Monday, January 11, 2021

STGM: The Conclusion of the World and What Rose After

STGM: The Conclusion of the World, and What Rose AfterSTGM: The Conclusion of the World, and What Rose After by Valin Mattheis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of Valin Mattheis' art. I have two prints of his up in my writing area and one of his paintings adorns my own book, The Varvaros Ascensions. So, when I heard that he was producing a book from sketches he made during Inktober 2020, I dropped everything and bought a copy. I really do believe in buying books 1) directly from the author whenever possible, 2) directly from the publisher when that's not possible, 3) from a local bookstore when I can't buy it direct from the author or publisher, 4) from (my favorite online bookstore - they also have a paper catalog - remember those?), 5) from Ebay or Abebooks, then, finally, 6) from the good sponsors/owners/whatever of Goodreads. In this case, I was able to go with choice #1, and that brings me a great deal of satisfaction.

The book is divided into four chapters: i: The Great Sorrow, ii: Black Earth Revival, iii: Harold Rose Up, and iv: The Three Pilgrims. The story is mythic in scale, and each chapter follows from the other, although from different perspectives. The whole is made cohesive by the strand of destruction, change, and maybe, possibly, hope among the darkness. A grim hope, but hope, nonetheless.

The art is saturated with color, even while the water-color backgrounds and spectres give a ghostly quality to the whole. It is a beautiful book and the emphasis is squarely on the art. There are, as you might guess, lots of skeletons and a morbid sense of humor running throughout, but the book is never so silly as to throw one out of the grim mindset. The "slim" story, again in a mythic mode, helps to maintain a mood of solemnity, even a touch of reverence.

As an added treat, there is a detailed commentary in the back explaining some of the more obfuscated iconography. This added a great deal of depth to the story, but I hope that, in future volumes, not too much is given away. This was just enough to be helpful, but not enough to strip away the mystery. And I hope that some mystery remains. Some things are best left unexplained.

There are also a few pages of sketches, art that was unused in their nascent form, at least (and some of it not used at all) in the main body of the book. This gives a little peek into Mattheis' creative process, a window into window through which the artist was constructing his representation of the view in his mind. I'm excited to continue exploring these vistas. As the afterword states "This is the conclusion of the world, and what rises after."

I am excited to see what rises after the after . . .

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