Saturday, October 8, 2011

Epic Adventures in Imaginal Realms of the Self

Bad News Bat (2011) by David Jien

The Richard Heller Gallery is currently exhibiting "The Plight of the Who" works by David Jien. These drawings depict a fantastic world in which humanity and their free-spirited anthropomorphic allies, the Who, are in an epic struggle against the immoral and homogenized forces of the lizardmen and their blue egg-headed allies. Set within a weird realm that seems drawn from a role-playing game, the warring sides contend to determine the fate of an important child.

As a life-long gamer, these works caught my enthusiasm at first sight. They portray scenes from the fantastic narrative of the Who's epic adventure, although this show is focused only on "Chapter One" of the story. There are moments of discovery, as when the Who Riders come across the Statue. There are moments of decadence, as depicted at the unsettling interspecies orgy between the lizard men and the human women. And then there are moments of heroism, as when the Who Riders faces overwhelming odds against the hordes of their reptilian foes. Even the pictures of the Collector viewing his collection has an implied narrative significance.

The Who Riders (2010) by David Jien

But it isn't just the narrative or fantastic imagery that makes this show so compelling. Jien's attention to detail is superb! Minute elements of texture or pattern are delivered with precision and with cohesion to the overall composition. Each subject of each picture is designed with meticulous consideration. Even the uniform figures of the lizardmen and the blue egg-heads are given focused articulation. It's an awesome display of craftsmanship.

As regards gaming, it isn't merely the subject matter that feels like a role-playing scenario. The way in which the setting is depicted, in isometric projection, is also evocative of video game adventure, like a classic Nintendo platformer with a side-scrolling world.

Ride or Die (2010) by David Jien

And sometimes the structures look like they've been crafted out of Legos!!! How cool is that? ;-)

In any case, I really enjoyed this show. For both technical and conceptual accomplishments, I can highly recommend it. And if you're a fantasy game enthusiast like me, then this exhibit will be a delight.

David Jien's "The Plight of the Who" will be showing at the Richard Heller Gallery until October 22

And check out this engaging interview with David Jien at Erratic Phenomena. It's a good read.


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