SAFARI FESTIVAL FORTNIGHT!
The many nuanced layers on which sequential art can connect with its audience ensure that work that is indistinct and minimalist in presentation can be just as evocative to its readership as material that is visually elaborate and ornate. Regular ‘Small Pressganged’ readers will be aware of that, of course, from our many years of championing the zines of Simon Moreton but it bears re-iteration before considering Zoë Taylor’s Joyride from London’s Breakdown Press.
The stripped back art of Taylor’s first long-form work fittingly reflects its pared down narrative. It initially centres around a house party where events provoke Joyride’s central character, an enigmatic unnamed woman, to leave suddenly… hotwiring one of the other partygoers’ cars outside and taking it on the titular illegal road trip. Her automotive recklessness will end in dramatic fashion, though, as a possible bigger picture behind events slowly begins to reveals itself…
Joyride is a book of parallels. The impulsiveness of its protagonist is echoed in the immediacy of Taylor’s art which captures each moment of the story with an appropriately raw energy, and a lack of deliberation that adds a sense of spontaneity to the proceedings. In another way it almost feels like the title is as much a description of Taylor’s artistic process as it is of events between its pages – an unconstrained, free-spirited, creative journey that flaunts convention and ignores perceived rules.
This is also a piece of comics that knowingly makes little concession to the readers in terms of exposition. Dialogue is limited to a handful of speech balloons in a largely wordless tale as the audience is invited to interact with the page on a profounder level, studying and revisiting each segment to glean the truth, decipher the complexity of relationships on the page, and perhaps even take their own meaning from its story.
For the bulk of the book its one-panel pages leave a large expanse of white below each image (as above). This stylistic device may be overtly symbolising in an acutely meta way the unique interpretive “reading between the panels” element of comics and emphasising the audience’s added responsibility in eliciting meaning in Joyride for themselves. It also reminds us that we’re coming into a story that seems already in progress and filling in its blanks for ourselves.
It also underscores the drama inherent in the key scenes that the narrative builds itself around though – a speeding stolen car, a roadside crash, an explosion – which are displayed in full double-page spreads. There’s something enticingly contradictory in how this presentational structure makes the reader simultaneously turn pages at the same speed of movement as events on the page and yet also linger on each individual image.
Whether the reader takes Joyride as a metaphor for liberation, a frenetically paced drama or a nuanced but oblique character study is ultimately their own decision. What isn’t lacking in clarity, however, is Taylor’s skilful manipulation of the page and the sparse but resonant nature of her visual style. Those wanting to meet the artist in person are reminded that she’ll be a guest at the next Gosh! Comics and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw on August 29th.
Zoë will be exhibiting at Safari Festival with Breakdown Press on August 12th and will be a guest at the next Gosh! Comics and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw on August 29th.