The Silence, by Bruce Mutard

Choosy McBride is an art gallery manager and her partner, Dimitri, is an artist struggling to find meaning in his work. In the midst of a torrid summer, the opportunity to travel to Far North Queensland seems wonderful. Choosy is working, Dimitri is along for the ride. Choosy has to meet with Fred, an artist who hasn’t exhibited for 20 years but has agreed to a show in her Melbourne gallery. She hopes Dimitri will find inspiration, Dimitri is not sure. They are also on the track of an unknown artist whose work Choosy happens upon while assessing another collection. This compelling but unknown artist exhibits in a remote building called the ‘prayer house’ set high on a hill deep in the country. There is no curator, no staff at all. The paintings are stunning and apparently free to those who see them. Choosy and Dimitri are struggling in their relationship and nothing on the Queensland trip seems to make things easier.

The Silence is a black and white graphic novel set in black pages. The cover is black, white and orange, with the black a large block between the two main characters. Between them is an house full of art that each of them perceive differently. The story takes them on a physical journey but also highlights the emotional and philosophical distance between them. The Silence examines different perspectives on art, from the viewpoint of several stakeholders. The young emerging artist, the gallery manager, the older tired artist and the artist’s wife – each view art differently. The text is sparing – only direct speech – with the images carrying the bulk of the story. Emotion is conveyed in body language and facial expression, much as it would be in film. There is ample silence for the reader to bring their own experience to the reading. Recommended for lovers of art and artists.

The Silence

The Silence, Bruce Mutard
Allen & Unwin 2009
ISBN: 9781741751761

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review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author