The Art of Pho by Julian Hanshaw

The Art of Pho
by Julian Hanshaw
Jonathan Cape, 2010

A gorgeous and melancholy experiment, let down only by its story. Little Blue is abandoned by a mysterious New Zealand businessman in a red car, and to survive in Ho Chi Minh City  he runs a successful Phở stand. Should he remain with his transient friends for as long as possible, or should he travel to Mũi Né Beach and try to uncover his origins?

Some of the artwork is rendered in gouache on graph paper with the lines showing through, some of it is overlaid with cardboard to divide the page into panels. There’s recipes, collages, photographs and Chris Ware-esque details. It’s a very interesting way of telling a story. Unfortunately the story itself is too thin to remain compelling – Little Blue is a kind of asexual ceramic pig, so when a human woman tries to seduce him it’s more than a little iffy. The story is alternatively surreal and photorealistic, but by the end, all momentum dribbles away.

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