April 8, 2017

People, Places, Ourselves

By Arta Ajeti
Available by from the artist directly at: Arta@ajeti.com

Fluidity. It’s the first thing we feel, floating in our mother’s womb, and what we felt long ago as single-celled amoeba floating in the sea. It’s also the main sensual component of lucid dreams and metanarratives. Arta Ajeti’s Thesis captures fluidity in all its strange ways, from floating in space, to dizzying breaks in reality, to the awesome and terrifying process of becoming someone new while still identifying as the same person. “How have I always remained me?” the narrator of Thesis asks, “Why am I still here now?”

Thesis is shaped and emphasized by four colors: black, white, pastel pink, and varying shades of greenish blue. It’s the blue, with its association with water, that strikes the most powerfully. It drips within a black and white subway station, it becomes a pool and then a bath in which the narrator submerges, and then it infects everything. As it breaks into an implied infinite number of the same simply-detailed, profiled face over and over again and Ajeti’s penciled drawings of diverse individuals swim in between, one gets the same sensation as they do when within bustling city streets. We are just one of many.

And we are one of many in not only this crowded Earth, but in ourselves. This concept culminates in Ajeti’s most magnificent page, which is of the human eye. The blue iris is no regular iris, it’s of that same simple profiled face repeating four times. In the center, instead of a pupil, sits not a profile, but a full face in white. Staring out at the reader like a reflection in a mirror, the basic composition of its features form a quality as universal as the blue water. Here I am, it says. I am me now, but I am destined to grow and shed and leave someone anew behind me. So shall you.

Reading “Thesis” is to swim through it. And while swimming, to consider the fluidity of water and the fluidity of humanity. We are ever growing, ever changing, ever more than a little bit horrified by it. But it’s sometimes nice to see the experience of our existence understood in a book rendered in black, white, pastel pink, and greenish-blues.

-- Ray Sonne @RaySonne

By Tim Bird
Published by Avery Hill
Available HERE

There’s a path. By the river. Behind the retail park. We followed it through the woods. Along the back of the houses. To the gap in the fence.”

So begins Tim Bird’s latest comic from Avery Hill Publishing, Grey Area: Our Town. It is that last line, “the gap in the fence,” that resonates and informs everything that happens in this book.  “Place. Memory. Stories. Lives” -- this is a book about time and connection and creating. It is about getting old. It is about us.

In 32 pages of mostly 12-panel layouts, Bird quietly spans a man’s lifetime, focusing mostly on the relationships he has built. The most significant relationship is with a woman he meets, a woman who has been blanketing his town with hundreds of carefully folded, red origami cranes. He seems to fall in love with her not only for bringing beauty into the world, but also because of her relationship with the place so important to him as a child, the place he flew his red kite with his father, the place beyond “the gap in the fence.”

There is no mistaking that the red kite and the red cranes are meant to echo each other.

Place. Fenced in.

But is a fence a fence if it has a gap in it? The answer is the same one you must come to when you contemplate whether an origami crane is still a piece of paper. Transforming objects through the simple act of rethinking is the same as how we define our relationship with others and the places we’ve been. Your hometown is still your hometown, even when you see it after having been away for a long time. Echoes of your former connection with that place remain, undulating through your current understanding of what that place has become. New buildings are erected and old haunts are transformed. But your memory of what was once there still exists and acts as a lens to your perception. Your memory is a filter, superimposing time onto space.

So, too, is it with those with whom we connect. The person you fall in love with is still the person you see, always, no matter how much they have changed. The past and the present is a mental balance you constantly strive with and for and against the longer you are together. In that way, people, too, are places in our heads, moments of our lives, signposts in our development.

Bird speaks to these issues through his art in these pages: characters abstracted, objects tight in their lines, everything awash in greys and blues and browns, punctuated (always punctuated) by a crimson red. His theme plays out like a poem, lyrical and rhythmic, each artistic choice carefully considered, each panel full and absolutely necessary to the rest of the piece.

Who we are is always who we were no matter how much we change. A place is a place no matter how it is transformed. A fence, though? A fence is no longer a fence if there is a gap in it. It is an invitation, a doorway, an opening to whatever comes next. A piece of paper, once folded, is no longer what it was., Depending on how it is folded, it can become a beautiful bird, one that brings us together, or one that flies away.

There’s a path. By the river. Behind the retail park. We followed it through the woods. Along the back of the houses. To the gap in the fence.”

Place. Memory. Stories. Lives.

Tim Bird’s Grey Area: Our Town is a snapshot of all of this. It is also a mirror we can plant at a distance and see everything that encompases us, reflected.

-- Daniel Elkin @DanielElkin

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