Art Book Reviews: Rage of Poseidon, Anders Nilsen (Chicago) &
In the City, Nigel Peake (Northern Ireland)
by Asia Harvey
The much-anticipated edition of Anders Nilsen‘s Rage of Poseidon was originally released last year as a handmade volume. Rage of Poseidon takes the reader on a romp through seven tales featuring mythological deities and Old Testament characters. The narrative follows the decline of Western man’s belief in a pantheon of deities and the subsequent rise of his faith in a Christian God. Familiar characters are recast in contemporary situations, updating parables and injecting them with Nilsen’s dark humour.
Nilsen’s modernized tales bring to life characters like Poseidon, who has come to accept that man no longer worships him, and has developed a penchant for iced lattes that is second only to his love for ambrosia. In another chapter, Isaac survives his father Abraham’s homicidal proclivities to return his attention to first-person-shooter gaming. Meanwhile Bacchus is involved in the dodgy nightlife of Las Vegas, while Athena wakes up with a bad hangover and begins to rethink her party-hard lifestyle.
Nilsen’s artist book is a hardcover affair that opens accordion-style, revealing silhouette illustrations that are reminiscent of work by artists like Kara Walker and hearken back to 17th-century paper-cut silhouettes. The shadowy drawings are by necessity pared down to their most basic—and most revealing—elements. The problem of depicting the divine, for instance, is bypassed by alluding to characters through their contours. Nilsen’s unwillingness to disclose superfluous visual details forces the reader to imagine what lurks in the undefined darkness, a process that was satisfying to this reader in and of itself.
Rage of Poseidon is beautiful as a story and as an object. The hardcover edition was released on October 29, 2013 through Drawn & Quarterly.
You may be familiar with Nigel Peake‘s In the Wilds, a beautifully illustrated book that explores the countryside surrounding the artist’s Irish home. In the City is the companion to that project, and addresses urban geography in delicate line and ink drawings. It is apparent that Peake is fascinated with the seemingly omnipresent role of the human hand in shaping the elements of the city: “from the metro ticket to the tall building,” he remarks, “it has been made and considered.” Published by the Princeton Architectural Press, In the City draws its visual vocabulary from international metropolises as far-flung as Lausanne, New York City and Shanghai.
The hardcover, hand-lettered volume is divided into chapters that address what—to Peake—comprise the basic elements of the city: Surface, Place, Fragment, Path (Margin) and Change. “I begin to know a city through its fragments,” Peake muses, and his illustrations break down the complexities of the urban landscape into sometimes abstract, whimsical arrangements that reflect this way of seeing. The result is an odic yet edifying work that is informed by his training as an architect. Grids, maps and blueprints are interspersed with drawings of reflections in windows, the sound of a ball bouncing on concrete and intimate depictions of garbage distorted by traffic.
If, as Peake suggests, “the city is a recording of our moves,” then In the City builds an imaginary polis through its obsessive cataloging of one man’s meanderings.
In the City was published on October 29, 2013 through The Princeton Architectural Press.