Matt Huynh gave his fans a treat this month: a sneak peek at his new comic book “Magpie, Magpie” at Riley Street Studios.
As you can imagine, his exhibition preview was quite the tease.
Upon entering, the first set of drawings you see is a series of small, black magpies, pinned haphazardly on the wall as if to make you feel like they are flying around you chaotically. It’s like you’ve stepped into a cave and unsettled these sinister birds, causing them to come scurrying out.
It’s a clever way to set the tone – who doesn’t like dark and mysterious?
Afterwards, your eyes are drawn to the far corner of the room where a projector loops the animated image of a lone magpie flying across a bleak sky.
Where is it going? Why is it alone? Is this the beginning or the end?
Given the poeticism and symbolism of his previous work, I assume this isn’t going to be anything like an Australian adaptation of “The Birds”, but I can’t help but think about the association between magpies and my childhood. Some of my memories are comical, like those ridiculous hats we were told to wear with the big eyeballs drawn on (because apparently magpies get self-conscious when stared at). For the most part, my magpie flashbacks are not so comical – these birds don’t mess
around and I know a few mates who have been swooped by them and sustained nasty head wounds as a result…
In some ways I wonder if Huynh has decided to capitalise on this inherently Australian
In any case, Huynh provides a careful selection of snippets in the central wall of the exhibition room and dares the audience to speculate, discuss and debate what’s happening within and between the frames. There are no words to help us and there appears to be a fair share of hidden drama between each frame; as the emotions are amplified by Huynh’s trademark bold calligraphic brushstrokes.
An underlying theme of personal anguish pervades image. A woman clutches desperately at her own face, faces melt, faces turn into masks that, when removed, reveal other masks.
There’s also a sense of violence – the central female character appears pushed around, held against her will, trapped in a place where she oscillates between fear (of the sinister looking man, the one that keeps her?) and nostalgia (a man who holds her tenderly but seems out of place and out of time, not really quite there?).
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…
*Words and photography by Claire Benito.