Original metalpoint drawing by ARC Living Master Gordon Hanley.
Gordon’s Inspiration: “This drawing began as an interpretative work on Bohemian Rhapsody – an operatic version of Queen’s hit song for the Operarte series. I decided to illustrate the “aria” by highlighting the lyrics of the song which basically describes a murder.
As I was doing the preliminary sketches, successive versions (of which there were more than a dozen) seemed to drift further and further towards a Film Noir look, a genre that for a number of years has influenced my goldpoint drawings. Film noir images are visually defined by low-key lighting with stark light/dark contrasts and dramatic shadow patterning—a style known as chiaroscuro. It was used to great effect in the paintings of Rembrandt and Caravaggio to create a strong and dramatic mood. In Hollywood noir films the shadows of Venetian blinds on the main figure or a wall, ubiquitous cigarette smoke and large areas of the scene partially or wholly obscured by darkness — think 1950’s black and white detective/crime movies and you have it.
Noir films also have a number of other themes in common: crime (usually murder), motivated by desire, greed or jealousy, fatally flawed heroes and morally ambiguous femme fatales. There is an atmosphere of menace, tension and eroticism that underlies a familiar story, and one that is strikingly similar to the plot-lines of grand opera. The wrong guy meets the wrong gal and it goes bad. No matter the story, you know it isn’t going to end well. They are condemned by fate, doomed from the start and someone’s going to die. It could be him, it could be her, it could be someone else or all three. A one-way ticket to self-destruction. Set it all to music …and that is opera. The model for my femme-fatale is Sunday, this time as a blonde bombshell with a hair-do borrowed from Lauren Bacall. She holds a smoking gun; a man lies dead at her feet. What was his crime? Whatever it was, the look on her face says it all, she was never going to be the victim in this melo-drama. Her well-travelled bag is packed and she will doubtless disappear…..You can make up your own story from there. The title refers to an iconic jazz tune written by Earle Hagen in 1939 and perhaps more than any other piece of music, evokes the feel and atmosphere of a crime noir film.
The creation of the video was extremely challenging. I had the idea of using an introduction of a dozen images that recall the Marvel crime noir comics. These were done in ink on paper – black and white with a single grey tone. I made up a crime noir storyline and had a lot of fun with the script along the way. The story ends with the photorealist image of our femme-fatale. I decided to film the drawing process with my hand in the art space, which makes for better viewing in a gallery context – given the immediacy of the drawing process, an approach that I couldn’t use with the opera pieces as a moving hand would be somewhat of a distraction behind a soprano!
The main drawing in the video was created from over 1000 hi-resolution photographs using the “stop-motion” technique pioneered in the 1930’s. Because any movement would cause the image to jump, everything had to be fixed in place: the art paper, the drawing board screwed in place on a drafting table, which in turn is bolted to the studio floor and wall. The camera is bolted to the ceiling and a remote shutter release takes photographs of the developing artwork every 10-20 seconds. The drawing was then finished with 24K gold leaf creating highlights that add further visual complexity”.
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