Monday, May 29, 2017

Moreton Of The Week #5: Garden & Bright Nights

Here are are in week five of my series about Simon Moreton. I'll wrap things up next week and start a new feature in its place.

Garden. Published by Lydstep Lettuce in association with the Lydstep Library, this is a zine done on conventional copy paper that follows the slow progress of a garden over time. It's nice to see Moreton's work on a big canvas, allowing his book loops and swirls room to really expand across a page. Moreton walks a delicate line between a naturalistic take and abstraction here, as certain objects (like watering cans) have a solid composition but others (like chairs and tables) are a bit more abstracted. Moreton flips between single-page images meant to slow the reader down and take in the image in full for a moment and a 2 x 3 panel grid that emphasizes the slowness and sequentiality of the garden, as observed one bit at a time. It's Moreton quietly taking in his environment and not glamorizing it--he's trying to capture an essence in terms of shape and form that emphasizes broad strokes of perception rather than exacting minutia. Moreton is also playing with light and shadow (created through the use of zip-a-tone), as he draws the garden at different times of the day. There's also the relationship between nature and the way it's hemmed in, with as much emphasis on pots and planters as the actual vegetation, as well as an acknowledgment of the background with clothes hanging on a line, flapping in the wind. There's also a record of dark clouds and rain (a favorite of Moreton's to depict), adding a degree of animation to the stillness of the prior scenes. This is a nice, simple form of meditation exercise for Moreton, drawing without narrative expectations but still with some kind of sequential base.

Bright Nights, by Simon Moreton & Jason Martin. This is a shared zine between Moreton and Martin, both looking back at past events from today's vantage point. Each of Moreton's stories is taken from a different year of his life. "Fifteen" sees him and his friends jumping out a window to hang out with some friends on a trip, watching the sun rise. There are a lot of these sorts of moments in his comics that he turns back to again and again: perfect little moments in time, frozen by beauty. There's a perfect balance of negative space and actual drawing in each panel, and Moreton's composition is simply top-notch. It's not just about abstracting a sequence down to its core, it's doing so in a way that makes it look best on a page. "Sixteen" is another perfect, simple moment of walking home in the snow from someone he obviously loved, feeling "Like I could do anything". That kind of spontaneous joy is remarkable, and Moreton knows just how to capture it by sort of capturing just the edges of the experience. "Nineteen" is a flood and flurry of racing down a road as fast as he and his friends can, until arriving at a special hang-out spot. "Thirty" is a lovely reflection of "Fifteen" in some ways, featuring a gathering where he met someone special and a subsequent trip to a mall with her and other friends, forming that awkward, exciting moment of possibilities ahead. It's Moreton at his best.

Martin's style is a simple, naturalistic style that's on the crude side but still gets the job done in terms of expressing emotion. He seemed to take his cues from Moreton in terms of what age he was in the stories he tells. "Gualala" is about him going with friends to a party on Y2K. He notes that even though he was just four years younger than most of the people at the party, that as a teenager that kind of age gap is more significant. The story is full of those unforgettable moments when a teen gets a glimpse of a life just ahead of them. That's especially true when he hears the stories of a group of older girls who give him a ride home from the party. His second story is a brief one from age 16, recalling the first time his parents felt comfortable leaving his older brother in charge of him and his younger brother for a night, and the things they did together. His third memory is that of a huge delay on a train as he was going to a Leonard Cohen concert. It's a perfect Martin story in how sanguine and measured he depicts himself in that situation, and the gratitude he feels at the end of the Cohen show. Every one of these stories has that sense of gratitude, including the final one, where he and his girlfriend crash at a friend's house with two other couples all saying goodnight to one another as they fell asleep.

I also wanted to mention the comic that he gave out at his wedding, Michelle And Jason Comics. It's a funny, lovely little inventory of small anecdotes about his future wife that delighted him, the ways in which they've influenced each other's tastes and interests, times they may have crossed each other's path in the past, the precise moment he knew he wanted to marry her, and a special moment on a carousel. It's simple and heartfelt without being sentimental or saccharine: the perfect blend of restraint and emotion that marks so much of his work.

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