Published: 04th August 2017
How graphic artist George Mathen became everybody's Appupen
This Bengaluru-based artist is a man full of dark tales and dystopic universes as he talks about his graphic novels and the shrewd lens through which he sees the world
George Mathen does not remember the exact moment when he became Appupen, but he has a million stories surrounding his origin story. The graphic artist who is better known under his alias, which means grandfather in Malayalam, is a man full of such tales. "I have been wearing thick-framed glasses from the age of eight because my mother believed that my frenzied reading could lead to issues that needed to be nipped in the bud. That’s when the nickname stuck,” he remembers.
In Corpus Christi School, Kottayam, art had more room than academics ever did. And under Principal Mary Roy’s roof, Appupen always found himself at home. In early 2000, he ran away to Mumbai to escape pressure from home to do a professional course. Here, he dabbled in everything. He tried his hand in music as the drummer in three different bands, played some cricket, there were a few months of event management and even a bizarre few days of tattooing.
Aspyrus questions the world in which we live where we can only live through these narrow borders that are drawn for us and we begin to think that it is freedom
George Mathen, Graphic Artist
He finally burst into the advertising business where he thought his cartoons and ideas belonged but it wasn’t long before he was disillusioned again. “What bothered me was that the industry had real artists who sold everything they had for things they didn’t believe in. People have become empty shells into which art is just poured in,” he laments.
It was in 2004 that he began to compile his artwork and putting it into the internet to see if it would capture people’s imagination. In 2008, Blaft Publishers in Chennai published his first book. Appupen’s work has always been dark, in fact, he explains that “my family thought I was suicidal and depressed when they read my first book!” But why would someone put out a work of art into a world they did not want to live in, he questions, almost to himself.
Words of Wisdom: Appupen's second book, Legends of Halahala
His first book, Moonward, was released in 2009. It was a silent book full of dark humour that spoofed anything and everything around it. Legends of Halahala, his second book leaps across five different silent stories where the universe morphs to suit the story. His third and most recent book Aspyrus, asked the question ‘whose dream are you living?’. “It questions the world in which we live where we can only live through these narrow borders that are drawn for us and we begin to think that it is freedom.” Appupen draws the story through a dragon-like creature who represents the aggressive world of capitalism.
Today, he has completed a new graphic novel, The Snake and the Lotus which is expected to be released by the end of the year. "It is set in an alternative future where human beings are on the verge of going extinct and new life forms who take over, try and navigate the threats that humankind has left behind," he explains. He is a major contributor to Brainded.com. In addition to this, he is a major part of Puncher Press, a collective of artists who will launch a graphic novel, Punch by the end of August. The novel will combine short stories by five different creators and graphic artists. Something about Appupen's trains of thought suggests that there is more to his nickname than he lets on.