Interview: Talking to Sarah Gordon about the brilliant, brutal, beautiful Strip…
If you recall, it started something like this…
Absolutely beautiful. A grace and fluidity to Gordon’s art that I’d not necessarily seen before, the body language just so good. The beauty gives way to a sensuality, as the title of the comic takes on meaning as the woman starts losing her clothes, and then more…
After this, it all gets very, very brutal. Shockingly so. A total deconstruction. I said in the review that Strip was “easily one of the most powerful things I’ve read in a long time“, and that certainly holds after repeated readings. So, I figured I’d chat with Gordon about the comic that I still expect to be somewhere on that best of year list come December.
So, here we go…
Richard Bruton, FPI Blog: Well, I’ve read Strip again and again. It’s rather magnificent. Beautiful. Although that’s not exactly the right word given the subject. I also passed it over to Louise, Mrs Bruton, whose response to it was incredible, first interest, enjoyment of the art, the expression of the sensuality. And then absolute revultion, a visceral turning away from the page, genuine horror at what she saw. So, first things first, what instigated a silent 40 page comic about one woman removing clothes, removing layers, removing more? And is that reaction, sensuality followed by revultion what you had in mind?
Sarah Gordon: Hi Richard, pleased you and Mrs Bruton, er, enjoyed (not sure if that’s quite the right word) the book. Judging by the reactions you’ve just described above I’d say it’s hitting the correct emotional notes. Yes, sensuality giving away to revulsion and horror at the midpoint thoroughly intended.
In a nutshell, I was sort of exploring some dark territory around the notions of fantasy vs intimacy. How stifling (and silencing) the pigeon holes we allow ourselves to be put into into can be, and how difficult it can be breaking out of that. Other stuff too, but that’s the nub of it.
Richard: As I see it, and Louise agreed, there’s a deliberate sensuality in the first half, a deliberate portrayal of a real woman, strong and commanding, defiantly in charge. It’s sensual and sexy, but doesn’t feel exploitative. Was this the plan for this part?
Sarah: She’s very much in control throughout the whole thing and yeah, definitely no exploitation going on here. The whole scenario from start to finish is something that she is very much in control of. She wants you to look. She obviously can’t control who’s reading the book and what their interpretations of the whole thing are, but everything is meant to feel rather deliberate. It is, after all, a comic strip about stripping on a number of different layers.
Richard: The sensual doesn’t last for long though, and without giving too much away, what replaces it is absolutely brutal. Was there a time you questioned how far to go with this part, just how visceral to go?
Sarah: Oh, man. You know I actually find blood/gore quite distressing to draw. I’m not really one for gratuitous or senseless use of sex and violence, but this piece needed that level of contrast in emotion.
Basically, there was a lot of angsting on my part about just what to show. There is a far bloodier set of thumbnails sitting in a sketchbook that I scrapped for being far too distressing, but anything less than the final version of the book would have felt too soft.
Richard: The style you use here is new to me from your work as well, certainly couldn’t be further from the last thing of yours we talked about; the Monster UN. And looking through past work, there’s a real variety in there. Is this more experimentation, fitting a style to the job, or a pleasing failure to settle on a style?
Sarah: So I’m a bit funny about “style”. In visual art I tend to think of the images you use as a very complicated alphabet and style is something that dictates the mood of what you’re trying to say rather than something to get too fixated on. So if I am working on something amusing, a quick, direct way of drawing will get the point across far better than a more detailed and described drawing. I like to think of what I do with narrative art right now as writing with pictures. A lot of writers change tone of voice depending on characters or the type of story they’re writing all the time. I guess that’s kind of what I aim to do too. I just don’t like to get too comfortable or stuck in one particular mode of thinking or creating.
Richard: As always, we’ll end with a ‘what next’ question…. so… what next?
Sarah: Oh, crumbs. So many things I want to do this year. Currently writing a story loosely based on the Lorelei (a mythical German siren who lives on a rock on the Rhine). Hoping to get that finished over the summer. Then I’ve got an exhibition in the autumn based on the science of death (website coming soon but the twitter feed is here: https://twitter.com/artnecrouk – I’ve been asked to make some work looking at real world zombies. It’s really gruesome but great fun). Few other things going on in between, plus projects like Monster UN are still on the go.
Basically I am super, super busy right now and it’s really good fun.
Oh, thanks to Sarah for answering those questions. Strip is available from Gordon’s online store. You can find her online at various locales; @ratherlemony, ratherlemony.com, digital portfolio, ratherlemony on Big Cartel.