In November 2015 the Mondo Gallery opened its doors on the exhibit ‘Originals: A Fine Art Show,’ an event that gave illustrators tied to the industry of pop culture a chance to create original work outside of the existing world of film, comics, and music. The show spawned a treasury of inspired pieces that have found life outside of those gallery walls.
One such piece is ‘None Outlive the Night When the Norns Have Spoken,’ an ink drawing from comic artist and writer Becky Cloonan. Cloonan’s catalog of work is an impressive list of books like ‘Southern Cross,’ ‘Gotham Academy,’ and ‘The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys‘ and a wealth of cover illustrations from DC’s ‘Aquaman‘ to the Jock and Scott Snyder led ‘Wytches.’ With her piece ‘None Outlive…‘ she has created a narrative free of the written word, her story told in one image. Beyond her mainstream comic work Cloonan has three self-published comics of her own creation, The Mire, Wolves, and Demeter. ‘None Outlive…‘ belongs on that list. This drawing contains an entire saga on one sheet of paper.
As with the bulk of Cloonan’s stories, ‘None Outlive…’ is based in mystery. She does not give the viewer the full narrative, just pieces, enough to feel her story. The armored skulls, dead men hanging from the tree rooted in writhing women. These are hints at war, at casual and heroic death — events both bound to the practical elements of the Earth as well as those internal, the medieval magic at the planet’s core. Like The Mire and Wolves, ‘None Outlive…‘ gives the viewer a sense of the drama and romantic death of our hero, the sirens ready to fold his body into their own. The tree is key here, dragon-like, knotted and wrinkled, a Tree of Life, Tree of Death, eternal — the dying, who get one last glimpse of pure naked beauty before becoming a part of the tree, their final resting place.
A limited edition 18″ x 24″ screen print was released by The Vacvvm, the illustration’s narrative spark enhanced by the addition of color to the original ink drawing. The tree, tinged a soft pink at the canopy. The sky, darkens at the heavens. The supernatural tone and drama of ‘None Outlive..‘ are heightened while the perspective gets obscured. The question of evil, of goodness, is asked yet unanswered. Is this a moment of serenity, a soldier at the point of death guided by the calm anesthesia of a beautiful face, or pure pagan horror? This is Cloonan’s skill — mystery is expertly laid at the door, a gift from the artist, ushering us ever so intelligently into her story, her path going unspoken and unseen.