Silent Witness: The broad spectrum of Graphic Novels Without Words at Lincoln's Collection

By Culture24 Staff Published: 03 June 2010

a charcoal pencil drawing showing a woman's face reflected in a rear view mirror

(Above) Zoe Taylor, Blue Hotel. © the artist

Exhibition: Silent Witnesses - Graphic Novels Without Words, The Collection, Lincoln, until August 30 2010

The graphic novel may seem like a modern concept that dented the monopoly of the traditional comic book, but a new exhibition at The Collection in Lincoln reveals the surprisingly long roots of a form that stretches back the best part of a century.

Silent Witness, novels without words, explores the graphic novels that eschew words altogether, investigating their enduring appeal to readers of all ages and the way they have become a popular medium for artists.

The show includes woodcuts by Frans Masereel for his 1925 work 'Die Stadt' as well as an assortment of contemporary additions to the cannon including scratchboard images from Eric Drooker’s acclaimed otherworldly dystopian novel 'Flood'.

a graphic novel cover called sticks and stones showing a smiling robot holding a flame

Hendrik Drogathen, Sticks and Stones, Published by Random House, USA, 2005

By focussing on works without text the exhibition seeks to look at the novel in the true sense, as an extended sequence conveying a narrative, whilst also seeks to examine the underlying structure and mechanics of developing a graphic novel, whilst highlighting its importance as a unique art form.

Visitors can see preparation and working drawings, writings, flat plans, sketch books and character studies and associated works alongside complete book-works that together reveal the various development stages in creating a Graphic Novel.

a graphic novel book page with severalpanesl showing jungle animals

(Above) Peter Kuper, The System 1996 (song to jungle)

Original drawings by Sara Varon for her well loved books, 'Sweater Weather', 'Robo and Hund' and 'Chicken and Cat' are on show together with a large scale flat-print version of 'A-Z' by Lars Arrhenius, a novel based on the iconic A-Z map of London. Shown in print form it allows the viewer to scan the intersecting narratives sewn through the map in a single image, creating ever-new readings.

Other artists include Hendrik Dorgathen, the creator of 'Space Dog', which is often cited as they first novel to reinforce the relationship between graphic novels and art and Max Ernst, the German painter and polyglot who happily flitted between painter poet and graphic artist.

a graphic novel showing several panels featuring cartoon dogs

(Above) Hendrik Drogathen, Space Dog, Published Ginko Press, USA, 2009

Laurence Hyde, whose work recalls the neo Romantic woodcuts of the thirties is also featured together with the work of American cartoonist Peter Kuper, co founder of the underground comic anthology World War 3 Illustrated.

It's a broad spectrum of ideas and artwork but what unites these works are the way they use images alone to communicate narrative, functioning entirely without the use of text.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: