I began to work on this book about two years ago. Though my background is in illustration, I never studied nor made comics. The stereotype of a young boy pouring over super hero comics on the living room floor, being scolded for smuggling them into the classroom or hanging outside the comic book shop was simply not my reality as a young man. I did and still do however, have a fondness for cartoons. Their narrative quality, and how well engineered they are to potentially describe the unfortunate reality of violence.
When my Father died, I was an MFA candidate in the studio arts department at UMass Amherst. I tried desperately to make work about the experience during my career there, implementing symbols like the cowboys of gun smoke, my father’s landscape photography, and his collection of “smut”, left behind in his wake. I began experimenting with sculpture, collage, found objects, film etc. These all ultimately failed, serving as un-satisfying inquiries into my father’s life and death.
I don’t recall how I came about to begin this project which led me to comics. I do remember however, the relief that I began to experience after drawing the very first page. I realized in that moment that I didn’t need to work with the idea of my father, but rather, I needed to talk about him directly. The narrative richness inherent in the medium that is comics offered itself to me freely and has influenced my practice in substantial way.
However, I cannot forget my roots in the studio and “showing” comics provides an interesting conceptual conundrum. How and why would you take a medium that is a private, personal form like a comic book and exhibit it in the public space that is the white cube gallery? This would seem to negate the emotional impact of the experience.
This exhibition in turn, is an attempt to reconcile that tension. I would hope that providing a graphic space for the viewer to occupy while consuming the story and experiences contained in On the Beach will serve as a grounding, and slightly less austere environment to live in story.
This show, and this book serve as a testament to the whirring treachery, and inversely, the inviting prospect of change.
- Eben Kling