Whenever I review the Colossive Press Colossive Cartographies series there’s an obvious piece of necessary introductory housekeeping that needs to be addressed first for those unfamiliar with these tactile zines and their interactive format. Each one is an example of the Turkish Map Fold – a process that takes an A4 sheet, folds it into an A6 cover that then opens up as an interactive artefact.
Colossive have invited creators from across the indie comics world and the wider arts community to give their own spin on using this form to tell layered and discrete visual narratives. Previous contributors have included such small press luminaries as Olivia Sullivan, Gareth A Hopkins, Peony Gent and Miranda Smart, with multiple interpretations of the possibilities inherent in the Turkish Map Fold’s physicality on offer.
‘Unravelling’ by Sarah Harris
Last year when I interviewed Colossive Press’s Tom Murphy and Jane Gibbens Murphy about their publishing catalogue to date Tom Murphy spoke of how he was “taken aback by the degree to which people embraced the idea and produced incredible original work.” Since last I reviewed the range at least another dozen have been published, including work from Sarah Harris, hiromi suzuki, Gareth Brookes, James Knight, Jenny Robins, Aleesha Nandhra, Peter Morey, Bungaloworld, Mereida Fajardo, Rebecca K. Jones and Elizabeth Querstret.
‘Antidepressants’ by Bungaloworld
Given the times we’re living in it is hardly surprising that a good number of the recent Cartographies deal with issues of mental health and well-being, like Sarah Harris’s reflection on the fragility of self in #22’s ‘Unravelling’ which incorporates an extra tactile element in the form of an attached thread to extend the boundaries of its metaphor. Bungaloworld’s ‘Antidepressants’ sees creative therapy and medical relief blur into one as stationery and antidepressants merge, while in #32 Elizabeth Querstret’s ‘Bringing Light to the Dark’ gives us a meditation on centring ourselves and finding peace.
‘Exorcise Daily’ by Gareth Brookes
Similarly the pandemic makes its presence known in two recent Cartographies. In #24 under the darkly witty title of ‘Exorcise Daily’ Gareth Brookes uses the format to explore how we are still haunted by the ghosts of The Before Times. Here we follow an individual on a restricted lockdown walk as shadowy companion memories accompany them. In #31’s ‘Re-emergence’ Rebecca K. Jones examines the same perspectives but from a different chronological point. Jones makes full use of the format’s different folded spaces in a comic that focusses on attempting to pick up some sense of normality in life in a post-lockdown world.
‘Re-emergence’ by Rebecca K. Jones
Some entries ask us to take their own meaning from them like Jenny Robins’s ‘An A Coot Sense of Self’ with its collaged mash-up of maps and ornithological observations. In #27’s ‘Droplets’ Aleesha Nandhra places poignant visual vignettes across atmospheric backgrounds giving us the essential nuances of a love story but asking the reader to fill in the narrative gaps.
Spheksophobia by Peter Morey
Other standouts from this current run of Colossive Cartographies include Peter Morey’s ‘Speksephobia’ wherein he puts every fold and crease of the Turkish Map Fold to perfect use in his account of the life cycle of wasps. And Mereida Fajardo, whose practice continually interrogates the structure of the form, is a most appropriate contributor for this series. Her ‘Amelia’ in #30 reinterprets the lyrics of the Joni Mitchell song of the same name into the format and for me is the pick of an outstanding batch of releases.
‘Amelia’ by Mereida Fajardo
The perfect crossover between the worlds of comics and zines the Colossive Cartographies series remains one of my favourite things to come out of the UK small press scene in many years. It really is a delightful treasure trove of experimental graphic narrative and if you haven’t unearthed it yet you really need to get digging.
Sarah Harris, hiromi Suzuki, Gareth Brookes, James Knight, Jenny Robins, Aleesha Nandhra, Peter Morey, Bungaloworld, Mereida Fajardo, Rebecca K Jones and Elizabeth Querstret (W/A) • Colossive Press, £2.00 each or £10.00 for a bundle of six
Review by Andy Oliver