Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Moreton of the Week #3: Smoo 8-10

Let's take a look at the last three issues of the self-published series where Simon Moreton got his start, Smoo.

Issue #8, in several small vignettes, talks about different ways Moreton felt the weight of anxiety and stress, and the ways in which he found himself coping. Walking around Washington, DC in the fall, the sight of a snapping turtle on a rock was somehow reassuring. Reading Moreton's work over time, he's become remarkably assured in his minimalist take, as he's not afraid to draw big, bold strokes or use a few strategically placed and confident squiggles around a simply-defined central figure. The vignettes refer to a relationship that's in the process of being redefined and reevaluated on the fly, in the middle of what is ostensibly a vacation. In classic Warren Craghead fashion, when he talks about the pieces of the relationship being taken apart, the very text that proclaims this falls apart, drifting down the page. There's a remarkable segment where he's alone in a bar, where the pages flip open and fold apart, as he feels powerless to stop what's going on in his life, like a "drunken ghost". Finally, there is quiet reconciliation and more contemplative walks, the event of music suddenly breaking out on the street the kind of marvel that reminds us of the random gifts that life can bring.

Smoo #9 introduces a lot of text on its own pages, as a kind of reflection and amplification of the images on other pages. This issue reflects on family and previous states of mind. There's a touch of a regular Moreton theme in the way that friendship endures and in many way freezes one's age with that friend back to childhood, while also being aware of being adults. It's about gatherings of friends and families at wakes. It's about understanding how and why someone isn't doing well at a given time in one's life. In "Doubt", Moreton ponders the notion that he's never really "lived a day in my life". There's a recurring theme in his comics that he feels stuck, running in place and living an inauthentic life. That's countered by the way he observes his environment and treasures his friends, because the ability to perceive and then convey beauty is a remarkable act of authenticity.

The final issue, #10, touches on a number of these themes. There's a lot of text used once again, as he thinks about places he's lived and the visceral qualities of each: sights, sounds, smells, heat, cold, etc. There's an interest in larger forces that shape his days. From lingering in the past to capturing a moment comes Moreton watching a group of birds in the fog, and then following a path with a lover to find a waterfall. This time, it's conveying that sense of aesthetic experience that is both shared and entirely personal, relaying a few moments in time in as stripped-down a manner as possible. It's his way of relaying that sensation of the sublime, when things seem to be moving in slow-motion, seem to make sense and are heart-breakingly beautiful. The issue ends after another nature excursion and then a slow moment at home, saying "We've been changing" That's neither a positive nor a negative statement, simply a fact of mutual experience. In exploring deeply personal and individual thoughts  while clearly trying to put them in a larger context, Moreton has expanded his range as an artist while still working within his strengths in depicting spare and expressive visual stimuli.

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