Well I thought I would start the year off with bit of positive inertia by letting you all know about a book I read over the festive break. ‘Here’ by Richard McGuire was released in December 2014 and has blown my mind. There has been a bit of attention in the press about ‘Here’ which is how I learnt about it, but in case you know nothing I’ll try to some it up. Essentially ‘Here’ is about the history of our planet and indeed existence itself looked at through a view of a corner of a room. The corner of the room is fairly everyday in quality, it has a fireplace and window but the way the everyday is presented to us is spectacular in nature. Time is allowed to unfold and merge within windows of reality as we immerse ourselves through the images and lives of the people that inhabit that piece of space.
I have been an avid reader of graphic novels since my childhood and in recent years I find the way images and stories speak to me to be very powerful. This book somehow feels different from the conventions of graphic novels that I am accustomed to. Firstly the artistry on every page is compelling, as we move through time subtle shifts in the quality of the drawings makes you feel the nuances of the time window that you are looking through. Secondly the way we are allowed to eaves drop on the people who inhabit the view doesn’t create a narrative but gives us a sense of the way their lives mirror our own.
As I breezed through the pages of ‘Here’ I began to think about the way this sense of time and existence has percolated its way through contemporary culture. I was reminded of the Terrance Malick film ‘The Tree of Life’ where Malick had a similar desire to thrust the viewer through a time line that presented us with the birth of life through to the trials of a Texan suburban family. A sense of interweaving narratives in past and future time is also famously dealt with in David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’ and I am sure the creative writing authorities out there will be able to expand upon this thematic response to time and narrative with other examples.
For me I feel that the sense of humanity coming to terms with our purpose or indeed legacy is cultivated from many parts of contemporary culture and in particular sciences attempts to understand the nature of time and reality. Creative artists will inevitably pick up on mathematical inventions such as ‘string theory’, in the hope of understanding multiple dimensions that could exist in one moment. ‘Here’ has taken McGuire 25 years to create, I am sure this work needed time to come into existence, there is too much consideration required to stop a work like this from falling apart due to a potential randomness. You can fly through the 300 pages of this book but also spend time going back into it, every time I do I discover and see something new.
MaGuire, R (2014), Here, Hamish Hamilton, London
The Tree of Life. (2011) Film. Directed by Terrance Malick. [DVD] UK: Cottonwood Pictures
Mitchell, D (2004), Cloud Atlas, Sceptre, London
8 thoughts on “Here”
I think that graphic novels are a unique entity as an art form,they can offer such insights and ingenious modes for communicating complex concepts in ways I’ve never found as satisfying in any other medium. Its not only in the pictures or prose but also the construction, page layout and considered reader response that make it so that more than just a story is expressed. This is a new title to me,but I will certainly look out for it.
I think it’s the way this book redefines traditions within the Graphic Novel form that I wanted to bring to students attention to. I suppose in creative arts terms its a great union between a number of different art forms, drawing, story telling, painting etc. that I would hope students find inspiring.
I have visited an exhibition at the Art Institute in Chicago lately about Chris Ware, and he used a similar process to depict the history of the Oak Park suburb over time in one single image, it was really interesting. His “building stories” also tell a story from the point of view of a building, in space and in time. Graphic novels are a real source of inspiration for me too, their creativity in terms of narrative never stop to amaze me…
I haven’t read “Here” yet but I am really curious about it now! Thanks for the advice!
While I am here, with other photography students, we have read lately Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” (http://scottmccloud.com/2-print/1-uc/) and realized that it was really relevant to our photographic practice, it is really worth reading!
Thanks for the reference Stephanie, I will check that out. Really interesting that you went to an exhibition of Chris Wares and good to hear about his exploration of this theme.
It looks different and inspiring so I am following your advice Stephanie.
This post intrigued me and I read some more online reviews of Here and an excerpt from the book. Apparently the original black and white strip published 25 years ago had a big influence on graphic artists including Chris ware. I’ve never read a graphic novel since my comic days so looking forward to catching up. Thanks for the insights Doug
This looks and sounds very interesting. I was a Beryl the Peril fan when I was young and loved the domestic antics. I haven’t read many graphic novels, but will look into getting this.