Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Review: Pobody's Nerfect, Wowee Zonk (Koyama Press, 2010)

Wowee Zonk | 15x20cm, full colour, 24 pages | $10.00 (CAD) | Available Now

There’s no way to fully convey Canadian collective Wowee Zonk’s latest art book without resorting to some kind of ludicrous analogy. So, with that in mind: Pobody’s Nerfect is like an unstoppable ogre-savant’s rampage through an arts and crafts store. Combining all kinds of weird and wonderful pieces into one eye-boggling 24-page package, it’s a whirlwind of neon colours and mixed media that smash and splatter together to make something miraculous. 

Although there are three people pictured on in several photos throughout the book, I like to believe that Wowee Zonk are some sort of three-headed, twelve-limbed living, breathing fun machine. For professionalism’s sake though, I’ll admit that they consist of a very un-attached Patrick Kyle, Chris Kuzma and Ginette Lapalme. Whilst their styles are quite distinct, and there’s no mistaking one for another, they all share a kind of warped aesthetic and an obvious joy of creation.

One of Patrick Kyle's pieces on an unspecified material. I know the Wowee Zonk gang ("Wowee Zonkers"?) have made their own paper in the past, so I guess that could be it. Regardless, I love this.

Patrick Kyle can be considered the most traditionally cartoon-inspired of the pack (traditional by Wowee Zonk standards, that is). His work features strangely-shaped creatures and characters that please and confuse the eye all at once. A particular favourite sees what can only be described as a family of Ultramen beating a family of blue-headed monsters with a club, which should clue you in to how difficult it is to nail down his work.

This might be the most ostentatious thing I’ve ever written, but his illustration has a kind of mythic, symbolic quality to it, and I found myself drawing comparisons to Neolithic and Medieval artwork. His images have an semiotic stillness to them that is partially hypnotic and wholly inventive. For those craving a less pretentious comparison, imagine Yellow Submarine only more colourful, more psychedelic and with the Blue Meanies seeking to destroy Magic the Gathering cards instead of music. It’s genuinely great stuff.

As a child, I stole a toy Cheetah from my Primary School. I still feel guilty about it, only now mainly because I didn't do something totally awesome with it like Ginette Lapalme.

It doesn’t take more than a minute on Ginette Lapalme’s website before you realise that she’s a pretty capricious artist. Working in a vast range of styles and formats, her work is perhaps the most varied of the team. In this book she provides a selection of lo-fi, DIY style gems that seem custom-made to steal our hearts. Ubiquitously bursting with that good kind of icky cuteness, her bizarre animal-themed work extends across screen printing, modelling and traditional illustration (the latter which is reminiscent of Jeremyville, but without the commercial aspect of his work).

Basically, if the sound of a giant, muscled, Bagpuss-esque cat with cubes containing animal heads inside of it appeals to you, you’re going to love her. Immediately upon seeing the sparkly bejewelled cat models pictured above, ATF staffer Judith proclaimed that she wanted a print of them for the blog’s HQ. Given that the girl is super-picky and opposed to clutter of any form, that’s high-praise in my book (she barely approves of my Gigantor toy collection, for shame!).

Untitled in the book, Chris Kuzma's website lists the title of this piece as "Dionysus". If only we had Fraternities in Europe. Toga! Toga! Toga!

Chris Kuzma’s work in the book straddles the gap between clean-edged photorealism and frenetic cartooning. Super-subtle watercolour skin and clothes are held together (and pulled apart) by the musculature of his warped outlines and details. His piece “Dionysus” (the ancient Greek god of wine) is a particular favourite. Featuring what looks to be a thoroughly squiffy frat-boy wearing a wine-stained toga and ill-positioned laurel wreath, it opens the collection with a subversive humour that supports and balances the more hedonistic works found elsewhere within it. Check out Kuzma’s blog (linked below) to check out a couple of pages from his upcoming comic “Complex”, which looks quite superb indeed.

Provided you're not scared of your eyeballs getting melted by sheer awesomeness, Pobody's Nerfect is recommended to everyone who has an interest in forward-thinking images that unify fine art and cartooning. To be honest, Wowee Zonk don’t so much unify those terms as disregard them altogether, ploughing ahead with their twelve-limbed, three-headed work just for the fun of it. Colourful, wiggly, bizarre, sometimes technical, partially haphazard, always awesome, and sometimes a little beautiful, it’s one hell of a book. We're big fans of Koyama Press here at ATF, and this release only increases our fanaticism. We demand that you buy at least five copies of Pobody's Nerfect each until Wowee Zonk release a full-length hard-back collection of their material. Wallets at the ready; it’s time to get to work.


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