Requiem for a Beast, by Matt Ottley

Given that this is a large-format hardcover book with colour illustrations, one could be forgiven for momentarily thinking Requiem for a Beast is a picture book. However, any further examination quickly reveals that this offering cannot be so simply classified. Billed by the publishers as a graphic novel, Requiemis a unique blend of word, illustration and even music in a combination which almost defies description.

One of the most breathtaking aspects of this work is that it is all the work of one man – Matt Ottley who wrote the words, painted and drew the illustrations (in various media) and also composed the music on the accompanying CD (with the exception of some traditional Bundjalung songs). Together, these different forms explore different stories – that of a young man working on an outback station coming face to face with a rogue bull, the story of his childhood, and the stories of dispossessed Aboriginal people. The stories come together as the young man comes to realise that the errors of the past must be confronted before the future can be faced,.

Ottley’s full colour illustrations, using oil on canvas, oil on paper and coloured pencil include double page spread with minimal text, small cells with accompanying text, and spreads with no text and several smaller cells telling parts of the story and back story. Mythical beasts, close ups of horses and cattle, white space and more work together to create a stunning visual whole. The text is similarly diverse, from tracts of narrative, to Latin and Aboriginal language.

This is a ground-breaking work which a short review cannot do justice. It should be read and listened to and studied by all with a love of words, and art and music.


Requiem for a Beast

Requiem for a Beast, by Matt Ottley
Lothian, 2007

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.