Consistently one of the more interesting artists working in the small press and self-publishing milieu, Portland’s Sean Christensen never fails to surprise and enthrall with his cartooning, and the latest of his works that I’ve managed to get my hands on (although I believe he actually self-published it last year), Questions Of Molten Motion, may be his most abstract and challenging ‘zine to date — an entirely wordless mini full of single-panel illustrations that convey fluidity in its various aspects, yet attempt to capture it by means of static and intransigent imagery, with most of his individual pen-and-ink drawings “hemmed in” by straight-rule lines at the top and bottom, but open at the sides.
Now, don’t ask me what the fuck some of these images actually depict in a concrete sense, although both bodies and loosely-rendered “objects” (after a fashion, at any rate) are reasonably inferred at the ocular level, even if how they “feel” to you may be something entirely separate and apart from how they look. We often use the expression “bring your hard-hat and be prepared to do some of the work yourself” pretty often around here (I really should make better use of a thesaurus, I guess), but it’s never been more true than it is in this utterly unique case.
None of which is to say that this comic is in any way impenetrable or indecipherable, but Christensen’s modus operandi results in a finished work so oblique that both what it’s communicating and how it’s doing so is very much a matter of absolutely individual interpretation. Forget such garden-variety questions as whether you like it or not — first you’re going to be charged with the task of deciding what it all means, and that’s as sure a clue as there is that you’re in for an exciting time with this work.
A loose-knit (to say nothing of loosely-drawn) commitment to formalism, and to pushing that formalism to its limits while “playing” within its strictures, is at the core of this book — and, it seems to me, of Christensen’s approach to art in general — but you could be forgiven for losing sight of that even though it’s never anything less than absolutely obvious. Containment and the struggle against and within boundaries — even loose (there’s that word again) ones — is one thing on a literal level, but the constant depiction of it here in an endless variety of forms and fashions raises the bar considerably and moves it from the physical realm to the conceptual one, and as such one might be tempted to think that this ‘zine is only part of a larger project that explores the same themes in other mediums. Or it could be, at any rate. And whaddya know —
It appears that Christensen, under the name of Phull Collums (which, for all I know, may be a band and not just him) has an album, or at least a series of songs or musical pieces, of the same name that complements and/or accentuates this “suite” of illustrations. I haven’t listened to it myself, not being a fan of digital music, so I can’t comment on it, but I will say that this is a strong enough ‘zine in an of itself to be taken on its own merits — although I admit to being curious what the music sounds like. Who knows, maybe I’ll give it a go one of these days.
Until then, I’ve got this mini, and returning to it frequently is something I can very much see myself doing. As is probably perfectly clear, I have yet to fully wrap my head around it, but not only is there no shame in that, it means this is the kind of thing I’m always looking for . If you’re up for a challenge, I think the same will be true for you.
Questions Of Molten Motion is available for $5.00 from Austin English’s Domino Books distro at http://dominobooks.org/questionsmolten.html
Review wrist check – a perfect summer say calls for a perfect summer combo : my Squale “1521 Onda” aqua blue dial model riding a Zodiac camo caoutchouc rubber NATO-style field strap.