10 YEARS OF THE BF SIX TO WATCH! Where the work of Mereida Fajardo is concerned it is not simply the material itself that one awaits eagerly each time a new project is on the horizon. It’s also the anticipation as to what she will do with the comic in question in terms of its physical format. Previous work has involved concertina-style printing, multiple tactile items telling a larger story, and atmosphere-expanding landscape storytelling. Her recent comic The Painted Nuns of Santa Catalina is described as “a story of death and debauchery in a 17th century Peruvian convent” which, frankly, is enticing enough as soundbites go. But being a Fajardo comic there is, of course, even more to be discovered in the reading experience.
Fajardo transports us to the convent of Santa Catalina, Peru in the year 1690 where the nuns have something of a reputation for irreligious excess. When one such night of partying on Christmas Eve leaves a sister dead, an urgent quest to contact the local portrait painter begins. Because the likenesses of the nuns are only allowed to be captured in death, and the condition of the corpse is rapidly deteriorating in the heat…
The Painted Nuns of Santa Catalina is situated in a painted window-style cover and, when slipped out of that, unfolds into the shape of a cross. It’s a clever piece of applied iconography that lends the comic an almost ironic sense of affected piety given the events it depicts. As ever, Fajardo’s constant invention in this regard never fails to impress.
In terms of Fajardo’s panel-to-panel storytelling this may just be her most confident comic to date. The use of colour is breathtaking in application, capturing both the excess of events and the intensity of the local geography. But there are page layouts here that encapsulate just how confident her work has become: parallel sequences existing on the same page, movement circling round a static central image to further underline character activity, and multiple uses of landscape shots to mark the slow passing of time.
Alongside the mix of realism and occasional almost grotesque physical characterisation The Painted Nuns of Santa Catalina is a vivid blend of themes of tradition and unholy hypocrisy. Publishers – you have one of the finest and most accomplished new voices on the indie scene here. It’s your duty to bring her work to the wider audiences it’s owed. Let’s make that happen.
Mereida Fajardo (W/A) • Self-published, £6.00
Review by Andy Oliver