Expanding the visual language of the trans* identity with Aki Hassan’s beautiful new comic
“During the isolation period in 2020, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my transness,” says Aki. “It made me feel an urgency to put out words that I wanted to hear.”
- Joey Levenson
- 29 March 2022
As the world of comics evolves, so too do the artists behind them. There's no better example than Aki Hassan, a Singapore-based multidisciplinary artist who creates beautiful and delicately-drawn comics that widen the scope of LGBTQIA+ representation in the comic book medium. Whilst adept in drawing, printed matter, sculpture, and installation, Aki tells us they’re yet to find anything else that has enabled them “to think about structures, relational dynamics and resistance in the way that comics do.” Sitting down to talk with Aki is a treat, to say the least, as they’re full of interesting wisdom that mirrors the intricacy of their visual work. “I draw to reflect on cisnormativity as this bodily experience that I confront as a nonbinary person,” they tell It’s Nice That. “There is a strictness in my expression and consciousness, especially when I am performing as or for cis(gender).” In doing so, Aki is always paying attention to the ways their body orientates, “the way it falls into corners, edges and flat surfaces” to shape their drawings and forms.
Most importantly for Aki, they want to draw trans* experiences “without making figurative art", and comics are ideal to “experiment and expand on these ideas,” as the medium often provides a blurring of boundaries and experimentation in narratives and mark-making. Their new comic Nonbinaryhood is a shining example of such work, as it’s a comic where “readers are invited to think about the systems we exist within and without, and the allowances we make for ways-of-being imposed upon us,” explains Aki. “This work puts to use the comic’s compositional structure, its frames, as guides for the drawn curves and lines to navigate.” In Nonbinaryhood, we see glimpses of the comic’s form ‘misbehaving’ in ways, acting non-linear and sporadic. But, Aki’s intentions with the comic do not stop there. “Through Nonbinaryhood, I explored what tolerance and quieter forms of resistance looks like,” they say. “Perhaps, they exist in the form of small bulges, tight squeezes or off-kilter gestures.”
Published by Sunday’s Print Service at Good Press, the comic is a new favourite of ours. It’s heartwarming to know how much of a labour of love it was for the young artist. “Jess, Matt and Musho at Sunday’s Print Service at Good Press were really patient with my growth,” Aki explains. “It took me about two years to land myself here and honestly, it would not have felt right to release the publication any sooner. I am grateful that I was afforded the time, space and support to make Nonbinaryhood come to fruition.” With the comic now completed, Aki sees it as more than just a visual tale. “This comic is a reminder that we need to gift ourselves a slowness in time to knead out and build our own vocabularies,” they say. “I hope to offer my readers a language to imagine trans* not only as a form of being, but a becoming.”
Reading the comic, you see how Aki weaves in these ideas so seamlessly. The trans* identity isn’t concrete, and “we can embrace its fluidity and shifts as we go,” says Aki. “I hope that my readers will recognise that whilst being trans* is affirmative, the language around it will also keep changing. We should all remain open in that regard.” Now, Aki is continuing to observe queer kinship across the digital space in search of inspiration for a potential future project. “I think there’s something quite interesting to explore there, about the in-betweenness and queering of time and space,” they tell us. We can't wait to see what's next.
Aki Hassan: Nonbinaryhood (Copyright © Aki Hassan, 2022)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.