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Fionnuala Doran

MA work

A Partial Life

Told through comics, the life of (Sir) Roger Casement: British diplomat, Irish revolutionary, socialist and homosexual. Casement was a man born out of time: someone recognisable in 2015, but hopelessly lost in Edwardian Europe. A Partial Life focuses on his time in the Belgian Congo around the turn of the century, investigating the brutality Belgium’s King Leopold and resulting in his authorship of The Casement Report in 1904, which was instrumental in exposing the worst of European imperialist excesses in Africa.

During all of this Casement kept a secret diary – the ‘black’ diaries – of his illnesses, his social engagements and his sex life. These were discovered and publicly exposed in 1916, after Casement's arrest in connection with the Irish republican Easter Rising.

This graphic novel does not simply replay the known facts (as much as they can be known) of his time in the Congo. Casement represents an opportunity to explore our inability to know the inner life of another person (or oneself). A biography on the failure of biography.

Casement’s life touches on issues still relevant today: European exploitation of Africa; an imperialist West; the inner and outer lives of individuals; the right to demand a society for all; and the (a) mad, quixotic dream of freedom.


  • MA Degree


    School of Communication


    MA Visual Communication, 2015

  • The nucleus of my work is drawing; I use it as a means to clarify ideas, as a form of research, as an outcome and a framework by which to interpret my diverse research interests. My work has a disregard for taxonomical distinctions, and I am interested in multi-disciplinary practices, in playing with the writer, Stefan Themerson’s, definition of ‘semantic poetry’.

    In particular, I am concerned with the aesthetics and structures of comic books, their use as a narrative and an anti-narrative form and their position as a medium that exists between yet distinct from poetry, art, prose and illustration. Comics have the potential to be a sort of Lingua Franca – a universal form of communication.

    My work has consistently explored themes of personal and social history and the unreliability and manipulation of narratives in such histories. This manipulation of the past and present – the blurring of the lines between objective and subjective truths – becomes even more apparent when words and images are set in opposition.

    In this, I am strongly influenced by artists and writers both inside and outside the canon of Fine Art, such as Kerry James Marshall, Art Spiegelman and Robert Crumb, Stefan and Franciszka Themerson, the writer Angie Keefer and The Serving Library which she co-founded.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) Fine and Applied Art, University of Ulster, 2007
  • Exhibitions

  • Solo, Queen Street Studio, Belfast, 2015; Pushing Print, Pie Factory, Margate, 2012; Neo:Print Prize, Neo:artists, Bolton, 2012; RUA, Ulster Museum, Belfast, 2012
  • Awards

  • Jonathan Cape Graphic Short Story Award, 2014; Quentin Blake Narrative Drawing Award, 2014; First prize, British Library X Arts Thread Comics Unmasked Award, 2014
  • Publications

  • 'The New Plantation', Modern Times, issue 1, 2014, 34-39; 'Democracy in Action', Breakers, No Brow Press, 2013; 'Arrivals', Ormeau Baths Gallery, 2010; Portmanteau 1 – Venice, Catalyst Arts, 2011; 'Lingua Comica: Graphic Novels from Asia and Europe', Asia Europe Foundation, 2009