July 1, 2022


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Graphic Novel: Catherine Morris, Nami and the Sea.  review - culture

Graphic Novel: Catherine Morris, Nami and the Sea. review – culture

You make an effort, speak softly, make less extended hand movements, always take whatever is presented to you with both hands and emphasize a gentle smile on your face – but: in Japan, as a Westerner, not attracting attention is impossible . Even your stature feels so ragged in this land of soft colors, where even 160kg sumo wrestlers manage to balance elegantly on their wooden sandals.

The heroine carelessly stumbles upon the island’s code of conduct

Catherine Morris manages to accurately capture this dichotomy in her new graphic novel Nami and the Sea. Because while portraying Japanese landscapes, rugged sea cliffs, gentle mountain hills, and lush green forests in an almost old-fashioned way, it leaves the heroine, a French illustrator with a blank sketch and big eyes, stumbling carelessly in Japan once again, once again on the code of conduct meticulously coordinated.

It can only be understood on a limited scale in European categories: the Japanese artists’ idea of ​​their nature.

(Photo: C. Morris/Carlsen)

An aging Japanese painter, somewhat candid at first, comments about the French painter’s enthusiasm for the country’s traditional poetic form, then embarks on Hei on a fairytale-like quest for inspiration in nature. The young woman, always wearing jeans and heavy hiking boots in the land of tumble steps and fluffy slippers, does not allow the painter’s commentary to deter her fascination with the “mysteries” of his country. The artist, easily identifiable as 42-year-old Catherine Morris, who lived in Kyoto for several months for the book, looks very closely despite her enthusiasm — and listens: only those who hear “slip, slug, slug” slippers An old Japanese woman who reads and hears from him, feels placed in the middle of this country’s unique background noise.

Kathryn Morris: "Nami and the sea": As in all of Katherine Morris' work, one recognizes the importance of art history to her work.

As in all of Catherine Morris’ work, one recognizes the importance of art history to her work.

(Photo: C. Morris/Carlsen)

Katharine Morris’ book is marked by focused observation and retention, with many in the West already documenting their enthusiasm for Japan in picture books, films, and books. It’s seeing the more obvious that makes all the difference (which, admittedly, is fun in this wonderland). There are also obligatory Western European jokes in Nami and the Sea, and above all the excessive demands to operate a fully automated toilet, culminating in the occasional tsunami warning. But such jokes are rare. Morris cares a lot about how the Japanese treat the nature of their country, which is so divisive: for while nature is such an essential part of Japan’s identity, culture and religion, it has been captured above all in the world-famous woodcuts of different generations for artists, nature must remain here, from On the other hand, it is constantly under control by force, so that life (survival) is absolutely possible in the land of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

Kathryn Morris: "Nami and the sea": concrete wall?  Which concrete wall?

concrete wall? Which concrete wall?

(Photo: C. Morris/Carlsen)

This becomes visible in the book, for example, in a scene with a giant concrete wall, which is “supposed to protect against landslides and mudslides”, but is so closely ignored by the group of amateur painters, which is why they capture only pristine nature in their photos. And while Western Europe sees a sad censorship on this, the group of painters sees it as “natsukashi,” the Japanese variant of nostalgia, meaning something like “the beautiful memories one conjures up with friends.”

Morris’ landscape drawings are reminiscent of the famous Hokusai woodcuts. But even if the embellishments in the book make visible the French painter’s confrontation with the most famous Japanese artist, her point of view is always the “familiar alienation” of this country. Not infrequently, it is peppered with a brilliant wit: “Haiku! Do the haiku! It’s soothing!” The painter calls the desperate painter through the paper barrier when he is once again suffering from the siege of inspiration. Here flashes the artist’s early life, after all, she worked for the French satirical magazine for ten years Charlie Hebdo a job. She only survived the brutal attack because she fell asleep on the fateful day and was late on her way to the editorial conference. The books she has written since then have repeatedly addressed nature and what people see in it, as well as, in particular, as an aid after a traumatic experience. The Japanese landscape now provides this monolithic observer with the right trappings to continue this exploration.

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