Friday, 5 August 2011
Cosmic Rays from Across the Universe
And... we're back.
After a somewhat protracted absence, I'm slowly getting things back on track here at Exquisite Things. To get things rolling again, I’ve got a wonderful selection of comics courtesy of Emix Regulus and Frater Alarph of Microcosmic Comics. Frist up is, 'Deadtime Stories' which collects together a number of short comics and a prose piece by Frater Alarph. The opening comic, 'You Find Yourself Standing on a Lunar Beach' has a free flowing narrative quality; slipping from frame to frame in dream like fashion, etching out those liminal moments between sleep and wakefulness with a graceful fluidity. Nothing is boxed in, with panel boundaries existing only as a wash of brush strokes; suggesting scenes far removed from reality.
The protagonist finds herself on the moon overlooking a lunar sea populated by hundreds of doppelgangers, appearing as both younger and older incarnations of herself, her many faces pasted onto amorphous black bodies. Each has a unique voice of its own, a lifetime of memories forming a sea of opinions that threatens to swamp her. Only when these separate entities begin to merge back together, becoming one with the observer, does she finally find the peace that she seeks.
This phantasmagoric, mystical tone is something that emerges very strongly in all of Emix's comics. Her work ranges from quasi-serious deliberation of spiritual matters to outright silly flights of cosmic fancy. 'Oryza Sativa', for example, sees the author awaken as a grain of rice amongst a bag of 'starchy brethren'. As one grain amongst many, she struggles to assert her individuality but when this is finally achieved, she ends up being cooked into a bowl of rice pudding.
The tone is light and humorous but the end result is strikingly similar to that of the opening comic. Both conclude with the individual finding some sense of unity, even if it is in form of rice pudding! It's thoughtful, sometimes abstracted material, but that should hardly come as a surprise when ‘Deadtime Stories’ deals primarily with dreams and the afterlife.
Frater Alarph contributes a prose piece 'Psychic Club', which relates his experience of attending a psychic group whose aim is to make contact with the dead. Alarph, like Emix draws on similarly ethereal subject matter, but does a fine job of contrasting it with the cold realities of the material world. His bleak urban bus journey to the club, set alongside his ghostly experiences thereafter does much to highlight the strange intersection of inner life versus the outside world. The story is a heady mix of the observational and the haunted, told in a conversational and honest tone that reads like a personal journal. It ads weight and variation to an already accomplished collection of work.
Next up is 'Textrs', a beautifully presented little package of seven miniature illustrated cards. A collaborative effort by Emix and Frater, it’s intended as “a symptomatic and acausal machinery to remove ego-self from the constant flow of time”. Each separate card is a different pattern or texture to get lost in. Many of the cards bearing mandala like designs, inviting subconscious exploration and self induced trance states.
There are subtle nods to Austin Osman Spare’s system of sigilisation, but more than anything 'Textrs' is a visual invitation to clear your mind and do a little inward exploring. Like any artefact of this sort, it’s imbued with a certain power as a result of the artist’s intent. Whether or not you ascribe to this particular aesthetic will depend greatly on your own magickal leanings, but even if you don't connect with these aspects of 'Textrs', you still have six very pretty pieces of card to marvel at.
On the more humorous side of things, Emix's solo comic ‘Strassman Forever’ is just as beguiling as her other work. The presentation is beautiful, with an ornate wrap around cover concealing equally well rendered comics within. 'Strassman Forever' chronicles the adventures of an immortal fabric toy named ‘Strassman’ who transcends the physical form, explores the horrors of the internet and quests on an inter-dimensional Manta Ray to save the Spirulina Crystal.
Emix's art is loose and flowing yet highly detailed, with some truly exceptional forays into the realms of dense fractal forms and symmetrical patterns. In much the same way that her art veers from free flowing to taut symmetrical forms, so too does the content of 'Strassman'. Emix weaves in strands of her own life in the form of short autobiographical snippets. It's equally off kilter stuff, but gives the reader a valuable insight into the overactive imagination that spawned Strassman's adventures.
These mini comics are first class examples of small press publications with high production values, but what makes them really interesting is their preoccupation with the internal world. Behind the flights of fancy and off kilter humour, there's an engaging emotional core at the heart of everything. Whether it’s Strassman’s spiritually tinged high adventure or 'Textrs' sidelong glance at sigil magick and meditation, there’s an ongoing interest in finding spiritual peace in an increasingly chaotic world. Both Emix and Frater strike a good balance between fiction, autobiography and humour. Their comics are insightful and honest, delighting in the absurdity of life and reveling in the little mysteries that sit outside of conventional wisdom and rational thought.
These are deeply lovely early offerings and I sincerely hope there’s something more expansive waiting in the wings that will offer a more prolonged glimpse into their beguiling internal worlds.
Review by Matthew Dick