Escape From Comics With Dave McKean At The Pumphouse, Battersea

I say "escape". It's more like a running jump, taking comics with you and seeing the possibilities of what they can be – while still staying comics. This is the Hypercomics exhibition on right now at the Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park, London, curated by Paul Gravett. This morning I went with the kids. And a cameraphone.

Warren Pleece's piece is an adaptation of his current work that I've seen previewed here and there, Montague Terrace. A comic about the comings and goings of residents of a apartment block, the ground floor by the reception has been transformed into a front room, the sofa facing a lit wall, summoning small peeks into their lives by pressing buttons on a building intercom to reveal very modest motion comics. On the far wall, the characters seprate stories have been stripped and stranded into separate windy paths to read and follow, from a failing magician with a talking rabbit to an abandoned pop star badmouthing Simon Cowell on the television.

Taking the tight metal stairs to the second floor sees three 225-panel strips, though many of them are taken up with filing cabinet doors.

This allows the multiple choice narratives to follow their various courses through heaven and hell and the machinations of a pop star turned dictator, created by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, as recorded by an obsessive achivist while a window overlooking the park filled the fourth wall and lit the proceedings.

I really wanted to be able to buy postcards…

The third floor held probably the highlight of the show, The Rut by Dave McKean, a story of a young man dragged into plans to kill his friend when young that went nowhere. But the experience traumatise him, reflected in the two recurring symbols in this story, people turning into deer-like creatures, both the animalisation of humanity, but the haunting of the park where the murder was meant to take place. Starting as panels in the window panes on the door on the way in, the strip runs across the floor them up suspended glas panels, splitting off into different narrative possibilities before continuing along a wall, one panel an ornatedly framed detailed oil painting, others frosted glass, a life-size human/deer puppet draped across tree branches and hidden from the rest of the room by a second wall, statues, a three dimensionally warped cubist sculpture and finally impossibly small panels on brickwork. It's both the most ambitious and accomplished work in the show, undoubtable and unashamedly a comic book, static image after static image, but one that sheds assumptions of form and place as it goes.

And from Adam Dant a most remarkable fourth floor, a map of old London transmuted into fictitious bookshelves, telling the story of London in a strange mashup of bodily fuctions and georgraphy of the city. The only exhibition not 100% comics, it is however most definitely sequential juxtapose art. But not as we know it. And the floor gives a view of Dave McKean's exhibition, these bookcases almost commenting on the panicked scene below, giving a purpose and order to it.

It doesn't stop here though. Stories and characters spill out into the newspaper that accopanies the show and ever the shelter by the nearby duckpond, becoming its own place to continue stories. Hironymous Pop takes charge here as well, with a host of other comic creators continuing his stories.

This exhibition is on under the 26th of September. If you live in London, if you can get to London, if you are anywhere in the city this month, it's your comic book duty to get to Battersea Park and the Pumphouse Gallery and see new possibilities telling comic book stories in new, unexpected ways.

And let them know who sent you.

The show is open Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Bank Holidays 11am – 5pm and Friday and Saturday from 11am – 4pm. Paul Gravett is doing a talk on the 15th and Dave McKean is doing a masterclass on the 23rd…

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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