Dave McKean unleashes his Dreams of Paul Nash for 14-18 NOW

By Richard Moss | 02 March 2016

Comic artist Dave McKean reveals his take on the Western Front paintings of Paul Nash

a drawing of a man on a high ledge staring across a cityscape at night as searchlights pick out a large Zeppelin shaped like a prehistoric fish
© Dave McKean
Anyone who has gazed at Paul Nash’s searing painting, We are Making a New World, with its sun rising over the barren and desolate landscape of the Western Front, will be captivated by the latest drawings of Dave McKean.

The comic artist, who has worked alongside Neil Gaman and on seminal graphic novels including Batman Arkham Asylum, has produced a new graphic novel that provides an insight into Paul Nash’s iconic First World War artworks.

Co-commissioned by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary, Black Dog – The Dreams of Paul Nash will be revealed to the public as part of a multimedia performance by the illustrator, comic artist, filmmaker and musician, premiering at Kendal Town Hall on May 28 2016.

And in the first images from the project released today McKean seems to have captured perfectly Nash’s horror at the desolation he tried to capture as an Official War Artist on his visit to the Ypres Salient in 1917, from where he wrote to his wife:

“Sunset and sunrise are blasphemous, they are mockeries to man, only the black rain out of the bruised and swollen clouds, all though the bitter black night is fit atmosphere in such a land.”

Nash later suffered from bouts of depression and McKean explores the aftermath of the First World War on the artist and the scenes that inspired Nash to create his paintings of disturbing, lasting power.

a drawing of a man in uniform sketching a robin in the foreground as it nestles on barbed wire
© Dave McKean
In one dreamlike image he imagines the former war artist peering across the rooftops of London as beams from searchlights – reminiscent of the shafts of light in Nash’s Ypres Salient at Night – pick out a Zeppelin shaped like a pre-historic fish.

“I’d like to explore Paul Nash’s role in the birth of modernism and surrealism," says McKean, "and how those movements were actually witnessed by Nash in the dream-nightmare-like battlefields of the war.

"He used the landscape that he loved to try to deal with what he’d been through, and to try and find calm and solace beyond.”

The evening premiere of the artworks will feature projections, animated illustrations, live music and narration, along with artwork from the new graphic novel, which will also be launched on the evening, with a collector’s edition available to purchase on the night.

The graphic novel will then be released as a full publication in October at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (14-16 October 2016).

“The quality of the artwork Dave McKean is producing for Black Dog – the Dreams of Paul Nash is truly astonishing,” added Julie Tait, Director, Lakes International Comic Art Festival. “We are thrilled to be bringing the world premiere performance to Kendal; this is a major new work by one of the most creative minds in the comic world.”

  • Tickets for the event on May 28 are available through the Brewery Arts Centre box office:  website www.breweryarts.co.uk / Box office: 01539 725 133.

a two panel drawing of man in a dressing gown wandering through a red labyrinth of thorns
© Dave McKean
a triptych of drawings of a man sketching amidst the desolation of the trenches
The Dreams of Paul Nash © Dave McKean
a drawing of a man in a dressing gown wandering through a thick forest of red thorns
© Dave McKean
a drawing of a man lying on his side as he imagines a party raging in his mind
© Dave Mckean
What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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I like people who know everyhing it means they have a lot of time on there hands doing nothing Ian wilson 2016 Dave mckean fantastic artist i wish i had one !
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