Depending on the reader’s preference Brigid Deacon’s Room could just as easily be classified as a zine as it is a minicomic. It comprises just three pages of comics and a cover (which fold out into an A3 poster-style illustration). But encapsulated in that briefest of page counts is everything about Deacon’s work that led to me selecting her as one of this year’s Broken Frontier ‘Six Small Press Creators to Watch’.
The core premise of Room is an elegantly simple one: differing takes on the concept of the titular four-walled living space from the widely varying perspectives of three of its “inhabitants” – a girl, an ant and a small pile of ornamental rocks. Each of this trio’s worldviews are initially juxtaposed before ultimately merging into a shared yet ever separate actuality.
As I’ve said before, when I reviewed her Coma Deep last year at Broken Frontier here, Deacon’s work is more about the emotional responses it elicits in its readership and what they take from it than it is about a structured narrative. Here the audience are invited to find their own meaning in these brief reflections on existence; initially empathising with the recognisable concerns of “Girl” before being asked to observe, compare and contrast the corporeal world from alternative and radically divergent outlooks.
For the girl the room has become a symbol of entrapment; her daily routine inextricably structured around its retention, as home becomes as much an unwitting prison as a refuge. The life of the ant, in contrast, may seem smaller and of less import but its purer interactions with the natural world have a joyous, celebratory zeal; the seemingly inconsequential containing multitudes of more profound meaning than conflicts with landlords or the drudgery of the 9 to 5. And yet somehow both are dwarfed by the pile of rocks with its stolid solitude that functions outside of definable consciousness and the strictures of conceptual time.
These existential ruminations are complemented by Room’s physicality as an object. Once read as a minicomic the pages open up into a full A3 image (below) of all three characters on the opposite side. Three realities fuse into one shared one, not just in terms of the cast’s mutual panel time but also in the drawing together of the visual motifs that have symbolised them. The organic, the abstract and the immutable blending as they impinge on and pass through each other.
From clever use of lettering to emphasise how alien the familiar can be, through to dripping raindrops passing through panels and splashing down at the bottom of the page, Room is a remarkably and subtly sophisticated use of the form for what is essentially three brief pages of comic strip. Deacon’s inclusion in the House of Illustration Comix Creatrix exhibition earlier this year was indicative of the growing buzz around her work. From longer-form comics work to DIY culture, hers is a name you should all be keeping an eye out for in the near future because she is a genuinely unique new presence on the small press scene.
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