ONE EYE on Metapsychology Online Reviews

“One Eye” / Metapsychology Online / Christian Perring / April 3, 2007

Charles Burns is best known for his graphic novels, such as Skin Deep, Black Hole, and Big Baby. His style of drawing is very distinctive -- inspired by pulp comics, full of energy, and slightly creepy. One Eye is a departure for him: it is a collection of pictures, mostly photographs, taken on a Sony "cyber-shot" digital camera. Each page has two pictures, one on top of the other, and the pair has a title, a city, and a year. That is all the explanation the reader gets. Many of the pictures seem randomly paired at first, but after a little thought and browsing, it's possible to find some connection. "We Can't Go On Like This, Philadelphia, 2004" has a photograph of a scared young woman in green hues, and below it, a picture of a small pocket knife lying in a hand, against a red background. To spell it out, this seems to suggest potential violence, but nothing very serious. "A World of Small Pleasures" shows a hand holding up a beer bottle in a lime green bottle jacket, against a light blue wall, with, below it, a picture of a large smiley-face mug of black coffee on a beige table. Colors and textures are clearly very important here: mostly they match in these pairs of pictures, but occasionally they contrast or complement each other. Often there's a symmetry between the objects shown in the two pictures. There are many different sorts of things depicted: interiors of rooms, exteriors of buildings, pictures of old advertisement images, dolls, shelves (both full and empty), mountains and parks, curious objects, and some pictures of people, clouds and curtains. The collection of pairs of photographs is intriguing and puzzling. Some of the combinations are funny, some are strange, and some are beautiful. I wish the book were physically bigger, so it were easier to see the details of what is being shown -- I often found myself peering up close at a page, trying to work out what I was looking at. (In the preview of the book available at the D&Q website, it's possible to view the images expanded, and that does improve them.)

What does this all mean? Is it Art? How does this all relate to Burns' graphic art? Is it any good? These are difficult questions to answer. It certainly isn't as immediately compelling as Burns' graphic art, and there are not many images here that really stay in your head for long. However, One Eye is interesting, and the more you look at the pictures, the more cohesive the collection seems. It's probably best to see the pairings of pictures as a playful experiment rather than some major statement, and as such, it is pretty successful.

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