Not a classical comic artist – Moki

Copyright: MokiActually, Moki is not a classical comic artist. She is a painter, does animated films and has appeared in performances in ape and monster costumes that she sewed herself. Acrylic paintings are the focus of her work – often of people, animals or imaginary creatures that seem to be abstracted, asleep and dreaming in melancholy, lonesome landscapes.

Diashow Moki

In addition to her illustrations and paintings, Moki has been drawing regularly for the comic anthology Orang since 2004, and until 2007 as a member of the women’s collective Spring. In 2006, her work Borderland was distinguished as “Best Artwork” by the comic artists’ professional association Interessenverband Comic e.V. (ICOM) – although the jury members wondered if this work could really be classified as a “comic.”

In truth, Moki’s pictorial language lives and breathes from the fact that it cannot be pinned down to a particular technique or a strictly defined genre – the artist also transcends the boundaries of classical comics with the same naturalness with which she integrates comic-like figures into many of her paintings.

Borderland, for instance, places acrylic paintings next to each other, in which shadowy beings that frequently reappear turn up right next to cute figures from other comics. Arranged side by side, these images do not narrate a clear-cut action. Instead, each of these images is a scene in and of itself, about which an independent story arises in the mind of the viewer.

Creating an atmosphere

Moki also experiments with pictorial narrative in other comics as well: her comics Landstreicher (i.e. vagabond), Popov und Pietzke and Greenland are similar in their density to “Where’s Wally”-style hidden object pictures. The characters move through an overall picture of a continuous landscape, and individual scenes are not separated by panels. The viewer must himself create this separation with his own perception. Still other comics are wordless incidents, brief picture sequences without any clear-cut plot – like Moki’s artworks, they aim at creating an atmosphere rather than at depicting an action.

The motif of the journey, the discovery of nature and of undistorted access to it permeates almost all of her narratives. Moki’s characters are cute, furry animals, bizarre entities, petrified colossi, rarely human beings. They roam about in winding, exuberant landscapes or fantastic sceneires; discover, observe, climb them; then they curl up once again, sink down and dream up new worlds.

A childlike feeling of basic trust in nature typifies the artist’s figures. Moki draws inspiration from the Finnish-Swedish artist Tove Jansson’s Moomins and the Japanese manga artist Hayao Miyazaki, and even integrates Moomin figures such as the Hattifnatten (ghost-like beings of the Moomin world – translator’s note) in her paintings and comics.

Healing encounter

A further motif is the encounter between the familiar and difference. Thus also in Wandering Ghost, Moki’s first comic volume. Drawn with a Japanese calligraphy pen, Moki concentrates here on purity of line, only rarely working with shading and surfaces, repeatedly penetrating the classical narrative structure of comics with her unique hidden object technique. Wandering Ghost begins as a children’s story: a little monkey with big, wide eyes and jug ears wanders through an idyllic environment inspired by Japanese landscape drawings. One night, it has a nightmare and the following morning is transformed into a large animal with clumsy arms and a bushy tail. Outwardly grown to adulthood, the creature mourns its childlike self. The creature’s sense of identity and its outward appearance diverge from each other painfully. One can read Wandering Ghost as a “coming-of-age” narrative; or as the story of an alienation between body and sense of identity. In the end, a healing encounter occurs that leads to a reconciliation of the adult creature with itself.

Incidentally, as a child, Moki had not yet developed an interest in comics because she found her brother’s comic books too conventionally drawn. Today, with her enigmatic pictorial narratives, she is an established presence in the Hamburg comic scene.

Lu Yen Roloff
is a free-lance journalist working in three media as a print, radio and television author. She lives and works in Hamburg.

Translation: Edith Watts

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
January 2013

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