100 Scenes by Tim Gaze

A while ago I reviewed Australian artist Tim Gaze’s book, noology, after seeing his work in the wonderful Abstract Comics: The Anthology collection from Fantagraphics. Now Gaze has a new book out called 100 Scenes, which is best described below.

His latest work 100 Scenes is a contemporary resurrection of the Surrealist form known as “decalcomania”as pioneered in the 1930s by Oscar Dominguez and often used by Max Ernst. A resident of the Adelaide Hills town of Mt. Barker, Gaze is a prolific “visual poet” and inventor of his own brand of “glitch poetry”, a form of visual poetry with a similar sensibility to glitch music. In addition to making sound poetry and free form electronic music, Gaze has contributed to a number of small press poetry and art publications, and was recently included in an exhibition of asemic writing in Russia.

100 Scenes is a 106 page comic and can be bought as aPDF right here, with a print publisher/distributor currently in the works.

Noology Review

noology1Right off the bat I must say that Noology is a cool name and it’s a real word! It’s also a pretty cool abstract comic by Aussie artist Tim Gaze. Gaze is apparently quite well known in the world of such comics. It’s also a world I’ve only recently been made aware of, thanks to Fantagraphics’ excellent Abstract Comics: The Anthology, of which Gaze is a contributor. You can see some of his recent work on the diverse Abstract Comics blog here. There’s also a very impressive definition, and look at the history, of this artform from Gaze here.

In Gaze’s own words, he creates “experimental poetry,” and has been doing so for a few years. Noology is available now as a free download or as a paperback for less than $9, for 130 black and white pages. Noology is described as glitch poetry, asemic writing and visual noise. Don’t worry, I have no idea what they mean either, but that’s the beauty of abstract comics – you don’t have to really. Visual noise is definitely the best description for this book (of which some of the pages have been seen in previous publications). As I flicked through the pages I kept being reminded of static, or snow, on a TV screen thanks to faulty reception. There was a mystifying, almost trance inducing quality to these pages. It can be enjoyed quickly, as there’s no text, or narrative. 

It actually took me at least 4 reads of the whole book to appreciate it. At first glance, with its frantic lines on every page, there doesn’t seem to be huge differences between each of the first few pieces, but as I looked more closely I could see the evidence of the work put in. A true artist has a reason for every line and even though the entire contents are black and white it resonates with diversity. Some look like paintings from a gallery, some look like tapeworm under a microscope and some look like the readings on old school radio equipment. This is yet another great example of what comics can do that no other medium can.

You can find more of Gaze’s unique work here.




Abstract Comics: The Anthology Review

Abstract Comics CoverAbstract Comics: The Anthology is an impressive collection of old and new work with unique pages covering exactly what the title says. Fantagraphics’ bold book covers the years from 1967 to the present, with a selection of abstract comics from over 40 artists.

Now I think I’m a pretty open comics reader. Having primarily grown up on superheroes however, it’s only been the last 5 years that I’ve expanded my reading habits to include indie titles. It was Craig Thompson’s masterwork, Blankets that woke me up to the world beyond spandex and ever since then I’ve pretty much bought an indie title every week.

Abstract comics is a foreign concept to me though. I’m surprised that I’ve never thought of the genre before. It makes complete sense and after pouring through this hardcover from Fantagraphics I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the form. This intriguing 208 page tome includes some of the best work from pioneers in the field, as well as new work created for the anthology by artists including James Kochalka.

The introduction of the book is the only piece with words strung together that actually form an obviously coherent thought. Andrei Molotiu is the editor of Abstract Comics, and quite an authority on the subject. His work as an artist is reflected here and his introductory summary of what abstract comics actually are, as opposed to the use of the word in other art forms, is insightful. Even this obligatory introduction is treated with a loose abstract veneer, with plain text comprising the bottom half of each page, while above it sits the same words through the lens of simple shapes, which reminded me of the Kryptonese language. Yes, even with abstract comics, I can’t help but see things through my fanboy glasses. (There’s also a look at the history of abstract comics here). Molotiu defines the term thusly;

abstract comics can be defined as sequential art consisting exclusively of abstract imagery, and indeed most of the pieces in this volume fit that definition squarely. But the definition should be expanded somewhat, to include those comics that contain some representational elements, as long as those elements do not cohere into a narrative or even into a unified narrative space.

Whew. It’s the kind of talk that gets art students all sweaty. His 8 page introduction is littered with great work as he shows us the history of abstract comics, with examples of a bunch of artists unfamiliar to me to those who I didn’t expect to see, such as Wassily Kandinsky, Willem de Kooning, Winsor McCay and Steve Ditko.

Abstract Comics Intro DetailThings kick off with a great piece from 1967 by R. Crumb, as originally seen in Zap #1. As you’d expect, it’s only 3 pages, but packs a lot of zest, with rounded figures, cheeky expressions and wild imagery. For the next 200 plus pages I was bombarded (in a good way) with every form and technique imaginable. I never knew what each turn of the page would bring. Black and white, pencil sketches,  colour paintings and more – it’s all accounted for. Most of the works are only 3 or 4 pages long, with little or no text and some semblance of structured panels. I found myself treating the book like a portable art gallery as I let the images wash over me and tried to grasp their meaning. With close looks, there are stories of sorts to be told here, but as Molotiu mentions in the intro, abstract comics don’t have a narrative. I couldn’t help myself though and on some occasions examined the shapes in an attempt to form one. However, like all art the point is the enjoyment of the work first and foremost, rather than a desperation to cram it through out structured reasoning.

getsiv-6Molotiu’s work, The Cave was definitely a “wow” moment for me with its bold colours and gem like qualities, as was Andres Pearson’s work, with its swirling organic structures. Through some pages I could see how the panels, or the shapes within those panels, related to each other, which gave clarity to Molotiu’s introductory definition as to why this is different from abstract work done in other fields, such as cinema. James Kochalka’s (American Elf) work is exuberant and playful, as is Mike Getsiv’s. Blaise Larmee’s I Would Like To Live There is simple yet elegant while Life, Interwoven by Alexey Sokolin is 6 pages of increasing fury.

It’s hard to describe the experience of reading this anthology, but it must have been that much harder to choose the artists whose work would be shown here, especially considering this is the first book of its kind and it covers 4 decades. Book designer Jacob Covey must also be mentioned as there’s an undeniable sense of purpose that holds these pages together, from the cover to artists’ credits to last few pages. It’s subtle which allows the abstract comics to own the spotlight.

The book concludes with handy artist biographies for those that would like to discover more about them, and there’s also a useful accompanying blog which features work from the anthology and elsewhere.

I’ll admit that it was sheer curiosity that made me read this, and after enjoying its diverse offerings it brought me back to my art school days when I was exposed to a wide array of artists. It’s obviously a difficult book to review as well, especially as there’s no Good Guy A punches Bad Guy B action, but it was a treat for my often superhero consuming eyes. This is a book for readers who like fine art or those who would like to expand their sequential art experiences. A hearty slap on the back for Fantagraphics for choosing to create this marvelous example of a widely unknown artistic expression.

Abstract Comcis Preview 1

Abstract Comics Preview 2

Abstract Comics Preview 3

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