COLOURS OF AUTUMN

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A beautifully presented book, ‘Colours of Autumn’ is the first publication by Teagan Connor. The work combines illustrations and story telling by Teagan Connor – outlining a journey of discovery for a young girl. Written more like a fairy tale, and before COVID-19 hit the world, the text uses the metaphor of the eye-mask (think masquerade) to critique the masks or personas that we present to the world under various and different circumstances.

The work contains an essay by prominent Australian arts thinker and artist Philip Brophy.

COLOURS OF AUTUMN
TEAGAN CONNOR

A beautifully presented book, ‘Colours of Autumn’ is the first publication by Teagan Connor. The work combines illustrations and story telling by Teagan Connor - outlining a journey of discovery for a young girl. Written more like a fairy tale, and before COVID-19 hit the world, the text uses the metaphor of the eye-mask (think masquerade) to critique the masks or personas that we present to the world under various and different circumstances.ESSAY:

TEAGAN CONNOR – THE COLOURS OF AUTUMN

By Philip Borphy

Teagan’s story is a happy one. Not a sickly-sweet, vapid one; nor a dreamy, utopian one. It is genuinely happy, because it tells the tale of a young girl overcoming difficulty through inner strength, and finding a friend who supports her. Really, aren’t they the best things you could wish for? Teagan distils these essential yearnings into a tale of lucid drive and crafted simplicity.

Teagan takes inspiration from two areas: Japanese manga comics, and Disney animation. Despite both originating as amazing forms of hand-drawn story-telling, the deeper relation between the two is a bit like oil and water. 

Manga exploded in Japan after World War II when Osamu Tezuka created thrilling comics for post-war children. These kids had been through their own hell. Tezuka told stories that not only uplifted their spirits, but also acknowledged their strength in surviving the war. Tezuka’s primary inspiration? Walt Disney. Over in America during the war years, Disney had transformed animation into a sophisticated form of story-telling. The feature films Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), Pinocchio (1940) Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942) proved that hand-drawn images could process a wide range of emotions. Though these films may have been marketed to children, they addressed mature themes and mingled comic, dramatic and tragic scenes.

After the war, Disney went on to bigger and greater things. But looking at those early movies, one can sense their mix of idyllic dreaming and elegiac yearning. These are the key traits Tezuka took to shape his stories for Japanese children. His creation Tetsuwan Atomu (we know him as Astro Boy) was a smash for boys as a manga starting in 1952, and a TV series starting in 1963. But just as important was Ribon no Kishi – better known as Princess Knight. The manga debuted in 1953, and became a TV series in 1967. It tells the tale of a princess who rightly should ascend the throne in the magical kingdom of Silverland, but she must disguise herself as a boy to do this. Princess Knight single-handedly created the genre and market of shojo manga – comics for girls. While America developed lots of great shows for kids, they were mostly oriented to young boys. In Japan, girls were deemed a vital group who deserved their own stories to be told and celebrated. And most importantly, girls loved them.

Teagan’s story of hiding behind masks and pressuring everyone to keep wearing them seems to me in the spirit of Tezuka’s shojo manga. Yes, Disney animation tells many a tale about bravery and standing up for oneself, but the tone of Colours of Autumn seems more Japanese than American. By that, I mean the story is not full of smart-alec jokes and dashing adventures; it’s more contemplative, and focused on inner feelings and the challenge of working out how to make one’s situation better. 

Most importantly, Teagan has a grasp of the poetry at the heart of Japanese manga. The balance between short, precise sentences, and occasional images, creates a rhythm that makes reading the story a joy. It’s subtle, but when you register it, it’s powerful. The sudden blast of a colourful landscape across the double-page spread of pages 20 and 21; the way the girl stands off against the mask on the table in page 25; the tenderness of her hugging her new friend on page 46; and the perfectly timed end-image of the flower growing through the discarded mask on page 59.

The Tezuka–Disney connection started out well, but didn’t finish so. One of Tezuka’s other famous creations was Janguru Taitei — Kimba the White Lion, as a comic starting in 1950 and as a TV series starting in 1965. The title translates as Jungle Emperor. The Disney studio produced their smash animation movie The Jungle King in 1994. It was pretty obvious to everyone in Japan that it took many sections from Tezuka’s manga. Tezuka felt honoured, because during his whole career he publicly admired the art of Walt Disney, and stated how inspirational it was to him. But many younger manga artists and animators in Japan thought differently and petitioned the Walt Disney Company to acknowledge Tezuka’s work. But as advised by their legal team, they issued a statement declaring that no one involved in the production of The Lion King had even heard of Kimba the White Lion. 

What a shame. That was an opportunity for the Americans to acknowledge that animation is a global art form, with everyone contributing, influencing and inspiring each other. If only they had removed their mask like the girl in Teagan’s story.

TEAGAN CONNOR BIOGRAPHY

Author / visual artist / sound artist

Teagan is an award winning and emerging science fiction author. She won the Dulcie Stone Award in 2020 and 2019. Colours of Autumn was the winning entry in 2019.

An avid fan fiction writer, Teagan has been contributing to the worlds of Transformers and other fics. A current work in progress is Mystiria – a science fiction and fantasy novel.

As a writer, Teagan has been mentored by Australian text artists, James Hullick and berni m janssen.

Having joined The Amplified Elephants in 2013, Teagan has rapidly developed her sonic talents locally and abroad. Teagan’s work is informed by fantasy and science fiction aesthetics and ideas, which Teagan realises through multi-instrumental and vocal means that emphasise guitar, voice, found sound, percussion and electronic synthesis.  

In 2015, Teagan toured to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Macau with the show Self Seekers, a project that highlighted her interest in the tactile nature of sonic performance. The project was remounted in 2017 at the Make It Up Club and then a much longer version premiered for the Festival of Live Art in 2018. In Japan, Teagan recorded with local artists Cal Lyall and Pardon Kimura.

In 2021 The Amplified Elephants released the album, Deep Creatures, on Heavy Machinery Records to much acclaim.

Teagan performs in the theatre ensemble, Echo Collective, managed by Arts Access Victoria. The group focuses on improvisation performances.

Through the Footscray Community Arts Centre’s ArtLife Program, Teagan explores her visual arts practice. Teagan has been with the Centre since 2010.

Pages: 54 including front and back cover

No. Images: 11

         

Additional information

Book Format

Print Edition plus eBook Edition, eBook Edition only