About over a week ago, I saw a flyer in the local coffeehouse that showed an exhibit titled " The Art of Storytelling: Five Tales from Asia, Then and Now " at the Middlebury College Art Museum. The asian literature mentioned are accompanied by modern illustrators who would create works of art based on the famous tales. They are: the Mahabharata and Ramayana ( India ), Shahmaneh ( Iran ), Journey to the West ( China) and Tale of Genji ( Japan ).
However, two major names on the list floored me. One was Abhishek Singh whose work I followed on one social network for a long time and the other is the creative luminary Yoshitaka Amano that I grew up since the late 1970s up til present.
I knew I had to go see the exhibit but also the timing was extremely fortunate, that had I not seen the flyer, I would've missed meeting Mr. Singh. It was incredible to find that his work would be exhibited alongside Amano's, both whom I admire greatly.
But he was'nt alone for three other contemporaries had their work shown. They are: Sanjay Patel ( Pixar animator ), Hamid Rahamnian ( graphic artist and film-maker ), and Gene Luen Yang ( graphic novelist ). All their works and processes would be complemented with the actual original tales that would imported from other collections. I corresponded with him about the flyer from the museum and that I was looking forward to seeing the exhibit.
And so, on that day of the discussion of Krishna: A Journey Within published in 2012 would take place at the concert hall upstairs of the museum space. I was stunned at the quality of work of all these contemporaries on the wall pertaining to the famous stories. But to see Amano's illustrations based on Tale of Genji in person for the very first time gave me shivers. I grew up seeing this man's work ranging from the cult favorite Vampire Hunter D, Gatchaman characters, Final Fantasy character art and so on, despite having in my possession a huge paperback of Yoshitaka Amano Art Book Vampire Hunter " D " in japanese language.
I bought my copy of Krishna: A Journy Within graphic novel prior to that and awaited to see what Abhishek, accompanied by two other speakers, had to say. It was enlightening to see his process on the projection screen and how things came together in his creative process. All of this occurred inside a beautiful auditorium and concert hall up on the second floor of the museum.
After that, I finally had a chance to speak with him in person. We chatted for a while as he was kind enough to sketch and sign on my copy.
A true class act and spiritual man who emanates creativity and kindness.
I managed to get around to reading it recently and thought the line art was unique in that it flowed within the panels, almost like wind. It was a beautifully bound paperback that has some ' behind the scenes ' conceptual sketches in the last pages of the book. How it opens the story and ends has a certain philosophical whim to it.
Especially the way it opens up from a child-like perspective to a more mature tone, basing itself on the Mahabharata on Arjuna's story and the kingdoms surrounding him, and transmogrifying into something of an elevated state of being, or enlightenment.
Interestingly enough, I was already familiar with Arjuna's story from Arjun: The Warrior Prince which I saw recently on Netflix.
The coloring, I believe, was digitally done over actual ink in very vivid colors. It was almost like watching an animated film in that sense.
The book does not bog down on heavy detail or dialogue but rather, it flows. It may appear simplistic but the depth is there, if one looks closely enough. I think the goal of the story was to introduce people to know who Krishna is and of his deeds. Again, it's a beautiful book and, in my impression, this was the artist's attempt to do ' self discovery ' through Krishna and find illumination from that point.
From the looks of it, he managed to do so. For those who are into the mythological nature of stories and of gods, give Krishna: A Journey Within a read. It is not the only creation he wrote but he has illustrated many other pieces based on that world and of what's out there. And within.
They are to be seen to be believed.
And to Abhishek Singh, thank you for bringing Krishna to light.