This thesis explores the themes of identity and cultural alienation at the juncture of truth and memory, through a focus on the work of six contemporary artists who have worked with visual narratives and/or graphic novels as vehicles to relate their personal experiences. These artists are Barbara Hanrahan, Marjane Satrapi, Ian Abdulla, Alison Bechdel, Shaun Tan and Lars Martinson and their experiences range from finding themselves in country where they do not speak the language, through to travel and migration stories, as well as feelings of cultural isolation within one's own culture as a result of being a member of a social or ethnic minority.
In parallel with the investigation of the work of these artists, the literary work of WG Sebald is also drawn upon to explore these themes. His unique combination of image and text challenges our commonly held notions of the veracity of images. The consideration of work of Sebald in conjunction with the narrative visual works of Hanrahan et al offers insights into the broader concept of identity and how our memories, whether true or not, and however distorted or flawed they may be, are what situate us socially, culturally and individually.
Some of the artists discussed incorporate a strong text element in the work of, yet despite this, there nevertheless exists a sense of a loss for words: a 'silencing' in a certain sense, and a struggle to express one's identity, which they find through the narrative of visual language.
These themes are reflected in the creative work Sturm produced as part of her research. Her creative work contemplates the influence that her experience of migration from Germany to Australia as a young child has had on her personal experience of identity, and developed into an exploration of the nexus between memory and truth.
The conclusion proposed is that it is not 'truth' that matters so much as our perception of the truth from a particular point in time and a particular perspective, and that this is a key element in the concept of identity. Apart from cultural experiences, these perspectives vary vastly from childhood to adulthood, although our childhood perceptions frequently creep in to affect our adult lives.