Coming soon! Helem by Stanley Wany
We’re so excited to share that Helem by Stanley Wany, has been sent off to the printer! This September release is available for preorder now.
Helem is a surrealist journey through alienation, lost dreams, and self-redemption. A woman loses her sister to suicide and struggles with the overwhelming and confusing feelings that continue to plague her. A man reflects on a decade spent working in a call centre and the strange day-to-day momentum that caused him to unconsciously abandon his goals. Helem relies on a propulsive graphic narrative and evocative illustration to tell the intensely personal stories of two characters at a crossroads.
The nearly wordless stories contained in Helem, originally published by TRIP as Agalma and Sequences, delve deep into the internal lives of their characters. Created while Wany was in a hallucinatory state brought on by a severe lack of sleep, Helem also provides an intimate look into his own personal dreamscape.
5 Questions with Stanley Wany
1. How did your artistic practice evolve between these two stories?
I have always been trying to find ways to tell stories through art, from making zines in the 80s, through art films, to painting and now writing and illustrating graphic novels. Through this process I have found that this form of memoir visual journalism is an effective and cathartic way of talking about personal histories and sensitive topics. I’d like my work to create space for healing and sharing.
2. Your second story really captures the experience of working in a call centre. Were there real-life circumstances that inspired it?
Although I never really worked in a call center, I was there as support for people who worked the phone back in the 90’s and early 2000’s and I saw these centers devolve into soul crushing environments in which people were regulated by algorithms, where every email was monitored. I also saw a lot of people having to take sick leave because of that environment. So yeah, that experience had a lot to do with what is being said in the book.
3. Your cover image is incredibly striking. What’s it like trying to choose or create an image that has to carry the weight of representing a whole book?
Because the way I tell stories is by symbolism and archetypes, I think these stories are more abstract then straight forward, traditional storytelling. In that sense, I always feel the need to reinforce the ideas I’m trying to communicate by the use of imagery that is meant to be a sort of a resumé of the situation. And in some cases when I’m really tired and have not slept at all, these images come out and perfectly illustrate my intentions.
4. We know that you created a lot of this work in a semi-conscious state–what was your reaction to the work when you looked at it in the morning? Have you ever surprised yourself?
These works speak to me on a completely different level. These images come up from my unconscious, but speak to something else. It happens so often that I go down in my studio the next morning and find illustrations that I find really cool in the garbage because I had torn them apart the night before for whatever reason.
What goes on in the studio at 2-3 am is like another life or a dream for me. My condition means that my brain is totally dephased from normal reality or thought process. When I tell people that I am more of a reader than the creator of these stories, I often get a perplexed look, but the truth is, I don’t know what’s in these books. When I read them I often refer to my dictionary of symbolism to decode what’s in them. Also, the work in these books are assembled afterwards, meaning that when I draw them, it’s completely random, so the last page might have been drawn on a panel with images that are in the middle of the book. If I were to publish the works in the order I’ve drawn them, it would be a completely incomprehensible book I think.
5. What do you hope people take away from your work?
My hope is that people identify with the characters or whatever concept is explored in them. With the first two books, I’ve had a lot of comments of people telling me of a sensation of kinship with these characters because they went through some personal stuff similar to what is explored in these books.
That’s why I always ended them in the light, so people can have a sense that no matter what dark phases you’re in, there’s always an inner path to the light, or liberation.