Approaching that well-worn term “psychogeography” from an alternative perspective, Claire Scully’s Desolation Wilderness from Avery Hill Publishing is a follow-up to her 2016 offering Internal Wilderness. Scully’s silent landscape comics – there is indeed a sequential nature to these images even if that is largely embodied in the reader’s own interpretive observations – examine the relationship between memory and environment with the tacit involvement of her audience being a vital component in that enquiry.
In these pages we journey with Scully through a desert location, experiencing it from a variety of perspectives, sometimes looking across sweeping views of the terrain and sometimes up close, as if passing through it ourselves. Time also shifts and changes in this exercise as a sense of shared exploration slowly builds. It’s a fascinating project where Scully’s recreated memories of places from her own travels come together and create something new and yet ancient; the essence and the reality of location being both distinct and, paradoxically, inextricable.
It’s our own interaction with the page that is so intriguing here, though, with each individual reader’s individual interplay with its imagery affecting their perceptions of this sprawling setting; visual comprehension ascribing its own narratives and conceptions of the space around them. We move through an environment that does/should/could exist depending on the nature of our own connections with Scully’s recollections, creating a true intersection between memory and imagination; with the wider nature of this land and its inhabitants implied and sitting just off the boundaries of the page.
Scully’s visuals, with their ever changing vantage points and sense that we are stopping off at key points as we traverse through this terrain, are evocatively rendered with her careful and delicate use of colour adding to a definite sense of place and region. There’s a beauty to the natural world in these pages that speaks of our tangential relationship to its majesty. Desolation Wilderness asks questions of how the echoes of remembrance shape our perceptions and in so doing creates a truly unique graphic narrative experience.
Review by Andy Oliver.