Dis-orientation

March 28th, 2020

Esther McManus – Windows (See You at the Potluck, 2018)

This one comes from what my partner calls the “They Saw You Coming” side of the comic/zine world.  Every time I visit a comics festival or zine fair I come back home with at least 2-3 books full of pictures of buildings, or parts of buildings, or spaces where buildings used to be.  I rarely regret it.

Esther McManus’ Windows is an excellent example of the form, a series of portals that have been removed from any supporting context in a way that serves as startling prompt to the imagination:

The work demanded by this zine doesn’t just come in the form of having to reconstruct the urban environment – that’s the most immediately striking element, of course, a natural by-product of the composition of the piece, but it’s the start of a process rather than its final conclusion.

In its gradual blurring of the distinction between windows and the shapes that frame them, its removal of the human from the urban environment, and its finding of new ways to recombine familiar shapes, Windows is ultimately more Ballardian in its effects than it may initially appear.

Moving beyond brutalist cliches, this is a work that re-imagines the city as something that is no longer for us – a space that exists on the other side of the portal, where there is nothing to be reflected except windows looking on windows looking on windows all the way down.

It is March 2020.  I suspect that this scene is more familiar to many of us now than it would have been at any previous point in my lifetime.

Suds McKenna – Bunged (O Panda Gordo, 2018)

True to its origins as ‘an ongoing series of urban sketches’, Bunged looks like something that you might encounter in scraps, as a series of drawings that had been left around the house, flat share fragments that tell the story of a busy mind in a busy world. Thankfully for your future prospects of cohabitation, this mind seems to be a little bit scared of what it sees, but not to the point where the idea of humour has been made to seem miraculous:

You would feel puzzled but not deeply perturbed by these portraits.  You wouldn’t mention them to anyone, wouldn’t deem them any more necessary of commentary than the fact that a bar was crowded on a Friday.  Or indeed, that some of the streets pictured here – like Buchanan Street, above – were filled with bodies at the weekend.

It’s the distortions of the human form that give this work its non-banal aspect, suggestive as they are of both a deep subjectivity (as drawn into the page by your mystery flatmate/as read into the page by you) and of the fact that these people have more going on than you can fathom (as drawn into the page by your flatmate/as recognised from the world you’ve seen with your own damn eyes). This is itself is hardly a startling realisation, of course, but it’s vividly expressed here and comforting in context.

Monstrous as we are, it’s good to know that we’re not alone.

Gareth A. Hopkins – Petrichor

November 14th, 2019

The images in Petrichor look like a series of portraits of a flight of stairs as seen by someone in the process of falling down them.

The images in Petrichor are black and white except for those that are in colour.

Individual panels do not contain any words, except from when they do. These words form a non-linear narrative, except for the ones that are drawn on the images themselves, which form a different part of that narrative.

The narrative comes crashing in and out like waves.

This does not mean that it always starts or ends in the same place.

The visual parts of this narrative look like portraits of these waves as seen from the perspective of the sand the waves are breaking on.

Each panel is a wave.  Each page is a wave.  Each wave is…

Every element of the narrative is a grain of sand.  The waves are crashing over.

***

Petrichor is a book about dying.

Petrichor is a book for the dead.

Petrichor is a book about life, for the living.

It’s a book about how ghosts are made up and why we need them anyway. It’s a book about how ghosts are real.

Petrichor is a book of stray thoughts, abstract images, brand names, missing people, scenes repeating as the waves crash over.  It’s a book about love and loss and family.  All of this feels like an accident.  Everything in this books seems carefully put together and well maintained.

Petrichor is a black and white comic except when it’s in colour.

And you are still falling down the stairs.  And the waves are crashing over.  Ghosts and sand.  Missing people.  People who are here.

And the waves crash over.