The Odyssey, that ancient epic poem by Homer, relates the twenty year long wanderings and adventures of Odysseus (also known as Ulysses). More recently, "odyssey" may also refer to a narrative of any long, eventful journey. Innumerable works of fiction have been inspired by the Odyssey, such as "Ulysses" by James Joyce: his hero's one day wanderings and encounters through Dublin, as well as Nikos Kazantzakis "Modern Sequel to the Odyssey", and many others.
I began work on my "Odyssey" during the winter of 2002 at the age of 83 - a time to look back upon a long, eventful life and to depict the wanderings and meanderings of a physical as well as mental, artistic and spiritual pilgrimage. As such, it may be a form of pictorial auto-biography, much of it based on a memoir, begun in 1985. Ultimately, the creation of this Odyssey becomes a recreation of its author.
While incorporating many literary components, this Odyssey is primarily pictorial, reflecting my life as an artist: beginning in Germany, then Switzerland, and continuing, step by step, through the many, various phases of my art. Most consist of "serial" projects such as The Parade, inspired by my experience as a soldier in WW II. "A Story in 55 Drawings" (published in 1957), the work depicts a military parade leading into the horrors of war and ending with yet another parade. Parade was followed by A Journey (in 72 drawings, published in 1980): A wanderer, lost in a forest, comes upon a concentration camp and eventually escapes to continue his journey.
What both volumes have in common is not only their related subject matter but the dimension of time. What mattered was not merely the individual image, but "continuity", the relationship of one image (and event) to the next and the next. As such, a pictorial narrative may be related as much to "movie making" as to "picture making", as well as to "comics" and the more historic "illuminated manuscript".
Inspired by "the passage of time" as a visual and pictorial reality, I began work on Procession, a multimedia, multi-panel sequential project. Change, evolution, transformation, transition, mutation and metamorphosis became its driving force. Procession was followed by Millipede, comprising (by 2002) more than 100 sequences of over 1,000 panels and in turn followed by several other series, "open-ended", without any formal beginning or end.
This Odyssey reflects not one but many journeys - interwoven, related and superimposed one upon another and of growing complexity and many dimensions. What an artist creates reflects his life and time, the places he passes and the events he faces. Mine has been a journey through one of history's most exciting, creative periods, as well as terrifying times. I have been driven not only by my art and restless curiosity, but also as refugee, soldier and exile. Its literal and pictorial narrative should leave in its wake these inevitable reflections of a long, eventful journey, this Odyssey.