Abstract art can be either fascinating or frustrating depending on the person. Whether it’s a painting, a TV show (like one I just recently finished, Twin Peaks: The Return) or, in this case, a comic, content that breaks away from the conventional can be challenging to pull off. Some see this as appealing, like a puzzle that needs to be solved and, if done well, abstract art can lead to a rewarding “aha” moment. It will feel as if you’ve figured it out. Other times, the art is so “out there” that you find yourself more and more lost the longer you spend with it. Unfortunately, that was my experience while reading Found Forest Floor.
Written by Erik Blagsvedt and illustrated by Gareth A. Hopkins, Found Forest Floor is certainly something different than what you would typically find on the shelves of your local comic shop. I am often a fan of things that are out there. I like arthouse films and poetry, and I was impressed with the aforementioned Twin Peaks in spite of not having a clue about 90% of what I watched. With this comic, it almost feels perfunctory to label it as such. Sure, it has words and images, but this does not have the narrative structure we often associate with the medium. This comic is more like visual poetry, offering stream-of-conscious phrases with imagery that feels like a Rorschach test.
As a reader and writer of poetry, a lot of Found Forest Floor did stand out to me. Even if I did not fully comprehend what is meant to be said, phrases like “time shooting books between cervix narratives” sound cool. There is a flow to these words even if I can’t exactly say what is being said. Other pages will have one image against an all white page with a single word such as “shouting.” Again, I can’t say what it means but it’s nonetheless evocative and leaves a strong impression.
The stream-of-conscious flow of this story is interesting and did hold my attention for a while. Part of my issue though is this is a pretty lengthy “comic” at almost 300 pages. After a while, it just becomes a mass of words and images and any attempt to decipher what is happening is lost. That’s not to discredit what Blagsvedt and Hopkins are doing here; I firmly believe they have an idea, as abstract as it might seem, and are not just presenting nonsensical things to confuse their readers. But it is asking a lot of the reader to invest this much into something with little to no payoff.
I am also of the mindset that, perhaps, I literally just did not get it. Maybe others read it and did have that “aha” moment that sadly never came for me. That said, I was still intrigued by a lot of Found Forest Floor and found the art striking. The art is weird, entirely black and white, alarming, and disturbing. You are not entirely sure what you are looking at, but, like abstract paintings or other works of art, you sometimes find that you can’t look away. And similarly with the writing, some of it will speak to you even if it is a language you do not understand. Maybe that’s exactly what Hopkins and Blagsvedt were going for.