Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Lauren Barnett - Secret Weirdo

Lauren Barnett was kind enough to send me some of her mini comics. I hold in my hands three short form pamphlets, Secret wierdo, A story about a fish and I'd sure like some fucking pancakes. Snappy titles, I think you’ll agree.

What strikes you immediately about these mini comics is that Lauren’s cartooning is very off the cuff, all rendered in a primary school style scrawl, which has more to do with her overall narrative approach than it does with her artistic ability. It’s obvious that Barnett is capable of a much more considered style, but the messy simplicity on display here suits her subject matter perfectly. Barnett relates childhood memories and snippets of her adult life with a singular, almost childlike innocence, taking obvious pleasure in the simple joys of life. Her wonderfully honest, off kilter sense of humour is more than enough to balance out any reservations you may have about her purposefully regressive art.

Barnett’s comics aren’t about artistic finesse, in fact they’re quite the opposite; coming across like a scribbled postcard from her younger self, serving as a reminder of all those wonderful childish things we keep buried deep within our subconscious. It’s at once reassuring and comforting to see such uninhibited work, as Barnett dredges up memories of her past for all to see, whilst reflecting on the present with an uninhibited sense of optimism.

When doubts and worries do enter the picture, they’re warped and bent into curious forms for Barnett’s own amusement. The serious sharp stabs of the real world are rendered blunt and ridiculous, but somehow maintain an underlying air of solemnity that can take you by surprise. In one strip a chicken loses its feathers, and to add insult to injury the errant plumage refuses to return to its owner, “I’m moving on”, say the feathers. It’s a funny little gag, but it could just as easily be read as a poignant tale of betrayal. It all depends on what angle you come at it from.

Barnett gives us occasional flashes of her full artistic potential. In I'd sure like some fucking pancakes there’s a particularly striking dream sequence based around killing a unicorn. The sketchy, lifelike art is far more accomplished than anything that precedes it, and again it marks a more thoughtful, even melancholly moment amidst otherwise light hearted content. It’s also worth noting that the painted cover of Secret Weirdo displays a remarkably different artistic style to Barnett's interior pages. The exterior of her mini comic is impressionistic and detailed, whilst the interior harkens back to her rougher, more immediate line work. Interior and exterior here are presented as two very different things, and I imagine they’re just as wildly divergent as Barnett’s daily surface level experiences and her own personal inner world.

It would be easy to write Barnett's work off as 'cute' or 'amateurish', but personally, I think there’s a lot more to her strange world of goldfish, cats and featherless birds than first meet the eye.

You can check out more of Lauren’s comics here. Give her a look.