“E Poi” has stunned me visually, challenged intellectually and left me wondering just how many of its hidden meanings I am not able to unpick.
Unlike “Engãnos” (“Deceptions”) whose idea, as shown in previous post, was ingeniously simple and grasped in an instant, this item from “Silent Books” exhibition with its dizzying amount of characters, detail, visual and art historical references needs to be digested slowly.
Essentially this book is a calendar, a sequence of page-spreads each representing one month of the year from September to August. We begin with a sumptuous autumn forest painted in electrifying oranges and blues. In this forest, we get the first glimpse of a group of protagonists who are a cross between men and tools. The endpapers (which introduce all characters) present these as five anthropomorphic letters each named after a vowel A, E, I, O, U. The heads of those creatures are shaped like tools – eg. bolt, pliers, hammer.
The vowel tools are hard at work sequencing the months. They fold-away, wrap up and take off backdrops and shift landscapes out of one month before unwrapping, unfolding and mounting backdrops and landscapes for the next month. They work like a well-coordinated stage crew setting up a theatre set.
A myriad of other characters come and go, each one with their own story which intertwine. Towards the end of the book the ‘stage set’ is pushed out of the book’s confines and vowel tools get onto constructing the railway. In the last page spread of August, a train picks up all the characters and takes them away. Destination unknown in seems. The vowel tools are left staring at the barren city reduced to a mere drawing with all colour drained from it – it’s white, its visual perspective is perfect but totally devoid of life.
Stylistic and artistic references abound but I’m sure I’m only seeing a fraction. There’s Botticelli’s Venus on a shell, there’s a nod to Hiroshige’s Mount Fuji and scenes from his Fifty Three Stations of Tokaido series. There’s a reference to David Hockney (who is introduced in the endpaper as an artist named David Okny). There are some stylistic and compositional features of comics, the Japanese floating world and landscapes of the romantic era.
With every turn of a page vowel men shift, move, tear and change the time and space continuum itself whereas other protagonists seemingly undisturbed by this keep going about their business. Is this the time continuum of the natural cycle? Our existence? Life? Is this a metaphor for the industrial revolution obliterating the natural ways? Any or all of the above perhaps, and then some.
The artists who created “E Poi” are signing as ICINORI, their names are Mayumi Otero and Raphael Urwiler. They refer to themselves as designers, visual artists and editors interested in a variety of fields including illustration, graphic design and education. Check out their website www.icinori.com, I got lost in time and space browsing their awesome work.