Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Once you see it, it’s so obvious. Whoever drew this panel from the May 1942 issue of Blue Bolt must have been heavily into Swiss artist Félix Vallotton, member of the Nabis, who had painted The Punished Crime (see how even the title fits!) in 1915, as the centerpiece of a triptych. Well, I just casually drop this fact to establish that you can trust me on stuff like this because ...

... let me now introduce you to German painter KRH Sonderborg, a post-war artist who is usually grouped under the label Informel—that’s roughly the European counterpart of abstract expressionism. (If you’re interested, there’s a good interview with the artist online here.) Some of his work looks very much like he had an affinity with comics, porous black silhouettes of building cranes or powerlines deviding the white, painted with a quick decisiveness that gives a psychological edge to the objects. Maybe best known of those is a portrait of an electric chair that fills the complete frame, with a curious eye for the way its parts have been assembled and screwed together, like a human perspective against Warhol’s oppressive silkscreen of the same object. Sonderborg’s most easily recognizable signature style, though, is painted in black and white diagonal splatter with just a dash of red added, spray drops of paint from the impact of color on canvas dripped along the lines of the action, accumulating into untidy power centers and sometimes repetitive forms like parts of machinery. And if you are a comic artist and stare at this long enough you will start drawing panels that look like this:

How serious am I? It’s difficult, because who knows, it might all be coincidence. But contrary to the single panel in Blue Bolt, which seems to reference the one painting and then everything goes its own sweet way, when I started reading Miller’s Holy Terror, I saw the shadow of the spirit of Sonderborg, at least for the first 50 pages or so. It did not make me think of a certain painting (though once I strated searching I immediately found one that was compositionally very close to a panel), instead for a moment it seemed again so obvious that Miller was heavily into the earlier painter. In my delight, I almost didn’t notice his book was challenged in its morals :-)(I might actually write it up at some later date, it’s a pretty impressive comic in many respects).

Oh and: Peace.

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