college commitments have meant I’ve actually managed to not draw much random unrelated stuff this week, and there are other drawing filled books which I’ve read and enjoyed, so, permanent position or no, here we are again. There was a period in my life a few years ago where I had ambitions to be a comic book nerd, I like pictures, stories, and have a particular leaning towards science fiction, so it seemed a good move for me. Well, sprawling and impenetrable as the comic book world is, I never quite made it, but I did pick up a few interesting things along the way. One of these was the work of illustrator Foo Swee Chin (or FsC), who, when I first found my way to her work, was illustrating a comic called “Nightmares and Fairytales” for Slave Labor Graphics (possibly better known as “the people who published Johnny the Homicidal Maniac”). The comic was... ok, but what drew me in to reading it and kept me there were the drawings, ostensibly “manga” in style, they were also surreal, energetic, elegant, and like any good drawing, seemingly effortlessly executed. FsC left “Nightmares and Fairytales” after the first two series, and thus so did I, and it was a while before I spotted her work again. Firstly, in the form of a small number of self penned “one shot” comics published by Neko Press, and subsequently in MuZz.
MuZz, is an, as yet, incomplete comic series, and a confusing one. The basic plot follows a character called “Farllee”, who we first meet when she awakens, disorientated and with no idea of her own identity, or history, on a train. The train, we learn, is headed for the city of “MuZz” the place all imagined personalities go when the people who imagine them die. I won’t delve too deep in to the plot, other to say Farllee stands out as peculiar even among the bizarre array of half formed creatures that make up those around her, and this makes their trip to MuZz a very turbulent one, and their subsequent arrival cause a great deal more trouble, as the residents, and leaders, of the city try and figure out who, and indeed what, Farllee is. The book hangs it narrative around the framework of dreams and wondering imaginations, so utter chaos is par of the course. Is it good? Hard to say really, being so far only volume one of, I don’t know how many. But, what it definitely is, is beautiful. You’re reading someone's imagination in full flow, and it’s a vast imagination, every image is wonderfully conceived and designed, and there are enough ideas featured to form the groundwork of several books. I can’t admit to having gone back and reread the text since I purchased it, but I can barely pass it on the shelf without picking it up and revisiting the images. I wouldn’t suggest MuZz to anyone interested in a narrative, but for lovers of imagery I can’t recommend looking into the work of Foo Swee Chin highly enough myself, and MuZz is her work in its most undiluted form.
Whether this marks a progression into a greater degree of wordiness on this blogs part I'm yet to know, but if you're sitting comfortably I'd like to talk for a bit today rather than offer a picture.
Having been pointed in it's direction a few weeks ago and never following it up, yesterday I finally read Shaun Tan's "The Arrival". Published nearly two years ago now "The Arrival" is an entirely (I'm not counting the title) text free novel, which follows a single nameless character during his emigration and settlement in an unfamiliar country. Unfamiliar not only to the character, but also to the reader, as the the nation, it's flora, fauna, language and customs are all creations of Tan. This has the effect of meaning the narrative does not simply retell the story of an immigrants arrival, but recreates the experience of it. Our protagonist has to struggle to navigate a world where even basic tasks, from food shopping to unskilled labour, although recognisable, function in wildly different ways than thous we know. His only guides through this world are a series of fellow settlers, people who have already undergone the transition into being citizens of this peculiar nation, who retell, or at least, remember, their own journeys, escaping from invasions, wars, and hardships. Quite what the character we follow is escaping from is left deliberately obscure, expressed only as a widely interpretable metaphor, which, like the books word free pages, and black and white images, is all the more effective for it's vagueness. At just shy of 120 pages of images, and no text in sight, it might seem odd to use the term "novel" to describe Tan's book, but the pictures used to tell this story are so finely detailed, not in a technical sense (although the drawing are beautifully rendered) but in a narrative one, each single visual page would take several in text to adequately describe it.
"The Arrival" is one of thous books which is just on the cusp of being something I'm almost a little angry at for not being my own work. But I'll forgive it this small failing, as even in the 24 hours since I was able to read it, it's made me think very much about both how I do, and how I would like to, present and use my own work. Whether you work with images or words yourself, if your interests are artistic or political, or if you just really like a good book, I would gladly and stongly suggest you give Shaun Tan's "The Arrival" a read.
ooh look! the results of the b3ta collaboration project. i submitted two images myself, and the compiler (happytoast) in his infinite wisdom plumped for my sand dune picture (i'll post the alternative up here soon). looks a bit lost up there along side everyone else's colourful work i think, but still.
of you want to download the full poster sized image, it's available here
not generally in the habit of loading work done at college here, seeing as it's college work and thus not procrastination. however, seeing as i was basically arsing about with a piece of eqipment i've not used before all day, and i used a bit of yesterdays image as the basis of this, i thought i'd share it.
ACG is a full-time Illustration student, part-time gallery volunteer, and occasional writer on the only topic they could claim to have anything resembling an expertise in.
Resembling being the key word.