A COMICA REVIEW BY:
The following review of the Hypercomics exhibition (curated by Paul Gravett and featuring Dave McKean, Warren Pleece, Adam Dant and Daniel Merlin Goodbury) by JJ Charlesworth appeared in London's event listing magazine Time Out on 10 September 2010.
If comics were once the preserve of spotty teens, the culture of the modern graphic novel has come of age. But the original comic format itself - image sequences set out in grids, printed in book-format pages - hasn’t changed much, and while comic artists experiment with how the comic book form can carry a narrative, it’s always bound by the linear start-to-finish format of storytelling. ‘Hypercomics’, curated by comics impresario Paul Gravett, is a superb exhibition of work by comic artists who experiment with non-linear narrative forms, while using the three dimensions of the gallery space as a sort of expanded canvas.
Daniel Merlin Goodbrey’s ‘The Archivist’ fills each wall with a two-dimensional grid of pages that allows us to thread our way through the odd world of the Pump House’s imaginary archivist. At various points, Goodbrey’s story splits into different simultaneous strands, alternative endings and circular repetitions, and the overall effect makes you dizzyingly aware of the mutable nature of narrative time. Similarly, Warren Pleece’s Montague Terrace story-strips wend their way through another gallery, each delving into the private lives of various misfit characters who all live in the same apartment block - a sort of ‘Rear Window’ conceit that works because of Pleece’s assured humour and classic linework (the one about a failed magician’s talking rabbit is priceless).
The most ambitious and difficult work here is ‘90s indie comics master Dave McKean’s ‘The Rut’, an installation that unfurls a dark and depressive reflection on a character’s experience of prison, following what might have been a stabbing. McKean’s claustrophobic style slips in and out of drawing, photography and sculpture, with a surprising multiple-viewpoint centrepiece in which the fateful event is literally ‘seen from different perspectives’.
‘The Rut’s intense, emotionally exposed bleakness can seem overwrought as gallery art; by contrast, artist Adam Dant’s quirkily comic ‘Library of Doctor London’, a mocked-up library whose painted books are the body-parts and ailments of an imaginary London, shows how just precisely art has to deploy humour to make it work. ‘Hypercomics’ suggests that comics and contemporary art have a lot to offer each other.