Review: Insel Paradies II by William Edmonds

I’ve been working through some work that I recently picked up outside of the convention circuit. There are a few US-based stores and distributors that carry books from Hato Press, and I was lucky to pick up a few things from the publisher in early winter. I’ve been reflecting on Insel Paradies II by William Edmonds (aka William Luz), an artist and founding member of Nous Vous, an art collective based out of London.

Insel Paradies II  (Island Paradise in German) is ostensibly a collection of paintings and drawings, framed around the concept of a mythical arcadian island off the west coast of Ireland that emerges once every seven years from the Atlantic. The island’s inhabitants for this day revel in the ancient Greek sense of the word, body’s writhing and flowing across the page. It’s not necessarily “comics” by its own definition, but Insel Paradies II has all the hallmarks of the form. In fact, Insel Paradies II is in some ways is more conservative than other installations of sequential fine art I’ve seen. Edmonds’ pages have clear demarcating panels and Insel Paradies II has strict linear flow as imposed by its conceptual framing. I’m reminded of Son Ni’s The Calabash – clearly a collection that is comics, but ephemeral, and on the perceived edge between sequential art and nonsequential art.

The work itself is vibrant; the blues, oranges, yellows, and purples mixed and melded together are feel alive. Edmonds’ page compositions are finely balanced, and in fact many are built of dancing characters surrounded by plants, all balanced on various fulcrums or in unaligned panels. Each page feels like it has been constructed with the idea of visual balance at its core. The book is printed with a risograph, so there are registration errors that throw off that balance, but in a way that make the book feel more organic.

Edmonds’ line is heavy, but loping. There’s a mysticism in the twisting images of each page, and the abstractions of Edmonds’ characters are sometimes breathtaking. Each image appears to be mixed media, colored pencils and watercolors.  The body in motion is Insel Paradies II’s principal concern, and it is easy to see the dance and movement of these characters with their arms outstretched, solid angles backed by wavy curved muscles. Fill color for these dancers is often a twist of pigment down the character’s profile, emphasizing the motion and the angles of the body, but not adhering to the line of the illustration.

The rest of each page is composed of abstract shapes, imitating buildings and fountains. And as dancers move away from the center of the page as the book closes, Edmonds guides the readers’ eye toward a tidy conclusion.  At the end of the book, Edmonds imitates  a curtain closing on the book, the final dancer center stage. Every Eden is closed off at the end – Insel Paradies II is no different.

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