Hyderabad: For someone whose stories emerge mostly from the 20 metres around his universe, I am usually in awe of authors who create another universe. And that’s what makes Appupen’s Halahala land so special.
It always emerges out of the reality we live in, the 9 to 5 lives and everyday images we negotiate in our seemingly busy lives. The realm of fantasy and speculation is stretched out of the cynicism we live with.
In that regard, Appupen’s journeys into his world from Moonward to Aspyrus are often a telling comment, not on the world he creates but the world we live in.
Appupen is an old man, and the worlds he creates are the ones he has lived in. His books are documents of his journeys from which he seeks to escape only to fall into the same trappings through his characters that jump in and out of the pages, promising to make a fresh start in every chapter.
Like in life, that seldom happens — we fall more for the same. A little wiser, or so we think. It’s not Appupen’s journey, its ours. As much a fantasy of our heads that reeks of desperation to escape.
In this journey or the world, Appupen acknowledges all that he has seen, all that he has lived advertising, media overload, information shouting its guts out, choking with every breath and yet characters seek more, dreaming of a better world that must be hidden behind the seen and thus, like the characters, the reader too is consumed, turning the pages, seeking respite from the living world.
Aspyrus is not a book, it’s a journey that consumes you. Its intense drawings place you firmly in the world you wanted to escape from and not the world you wanted to escape into. The influences are all too real, and information we already know is told to us from a perspective we have had no time to look at.
The work is not a dig at the world of consumerism or advertising or media or the drudgery of the salary slip, but a telling reminder of how you must be doing.
With drawings in pen and ink and watercolours, Appupen stylistically acknowledges all that informs and influences his art. American graphic novels, expressionism, advertising and, of course, not to miss the spread in this book that’s a look into the world of contemporary art which appropriates everything from Picasso’s cubist nudes to Damien Hirst’s diamond skull.
To comment on the world we live in from the experiences we live is a daunting task indeed. More so when it’s a silent, wordless book. Text is an intrusion which Appupen is so economical, judicious about. He is truly a man of few words, so are our journeys.
By the end the reader is exhausted, not happy that he is out of Halahala, but gazing, reflecting on the world he is living in. And wondering, so where will Appupen take us next?