Working in an elaborately-textured realistic style, artist Marcel Guldemond has been incrementally building up a solid body of work. His two most recent titles are short but remarkably complex and ambitious pieces, displaying a highly-developed rendering skill and a labrynthine sense of time and space. A year in the making, each of these pieces represents time and effort well spent.
BILL is a nearly-wordless sequence that follows a lumber company employee from the time his alarm goes off to the end of his working day.
The 'story' in this sequence is minimal, its point being to submerge us in a series of sensuous experiences. It puts us with the employee in the cockpit of a massive tractor that hauls logs, its deeply-treaded tires plowing across the page. Later we're with him in the front seat of his pickup, making the long haul back to town, glancing repeatedly at the rear view mirror at the clouds of dust kicked up by the pickup.
The counterpoint to this gross physical action is the employee's chain-smoking, which starts the moment he gets out of bed and climaxes with an empty cigarette pack and the employee's reaction to it, 'Damn...'
When its all over we don't know quite what to make of it. But it succeeds in transporting us into a unique and completely convincing world; and that's a lot to accomplish in only sixteen pages!
Whereas BILL focuses on an entire day, UNDER A SLOWLY SPINNING SUN is a minute dissection of only a few moments in time. Stylistically and thematically it's a much more ambitious piece, embracing the past and the present, the cosmic and the microscopic, the abstract and the immediate.
From inside an apartment, an unseen observer watches an old man shuffling down the sidewalk. The observer is acutely aware of everything about the scene, the dampness of the concrete, the speckles of sunlight shining through bushes, the ache in the old man's joints. Even the little bits of paper and branches stuck in the mud have a presence in this all-encompassing perception.
The 'present' sequence is laid over top of a background of diagramatic, mechanistic images-- gears and cogs in some baffling clockwork construction. It is also juxtaposed with a series of hastily-rendered portraits, as if from a sketchpad.
The text of the piece is divided into three independent tracks. The first is a series of random thoughts about the old man's progress along the sidewalk.
The second textual track is a 'student essay' by Guldemond on Borges' 'A New Refutation of Time,' evoking the author's notoriously labyrinthine philosophies.
The third and most mysterious text is a feverish invocation to strip away ones identity and embrace nothingness.
Do these represent the thoughts of the unseen observer? His presence seems to loom over the sequence; the point of view following the old man varies only slightly from what can be seen from the window; and briefly, the insides of the apartment are shown-- a collection of shoes, articles on a desk, dishes in a sink.
The old man has a collection of objects in his palm, what appear to be buttons and cigarette butts. He's muttering secretively to himself. He passes an old woman who seems to recognize him, and looks after him (longingly?) as he continues around the corner and out of sight. Then the sequence draws back from her and reveals the frame of the window, which is fuzzy and out of focus, and begins to disintegrate before our eyes.
What is comix art, and what are the limits of it's expressive power? What is consciousness and identity, or are they just illusions? These are some of the questions posed by this amazing work.