The comic Near Mint by Borys Filonenko, Danyl Shtangeev, and Anton Reznikov is a story about love and falling to the ground. In the story, Ivan and Maria live a measured life: watching movies, drinking mint tea, and discussing plans for the future. Ivan is training for his first ski jump, Maria is developing a concept for an exhibition of temporary markers in urban space. Then everything changes when Ivan disappears in a snowdrift.
Near Mint is the author's experimental comic, published in 2020 by IST Publishing. The comic bills itself as a short graphic novel about personal feelings, which managed to be emphasized through different mediums and contexts—European and Asian cinema, fragments of philosophical texts, and art of the 16th and 21st century, literature, and vernacular architecture. In particular, Filonenko, Shtangeev, and Reznikov refer to the thoughts of Chris Ware, a chicago-based comic writer, who noted the importance of “a constant return to the question of what a comic can be”.
A comic is a medium of network thinking. The authors of Near Mint work with the narration about love through a system of agents—cinematic frames of a cup of tea and an mp3 player, which unite the three main storylines of the graphic novel: Ivan’s tale, Maria’s monologue, and a morning scene from a 16th-century Dutch village. Ivan has sticky notes with Roland Barthes’s quotes, Maria has photos of temporary barriers, and the shepherd has dreams and a flock of sheep. Everything tells about falls and losses.
At The Naked Room, Near Mint enters the territory of contemporary art, creating connection with the frog Bramantino, with Bosch’s creatures, with the Anish Kapoor’s blackest black, and with the story of the Fall of Icarus, attributed, until so recently, to Bruegel. This could just as well be the Ambrosian Pinakothek museum in Milan on the first space, or the catalog of the Ukrainian pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art, which Ivan reads in the subway.
The exhibition “From Near Mint” shows original works by Danil Shtangeev, drawings by Anton Reznikov, as well as sketches and letters which reveal the process of working on the comic at different stages. As a separate storyline, the exhibition exhibits the sticky notes from Ivan’s extended collection, which cite Roland Barthes’s work A Lover's Discourse: Fragments ( from a translation by Marta Fille and Irina Magdish published in 2006 in “Ї” magazine). Among the numerous drawings and notes, one can discover the sheep that were cut from the final version of the comic, what poses Ivan assumed during his training sessions, and Maria, who sits like curator Harald Szeemann among her collection of temporary marking objects.
Borys Filonenko is an art critic, curator, and editor for IST Publishing. He writes about contemporary Ukrainian art and comics. He collaborates with the Aza Nizi Maza artistic studio.
Danyl Shtangeev is a graphic designer, illustrator, and comic book author. His short stories have been published in the comics zine GON in 2019–2021. SInce 2016 he has been working as an art director in Colotune architectural visualization studio. He collaborates with the Aza Nizi Maza artistic studio.
Anton Reznikov is an artist and illustrator. He is a teacher and participant of group exhibitions at the Aza Nizi Maza studio, and co-author of a series of posters for the course “Slow Art History”. He was a participant in the exhibition “The Kiss—Darkness and Light” (Different Gallery, London). Each summer and fall, he paints landscapes in Heidelberg (Germany).