Island Z project intends to explore the existential issues related to the subconscious, perception, and illusion in a series of stylistic illustrations, applying heterotopia theory to a comic book design.
During the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Nie Huang, a painter, visited both south and north-east of China to explore coastal living beings and depicted more than 300 kinds of creatures, including invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants to create an encyclopedia called Hai Cuo Tu.
Although the authenticity of some of the creatures in the book cannot be verified, the hilarious and weird imagery in that book intrigued me and pushed me to dignify how those unknown beings have been introduced and why as humans, we countlessly interact with mysteries of existence and trying to interpret meaning through that.
I tried to translate creatures that are still controversial in the Book of Mountains and Seas into my drawing language.
According to archaeology studies, Kylin might be a huge misunderstanding towards giraffes. As in most territories of China in Ming Dynasty, people had never seen giraffes from Africa. Whereas because Zhen He, who first traveled to the west, took the sound 'Giri' (the Somali word of giraffe) to name it in Chinese, Kylin finally becomes one of the most mysterious creatures in pictures, whose appearance would be quite different from what has been described the body of a deer, the tail of an ox, and a single horn, but a giraffes figure.
During the time I draw these sorts of monoculture figures from The Book of Mountains and Seas I was also reading Borges' novel, who was a great believer in the repetition and circulation of time, believing that among the immortals, every action and thought is an echo of actions and thoughts that have taken place in the distant past or an accurate foretaste of actions and thoughts that will be repeated in the future. This shifted my attention to not simply depicting images, but how to build stories upon what's already there.
The purple part is the background setting of the story. In this part, I set myself to be the protagonist of Island Z, opening different doors in this heterogeneous space dominated by my subconscious mind.
The second half of the story is another storyline, where the story happens upon five characters searching for their own script, finding meaning through their journey, and finally meeting the author through the doors.