The UK comics scene is particularly blessed at the moment with a rich surfeit of abstract comics goodness from a number of boundary-pushing practitioners. Peony Gent, Olivia Sullivan, Mereida Fajardo, Gareth A Hopkins and Miranda Smart, to name just a few, are all producing excellent practice in that area. Into this mix we can now add the name of Jason Chuang, one of our 2022 Broken Frontier ‘Six to Watch’ artists and part of SelfMadeHero’s 2021 Graphic Anthology Programme. Chuang’s wordless graphic novella Tide uses representational imagery to communicate feelings of loss, transformation and acceptance.
While much in Tide is left to audience interpretation, Chuang uses two interlocking planes of existence – one reflecting a sober and grief-soaked actuality and the other a more emotional and symbolic reality – that initially sit side by side in stark but entwined contrast. As Tide progresses, though, these two worlds of solitude and memory slowly begin to merge, becoming not just reflections of each other but interweaving and intermeshing in symbiotic union.
In that first narrative stream bleak greys and darker tones emphasise the end of a relationship; a solitary figure in a shower/bath standing in grim silence as if in vigil to the unseen loss that has left them powerless in its wake. We flit back and forth between the role of outside observer, watching this individual in the “physical world”, and diving deep into their psyche, experiencing their thoughts and memories in abstract, metaphorical form.
That realm of the mindscape is differentiated not simply by its stream-of-consciousness flow but also by its comparatively vibrant use of colour. Panels in the first sequence become mirrored in the second as the reader is swept along with the protagonist in a torrent of memory and introspection. It’s a journey that takes us from scenes of togetherness and unity to the helplessness of loss, and eventually to acceptance and perhaps even catharsis.
When we announced this year’s BF ‘Six to Watch’ I said then that Tide was “a stunning example of the pure visual language of the form and a recommended entry point into [Chuang’s] work.” I have no doubt that Jason Chuang’s profile is going to grow significantly in the months to come. Make sure to check out the early practice of this most promising new voice in indie comics and see for yourself why there’s such a growing buzz surrounding him.
Jason Chuang (W/A) • Self-published, £16.00
Review by Andy Oliver