The Junction by Norm Konyu
It is an odd time for humanity on planet Earth. As I write, many of us are locked down. Trying to shelter from the storm of a global pandemic that lies in wait for us, invisible, hanging in the air. We have had to come to terms with isolation, repetition, boredom. Working and studying have merged with home life in ever more claustrophobic and alienating ways. Some of us have faced a new daily struggle for survival – economic survival, physical survival. For many there is also the pain of bereavement and grief .
It is that theme of loss that runs through The Junction. Lucas Jones was lost but now he has been found, a missing child turning up out of nowhere after many years. A time for joy you might think, but something is wrong. Lucas has not aged at all. To try to find the key to unlock the mystery, local police and psychologists have only the contents of Lucas’ backpack – some books and comics, a few polaroid pictures, some souvenirs and his journal.
Norm Konyu has created an amazing world that exists in an in-between space, a liminal realm born from human grief. His illustrations depict these haunted edges in a highly stylised way for human forms, buildings and countryside alike. A junction indeed, between places, worlds and states of existence. The author’s background as an animator can be seen in the style of the book which combines traditional and digital techniques.
This is a world that has its own cycle of time. A cycle of death but never rebirth. Spring never comes to Kirby Junction.
The colour palette reflects a world caught in a perpetual Autumn and Winter. Cold blues and greens, the browns and yellow of fallen leaves. This is a world that has its own cycle of time. A cycle of death but never rebirth. Spring never comes to Kirby Junction.
The bewitched town has an otherworldly quality that in a strange way strongly reminds me of the works of Richard Scarry, who created an idealised small town America that was almost compartmentalised with its fire stations and stores that were just slightly, eerily different to the world I knew. It was a weird and funny world that lodged into the subconscious of children around the world, many of whom would never set foot in small town North America.
Lucas himself is a character who seems to exist in this world of childhood imagination. He exhibits confusion and curiosity but that is balanced by the lack of agency and infinite ability to adapt to new circumstances that is also a part of childhood.
The Junction is a visually beautiful book that is imbued with a melancholy, poignant mood. It tells of the power of memory and grief, but also the necessity of moving on. The themes it deals with are all too relevant for our current situation. The fine balance between grief and hope, loss and healing. In this cold and sorrowful winter we can still hope for the renewal of Spring, for life to defeat death.
You can get a copy of The Junction and see more of Norm Konyu’s work at https://mooseboy.co.uk/