Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

Critique: The Woman Who Took on the Wolf Man

Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

Critique: The Woman Who Took on the Wolf Man

Article excerpt

Slawa Harasymowicz's first foray into graphic novels illuminates a Freudian case history with thrilling clarity

'The Wolf Man' is Sigmund Freud's most famous case study and it has been described as the test case on which the theory and efficacy of psychoanalysis rests. Did Freud's 'talking cure' really make his patient better? The Viennese father of psychoanalysis, who published his text in 1918 with the title 'From the History of an Infantile Neurosis', claimed that it did. But the Wolf Man himself, Sergei Pankejeff, an impoverished Russian aristocrat whose sister and father committed suicide, denied that he was ever cured and remained troubled to the end of his life.

This tale of melancholia and dysfunction might not sound too promising for a graphic novel, but SelfMadeHero is proving to be a publisher with a flair for unlikely subjects. Previous publications have included graphic biographies of Fidel Castro, Hunter S. Thompson and Kiki de Montparnasse (see Eye no. 79 vol. 20), and The Wolf Man is the first in a proposed 'Graphic Freud' series based on the psychologist's most famous case studies. Richard Appignanesi, its writer, is founder of Icon Books and a master of the graphic translation of complex cultural ideas. His books include graphic introductions to Freud, existentialism and postmodernism, and he has adapted fourteen of Shakespeare's plays for SelfMadeHero.

The Wolf Man is Polish illustrator Slawa Harasymowicz's first graphic novel, and she is an inspired choice of artist for the project. Harasymowicz graduated in 2006 from the Royal College of Art, where she studied with Andrzej Klimowski, who has created several books with SelfMadeHero. In 2009, she was a double winner at the V&A Illustration Awards with work for Penguin Books and the Guardian; in the previous year she was awarded an Arts Foundation Fellowship.

Harasymowicz's style is highly unusual for the medium. Where conventional comic book art is first pencilled and then inked for maximum clarity and impact, she draws most of the image in pencil, carving out her formally clothed figures, often lost in thought, with an emphatic line and vigorous shading. Her drawings are passionate, emotional and fiercely committed to the subject matter. There is an energetic looseness and a dreamlike lack of finish in details that need only be implied that give her images great expression and vitality. She shows an effortlessly fluid and varied command of page structure, which more experienced graphic novel artists might envy. By cutting up her drawings and moving the parts into position, she achieves dramatic overlaps and transitions. At times the demarcations between panels are so understated that the spread becomes a single layered yet integrated composition. …

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