The New Narrative Illustration
This paper considers examples of a genre of publication which has emerged in recent years as an intriguing contemporary version of visual narrative. These works sit alongside other existing illustration categories such as the comic and the graphic novel and provide a rich focus for thinking about how visual narrative can operate within the book form.
Out of such inventive experiments as the autobiographical zines of the Sixties and Seventies, the low-tech Punk aesthetic of the late Seventies and early Eighties, the ambitious politically-alternative focus of publishing ventures such as New York’s 'Raw' throughout the Eighties, there has grown up a generation of sophisticated and independent visual commentators, whose work looks readily inwards (scrutinising the daily thoughts and life of the self) and outwards (in witnessing the world both near and far).
Characteristically these works present highly inventive negotiations between image and text, breaking expectations and conventions and demonstrating a rich capacity for fluidity between different sorts of language. They typically offer a conversation between the vernacular and the local on the one hand, and wider hybrids and fusions with international culture on the other.
In view of this conference’s particular theme, these works are trans-national in various respects, often allowing for the transmission to an international audience of local stories of immigrant tensions and perspectives or of direct experience of zones of cultural and political turmoil. Wordlessly (or by means of rapid translation) they tell their stories widely, sometimes lifted out of their origins in self-publishing by international publishing houses.
I shall consider examples from France and the US to explore key aspects of this creative phenomenon: Marjane Sartrapi and Caroline Sury in France; Chris Ware and Joe Sacco from the US.
Keywords: Illustration, Image and Text, Narrative
Associate Lecturer in Illustration and Fine Art, School of Art, Swindon College