Comics: Brainstorm – the art of Bryan Talbot exhibition
Brainstorm! The Art of Bryan Talbot
The Muse at 269
269 Portobello Rd., London W11 1LR
20th March until the 13th April
Opening Hours 12 to 6pm Thursday to Sunday
Bryan Talbot’s comics are an incredible pleasure to read and enjoy at any time, so the opportunity of seeing some of his original artwork, up close, while taking in a career of nearly forty years is highly exciting.
The Portobello Road in London, as well as being a well-known street market, highly fashionable and cutting edge, also was the home of London’s first ‘Culture Shop’, Alchemy, run by Lee Harris. Harris is a unique individual, a White South African who was a member of the ANC in the early 1950s, he moved to London and in the 1970s and was highly active in the underground and counter culture scene; he also published Home Grown and Bryan Talbot’s early work Brainstorm Comix.
A wonderful circle is completed by this exhibition where from a humble starting point, when Bryan was first looking for work in comics, to this pristine gallery, the lovely Muse at 69, where he is the focus of an exhibition. The clean white walls of the gallery, the clever lighting and the depth of the space really help to feature the artwork well. The regimented comic pages juxtaposed as the career of one of Britain’s finest comic creators is laid out as a visual feast for the viewer.
An incredible info-graphic accompanies the exhibition, mapping out Bryan’s comic history and it makes one think for a moment, because Bryan is the master of the words from many of his comics as well as being the artist. He is pretty unique in the industry, being able to write so well and also have such incredible artistry. There is an impressive selection of artwork on display and the variety was welcome. Pieces are presented smartly so that one can see the difference in styles, while understanding that all come from the same hand. An example of this that pleased me, was seeing early work from 1977, a page of Komix Comics on display next to some pages of Alice in Sunderland. The early work is unmistakable of the ‘Underground’ style, while Alice is light illustrative penmanship and fitting for that book.
Talbot’s work has not so much changed as adapted to the comic that is being worked on. The thin line work of Grandville seems very different to the heavier ink work on Nemesis the Warlock, but at all times one can appreciate the art that is on display and closely inspect the detail and intricacy of the penmanship, the shading, heavy or light. The colour works really stand out, be it the beautifully coloured pages of The Tale of one Bad Rat, which looked amazing and allow the viewer to see the levels of art, as one page was the raw black and white, while strong bold colours from a Nemesis the Warlock cover, which I think was from a Titan Books reprint, was just stunning.
There is a Lovely continuous video projected highly on the wall with segments by a wide variety of comic professionals, while there are photos and ephemera on display in cases.
During the launch Lee Harris who was instrumental in Bryan getting into comics spoke passionately of the joy he possesses at having a hand in the career of such a well known and internationally recognised comic writer and artist.
I was transfixed by the art of course. Pieces which I had grown up with, be it the 2000AD cover of Prog 438 from October 1985, which along with a number of pages are instantly recognisable and of course pages from The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, a seminal work in the medium. Other pieces that were of special interest to me was an image of Alan Moore in an Aleister Crowly pose, a page from Dotter in Her Fathers Eyes, written by Bryan’s wife, Doctor Mary Talbot, pages from Alice in Sunderland and of course, pages from Grandville.
Delightfully, one of the pages of Grandville work on display was from the forthcoming story, Grandville: Nöel, the fourth in the series, which is due this coming November. Next to this was an excellent set of images that showed and described the creative process that is involved in a page of Grandville, an insight which I liked. Another treat was to see two pages from Sally Heathcote: Suffragette by Mary Talbot and Kate Charlesworth with Bryan Talbot doing the layout and lettering, which is due out in May from Cape.
Many of the pages are on sale, and that of course, is an opportunity that one expects will not last long, the desire to own such art is of course natural to comic readers, but Talbot seems to have reached into so many corners with his work, I expect they will be rather popular. Overall it is quite a compelling selection of art, I really enjoyed seeing it up close and personal, and it makes one realise just how good Bryan Talbot is, when it comes to creating comics, writing, drawing or being involved, his incredible skills were on display here, and I really appreciated it.
I should a;so mention that Bryan is Guest of Honour at Loncon 3, the 75th World Science Fiction convention being held in London Docklands this August. More detals on www.loncon3.org. And while we’re at it, Digital Story Engine has just posted up a trailer for The Graphic Novel Man: the Comics of Bryan Talbot documentary, with, as you might suspect for someone of Bryan’ standing, a very impressive roster of fellow creators talking about his work, including Neil Gaiman, Pat Mills, Hunt Emerson, Ian Rankin, David Lloyd and the great Michael Moorcock. The film is released in May, more details on the DVD and download are available on the Digital Story Engine site here.