THOUGHT BUBBLE 2019!
The more I see of the work of Gareth A Hopkins the more convinced I become that his hypnotically compelling abstract graphic narratives are exploring the language of comics from the most distinctively different perspective. In that regard, and as I have said before at Broken Frontier, his practice is there with a growing movement of UK self-publishers like Peony Gent, Olivia Sullivan and Miranda Smart whose alt and experimental comics are so vitally important in pushing the medium into new territories but who have yet to attain anything like the kind of recognition that they deserve. Such, sadly, is often the fate of the truly visionary.
Hopkins has had a prolific year (I reviewed his A Hill to Cry Home here at Broken Frontier a couple of months ago for those looking for an unnerving ghost story for Halloween) and his latest comic The Bones of the Sea debuts at Thought Bubble. Presented in two parallel but complementary narratives that juxtapose slice-of-life autobiographical ruminations with existential reflections on our own mortality.
What is so eerie about The Bones of the Sea is the manner in which Hopkins mirrors the seeming minutiae of his own life (sitting in a car park waiting for his son’s after-school drama club to finish, making packed lunches with his kids, ungraciously putting down his son’s claims of superior knowledge of Marvel comics) with the secondary, almost nihilistic, narrative thread meditating on millennia of fossilised sea life, their lives forgotten and irrelevant and their decaying remains a reminder of the impermanence of existence.
Drawing this all together so effectively is the contrast between Hopkins’ often poetic use of language in the more philosophical sections with his everyday conversational approach in the family anecdote segments. Placed against the abstract, swirling imagery it’s a reminder of the illusions that we wrap around ourselves about the importance of our place in the world; of the constructs of hope, achievement and relevancy that we place on our actions and dreams when, ultimately, we too are simply biding time until we become part of that selfsame sea of bones.
As is usually the case with a Hopkins comic each individual will interact differently with its pages, different sensations being evoked in different readers. Indeed, even the very same reader may find The Bones of the Sea a changing experience on every re-reading. If we want to see comics continue to break new ground and the medium to get the respect it deserves as a unique storytelling platform then it’s vitally important that the work of boundary-pushing creators like Hopkins and the aforementioned Gent, Sullivan and Smart is supported and recognised. Those looking for more challenging uses of the form at Thought Bubble in November are urged to make a visit to Gareth A Hopkins’ table a priority over the weekend.
Review by Andy Oliver
Find out more about the work of Gareth A Hopkins on his site here and follow him on Twitter here. Gareth A Hopkins will be exhibiting at Thought Bubble 2019 in the Ask for Mercy Hall at Table 170. Gareth will also be a guest artist at the Gosh! Comics and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw on Thursday October 31st.
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