As I initially began casually flipping through Killian Eng's Object 5, I felt logic and rational comprehension slipping away from me, forcing me to slow down and take in the visual poetry presented. Reminiscent of the psychedelic works of Peter Max or Milton Glazer, there is also a hint of Moebius and even of Katsuhiro Otomo in Eng’s art. Eng’s line is always organic, contrasting perfectly with the tsunami of a color palette, weaving naturally through every style he utilizes, from the distinctly cold vastness of space to the eclectic chaos of natural and cityscapes. Playing with scale and perception, there is a distinctly otherworldly feeling to the art and despite the supposed lack of a unifying story, it is impossible not to feel as if Eng is taking us on a coherent journey through new worlds and realities that we simply cannot understand... yet. The apparent chaos invites further study, pushing to perceive things differently and comprehend the mysteries depicted.
Beautifully printed and published by Floating World Comics Eng’s Object 5 immediately impresses with heavy paper stock, saturated colors, and a basic, elegant design aesthetic. Allowing the art to shine, the book is a simple showcase for the wonderfully diverse range of gently, sweetly disturbing illustrations. With an eye always towards the surreal and unusual, Eng’s illustrations take us on a journey, playing with scale, illustration and style. It is a book to be experienced in the real world and although his work is available digitally, the tangible experience of turning the pages to reveal each new, surprising image is a necessary part of experiencing the work at it’s best. Previously printed only in black and white, this color edition brings entirely new life to the art, a rich beauty which overwhelms and nourishes.
You may know Kilian Eng from his work for Heavy Metal and Mondo, creating beautiful posters for films like Ghost in the Shell and Argo. Object 5 is an entirely different sort of animal, roaming as it does through styes and moods, settling nowhere yet with seemingly endless possibilities presented.
It’s a happy coincidence that when I began looking at Object 5 I had just begun reading Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin, about a man who’s dreams alter reality (a plot, by the way, which I distinctly remember reading in a 2000 AD comic book years ago, possibly by Alan Moore or Grant Morrison. If you can remember when that came out or who wrote it, PLEASE LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS, because it’s driving me nuts.) Anyway, the beauty of LeGuin is her ability to craft strange worlds, plausibly and tangibly. She draws the reader in by depicting every aspect of the societies she creates, and all her book is missing is a real-world visual expression of that. As if by magic, Kilian Eng’s Object 5 arrived, and although it is ostensibly a book of disconnected drawings, it feels like the perfect companion piece to Lathe of Heaven.
My favorite artists in every medium are always the tricksters, the people who live to disrupt and play with our preconceived ideas, disturbing our equilibrium with their games. The joy of Object 5 is in the gentle way it disrupts, almost passively, without threat or fear, yet it is an altering book. Simply reading it and taking in the imagery forces us to re-examine our reality, looking deeper into the dreamlike art and losing our sense of self and reality in the process. Every time I return to Object 5, I see new stories emerging, as if the tiny characters so dwarfed by the unnatural worlds they inhabit are living secret lives when the book is closed. It is a book I cannot wait to pass on, to give to friends as a mood-altering trip and a visual feast to nourish the imagination. While Eng may have set out simply to publish a sketch book, he has produced something far more complex and mystifying.