Psychogeographical comics work looks to explore the intersections between place, time and memory. It can look at how we shape our environments and, in turn, how our environments shape us. It can evoke familiar sensations, reminding us that certain experiences in regards to our interactions with our surroundings can also have a universality beyond the merely shared. It can manifest in entire narratives or in fragmented vignettes; scattered snapshots of time that are no less resonant for their brevity and ephemeral nature. Many of these elements are present in Gareth Brookes’s new project Home but what he adds to the mix here is a certain lurking morbidity. A dark reflective quality that speaks to us of our formative years and acts as a thematic complement to his first major work The Black Project.
Home is described as “a guided tour of sites of unpleasant memory, drawn using charcoal and ink on paper-hand towels, from Google Street View images.” One imagines it’s autobiographical in nature but, in truth, it doesn’t really matter whether it is or not. Because Home is about those bleaker associations with certain locales that we all have for one reason or another. Here Brookes takes us to such destinations as the woods “where you went with Dan in Year 9 where he took your top off and wouldn’t give it back unless you did what he said” or the street where “Kevin got beaten up for being gay and they said I’d be next”.
It’s the torments of childhood revisited. Bullies and accidents, that first realisation of mortality when a dead body is found near you, and those odd post-pub rituals drunkenly walking alone at night. As with all of Brookes’s work there’s an experimental quality to presentation in Home. Each image presented on double sides of the same paper towel, one bleeding through to the other, with a minimal splodgy anthropomorphic form acting as an avatar for all of us, and placed against more detailed backgrounds.
That lack of character specificity, of immediate visual focus, ensures that while the memories brought to the surface are not ours they still stimulate similar feelings of places and events that may have long haunted us. Home is another form-pushing piece of work from Brookes that is both evocative and provocative. You can buy it from his online store here.
Gareth Brookes (W/A) • Self-published, £6.00
Review by Andy Oliver