The need to communicate something can take the most diverse forms. Paintings, writing, and installations are some of the disciplines that Merav Shinn Ben-Alon uses to communicate messages and feelings. However, this multidisciplinary artist has recently added another way to express herself to her portfolio. Her art has taken the form of a graphic novel, and in 2020, she published – Five Legs – an unconventional graphic novel where drawing and writing come together to tell an incredible and unexpected story.
Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author
Merav Shinn Ben-Alon | The Artist
Merav Shinn Ben-Alon is a multidisciplinary artist who graduated from the Fine Arts Department at Bezalel (1990), studied in the New York Studio School art program (1991), and earned a Master’s Degree with honors from the Multidisciplinary Program of the Faculty of the Arts at Tel Aviv University (2013).
Her art, expressed through paintings, writings and installations, has been exhibited in the most important museums in the world such as Zenit Gallery in Copenhagen, Watari Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, and K70 Kuntsraum in Lubeck Germany, and many more.
Her latest project has taken the form of a graphic novel demonstrating once again her multidisciplinary talent.
Five Legs is a book about a revelation. A family secret that is discovered causing confusion, inadequacy, and a desire for truth.
How would you react if you came to find out you had two more sisters?
Throughout the five chapters, we find dialogue, letters, and diary pages that tell us the story but more importantly show us how emotionally devastating the revelation of a secret can be. Each chapter has its own identity and even the smallest detail is not left to chance. It is in the very last part of the book, where five comments by Shoham Smith are collected, that we discover the meaning of some details that might have been missed on a first reading.
Five Legs is a graphic novel that makes the reader experience the story, but not in the traditional way we might be used to. Merav Shinn Ben-Alon’s writing has the ability to make the reader experience the story primarily from an emotional standpoint. Feelings like disbelief, confusion, and sometimes even genuine misunderstanding are what makes Five Legs so much more than a graphic novel.
Art in book form
What to Expect
Five Legs consists of five chapters, plus another one that collects comments about the book. Each of these chapters is set in a particular place: hospital, cemetery, convalescent home, basement, and box.
The feature that immediately jumps out at you is its opening. The book opens from bottom to top, so different from the books we are used to reading. This particular opening was chosen by Merav Shinn because of the need to make his graphic novel bilingual. Five Legs is written both in English and Hebrew and since English is read from left to right and Hebrew from right to left, this opening makes possible the coexistence of both languages.
Looking through the book quickly, one immediately had the feeling of being in front of something unique in its genre. Hermetic sentences, accompanied by minimalist and isolated images by the predominant colors of red and black. From an interview given by Merav Shinn Ben-Alon to Draw to Perform (an international community for Drawing Performance), we discover that the drawings we find in Five Legs belonged to her sketchbooks. The need to tell this story led her to cut out these drawings and arrange them in such a way as to make sense for the purpose of describing the story. I highly recommend listening to this interview, in which Merav Shinn Ben-Alon not only presents Five Legs but also her daily art routine and some of her installations. You find it here.
Upon receiving Five Legs, I started reading it immediately, but I made the mistake of approaching its reading in the wrong way.
Being used to retracing the stories of protagonists told in books, I tried to trace a protagonist in the sentences I was reading. To ask me “who is saying this?”.
Nothing could be more wrong.
I decided to re-read it again, but this time letting myself be carried away by the story, by those words, making them my own. It was amazing to observe how a few words could get a real, and tangible emotion across.
In chapter 3, convalescent home, letters are included in a smaller format than the size of the page. This small detail gives even more of a feeling of holding them in your hands at that moment, making you an integral part of the story.
I knew I had received something more than a book and after reading it I realized I had not been wrong. When an artist decides to express her art in graphic novel form the result is something unique. A book that I highly recommend you to read. Here the website of Merav Shinn Ben-Alon with all the info.
Enjoy your reading