Ceci n’est pas​​ un lever de soleil - a look through Evan M. Cohen's Morning

“I woke up today to find my wandering mind searching for a moment that was left behind.”

Reading Evan M. Cohen’s Morning is a lot like watching a sunrise.  You see something dawning and the effects of that action ripple out of it.  It can be a life-altering experience to see the renewal of time happening right in front of you. Cohen’s storytelling, largely wordless, leads from one ripple into another, intersecting with other ripples to transform into something new. Maybe the act of just trying to recapture the feeling of a sunset in this comic is one of those ripples, one that blends with an actual sunset to give birth to this comic that’s far more a sensory story than a narrative one.  Cohen’s art is something to stare at, wash over you, and let it transform you even if it’s only for the time you spend reading this comic.

This comic envelops you, pulling you into it as you become an element of it.  On a very basic level, it’s about watching a sunrise.  It’s an ode to that daily event that happens whether we witness it or not. Cohen’s comic turns the event into transformative action. His artwork displays the breakdown and reconceptualization of an idea, of a person, of life as we know it on an almost daily basis.  A sunrise is not just a sunrise.  It’s a new beginning. It’s time and space full of infinite possibilities, all happening at once. The progression of time and space happens in small, incremental changes that welcome you while happening where you’re present or not.

Cohen sees time as a progression of smaller moments.  These moments contain even smaller, fractal-like moments as space becomes living, breathing, and organic. It’s constantly unfolding but always embracing. Each page contains a mystery and the answer to it while Cohen plunges deeper and deeper into the concept of a “sunrise.” This almost falls into the classic “Ceci n'est pas une pipe” territory but Cohen’s comic isn’t about a sunrise but the idea of sunrises. ​​A sunrise is a daily certainty that we have mapped down to the minute of its happening. Cohen uses that to express his feelings during the sunrise.  

Blue lines with color pencil-like red, orange, and yellow hues help suspend time and expand space in this comic. The cool night gives way to the warm day but that transition is largely balanced with neither set of colors dominating the image.  The blues are a base and the oranges rise out of the night, revealed by the sunrise. Creating this hazy moment that’s neither night nor day, Cohen uncovers this magical time outside of reality.  HIs panels flow one into the next, creating an animated sense of movement, color and light become our guide on this journey.  You have to read the images and follow this constant transformative propulsion only to have the images embrace and enfold you.

Cohen provides a Rorschach test of a comic.  The images aren’t abstract or random but there are probably as many interpretations of Morning as there are readers of it (which should be a lot.) With the constant dissolving and reforming of images, the optimism of the comic is almost overpowering.  We fall into, get absorbed, and then metamorphosed into something new only for the cycle to happen again over and over until the sun finally rises. The ability to recognize an obliteration of self while still retaining an individual consciousness makes this a fascinating reading experience.

Trying to describe Morning feels a lot like trying to read one of its pages, an exercise in giving a voice to something that doesn’t need a voice. The page exists; there’s a point where we should just let Cohen’s comic be. We should let it exist so that we can experience it, letting it do its work, to do its thing. It is not that Cohen’s work is inexplicable but in a lot of ways, it feels like it doesn’t need us.  It exists where we’re here to read it or not. It doesn’t need us but it’s a gift to be able to experience it.  A lot like a real sunrise, I guess.