Monday, 28 February 2011

Film Review: Conveying Reality

Varying artistic approaches affect audiences differently. As with art, films can confront the viewer or draw them in. Jean-Luc Godard’s Une Femme Est Une Femme and Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen deal with real-life tragedy. While Godard’s cinematic techniques distance the film from reality, Vinterberg aims to imitate it, provoking contrasting responses.
As well as playing with cinematic technique to remind the audience of this false illusion of time and space, in Une Femme est une Femme Goddard goes even further. The most significant break from reality is that the characters directly address the audience, breaking down what is known in theatre as The Fourth Wall.
The common acceptance of this barrier between the audience and the actors allows the audience to feel like distant observers. In The Glass Menagerie[1], directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins, one of the characters talks to the audience, introducing the characters and the on-set musicians. Such audience interaction made the audience feel more included. This is heightened due to theatre being live. At the cinema a physical wall exists via the screen and the action is reduced to 2D, our eyes directed by the camera.
As well as making the audience more aware, interaction in Une Femme Est Une Femme also makes the characters responsive and they seem to act up to the camera rather than, as in Festen, ignoring it. The emotions that the protagonist is going through seem hammed-up and over-acted which can result in a lack of empathy towards the protagonist. As was commented on a forum website, Godard often avoids the traditional “three-quarters profile shot common in classical 'continuity-style' filmmaking - as well as traditional portraiture - which both cues represented depth and prevents the actor from looking directly at the camera, there-by  preserving the imaginary 'fourth wall' of the screen”[2]. The effect is similarly demanding in paintings by Chantal Joffe whose figures often stare out from the canvas to confront the viewer[3].

Vinterberg’s Festen is in complete contrast in both style and intent. He uses, argue some critics, “the [Dogme95] rules to make their subject matter more accessible to an audience” [4]. Intimacy in his film is created in a voyeuristic way. The hand-held camera closely follows the characters giving “a feeling of direct involvement in the whirlwind of emotions”[5]. The audience are looking in on the action, given an unnerving insight into the drama, rather like Eric Fischl’s voyeuristic paintings of disturbing narrative scenes.
Tim van der Heijden writes that according to Dogme “Instead of representing a truthful reality, the dominant film creates a technology aided illusion in which the plots are superficial and predictable.”[6] The absence of dramatic background music in Festen is unusual yet effective. The moments when only panicky breathing can be heard increase the tension and believability.
However, Godard does not seek to fool the audience either. Jeffrey Harrison and Amy Mashburn include Godard in the French New Wave of the 1950’s, during which directors violated filmmaking conventions, making the “style itself the focus of a film”[7]. Such intentions echo the Abstract Expressionist action painters such as Jackson Pollock, for whom the paint itself was the subject matter.

Godard’s use of editing awakens the audience. Chopping between silence, melodramatic music and sound, Godard “refuses to let us go into autopilot”[8]. The audience becomes more critical and observant, questioning whether the score is suitable for the uneventful scene.
The jumpy style of Une Femme Est Une Femme serves as a reminder of the material while Festen is closer to a replica of real life that focuses on the characters. Within film, detachment from reality can result in a detachment of emotions rather than sucking the audience in.

[1] The Glass Menagerie at the Young Vic Theatre. 11 November – 15 January 2011
[2] Yacavone, Daniel. Jean-Luc Godard and Roy Lichtenstein: Originality, Reflexivity, and the Re-Presented Image
[3] Joffe, Chantal. Scarlet. 30 by 60cm. Shown at Frieze Art Fair. Visited on 15 October 2010
[4]+6 University of the Arts London. Film Programme January - February 2011. Week 7: Festen (Celebration)

[6] Van der Heijden, Tim. Between Illusion and reality: The liberations and limitations of Dogme95. Page 2
[7] L.Harrison, Jeffrey and R. Mashburn, Amy. Essay:Jean Luc Godard and critical legal studies(because we need the eggs). Vol. 87, No. 7 (Jun., 1989), pp. 1924-1944. Michigan Law Review © 1989[7]
[8] Lacker, Ben Godard’s Ironic Erotics in Une Femme Est Une Femme. Page 212

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The past two weeks have been the best of the foundation so far. Having specialised in Fine Art, I now feel comfortable and confident enough to go all out and push my work as far as possible.

I ventured into completely unknown territories, aiming to make a video piece. Not realising just how difficult this was I set myself extremely ambitous goals. Although I had to change my ideas significantly as I went along, I was satisfied with the end result.
I was looking at how the media presents serious articles and images about wars, natural disasters etc with seemingly no consideration. Superficial, materialistic and vein articles and adverts are placed next to tragic stories. It may be the medias way of earning money but it also allows the viewer to be happily distracted from what really matters. Escapism is provided so that we can shut-out what we don't want to know.

For my video I placed two pieces of TV footage next to each other on a split screen. In the crit the group didn't pick up on my thinking behind it but they did comment on it making them feel uncomfortable. They also discussed a sense of power being expressed.

Lots of artists fed my work but in particular Candice Breitz's videos. In her piece 'Her' Breitz has taken clips from films with Meryl Streep to create a conversation.

Monday, 1 November 2010


The eight-week rotation has been a hectic, challenging yet exciting experience from which I have learnt a lot about myself and the hugely expansive area of Art and Design and its place in the world today.

I have already applied to Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford, to take a BA in Fine Art. Though I am still very keen to go there I think the stress and the work involved of applying early has partly overshadowed my experience of the rotation, restricting rather than enhancing my creativity. Due to the early application I missed the 3D and Spatial rotation to have an extra two weeks’ doing Fine Art.

In the first two weeks of Fine Art I had a great time exploring areas I had never previously attempted. Drawing on my own dance experience I created a short painterly animation which I projected onto a rotating cardboard structure. A piece of mirror on the structure created a shape of light that travelled around the studio as the structure spun round. Given more time, I would have planned the shapes of the structure in accordance to the animation and added colour to the piece. However, for a quick project I was rather pleased with the outcome.

After this I went into Fashion and Textiles as I wanted to make sure that Fine Art was definitely the right choice. Though this rotation was, as the tutors warned us, not what I expected, I found it very stimulating. In fact it was better than I expected because we were not limited to thinking about final garments. The fact that the drawing exercises were very directed gave me a fresh boost of confidence, allowing us to not worry about any final outcome but rather just experiment and play around in the sketch books, approaching them with a designer’s outlook. Having previously only ever painted, I relished the chance to try things out with different materials in 3D forms and imagine how the samples could be scaled up or down to create structural clothes or fabric designs. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt much but I was able to see that it wasn’t the right area for me. Describing me as ‘rare’ I was very flattered that one of the tutors thought I could go into fashion illustration later in life but that I was right to go with Fine Art now.

However, when I went back into Fine Art I had a hard time. Because I was preoccupied and worried about my application to Ruskin I didn’t throw myself into the work even though I know it is when I’m relaxed that ideas start to flow and I can experiment.  And as my Dad likes to point out, the inner struggle is part of any creative process. I was set the task of painting from collages like Dexter Dalwood, whose paintings I saw at the Turner Prize, does. But, as one tutor said, trying to do this was running before I could walk. I think I was trying too hard! During those two weeks my confidence waned and it wasn’t until the day before the critical assessment that I clicked with the work. My final piece was a cinematic composition which hinted at a dramatic situation unfolding. A tutor commented that there were problems with the painting style but that the composition was effective.

Finally, I went into Visual Communications knowing nothing of the area but eager to learn from it. I think that it was actually my most successful rotation because I simply let go. Having attended Dominic Wilcox’s fascinating lecture I was really inspired. I found that having specific briefs for each project helped me to flourish and the group discussions also helped generate ideas. I liked that the effectiveness of your work in Vis Com is partly judged by how well the message is carried across to the viewer because this means the work can be very direct. Moreover, it opened me up to illustration which I think would suit me very well. As my work in all the areas shows, I am still very interested in figures. The illustration tutor liked my sequence project in my sketchbook and another tutor said my work was very graphic and had a strong design element to it.

Nevertheless, I think Fine Art will push me further and I want to have a strong grounding in the history of art. I wouldn’t want to go into an area to take the easier route. My love of painting remains very strong and I would like to discover my own visual language and subject matter which may well be figurative with a strong narrative at this point of time.  I have been excited by many contemporary figurative painters.  I like Eric Fischl’s paintings, for example, which are quite cinematic and create tension between the figures. ‘Painting Today’ by Tony Godfrey looks at where painting currently stands while many critics argue that media technology has reduced the value of paintings. At the Frieze Art Fair I was pleasantly surprised by the number of paintings, much of which were figurative, compared with installations. David Batchelor said I need to be careful not to produce A-level-style work which I fully understand and I realise to do this I should take greater risks and run with them full-heartedly, embracing being out of my comfort zone. I believe I have the capacity to do that. Moreover, I think Fine Art teaches you to look at the world differently, to question art works while exploring your own ideas.

Friday, 1 October 2010


I have learnt more in the last two weeks than I have in a long time. I really enjoyed working in 3D though it was more challenging than I thought in that your work should have a strong concept driving it forward.
Under the umberella of Compression and Expansion I chose to explore peeling and curling round things. The samples I made using paper turned out closer to what I had imagined because the leather was harder to manipulate. I then looked at how the scale of the samples could be played with: either enlarged to become sculptural fashion pieces or scaled down and multiplied to create a fabric design.
I don't think I have it in me to become a designer but nevertheless I'm glad I had the opportunity to try it out and was able to find out what area of art and design I am best suited for.
The link to Philip Treacy's incredible hat was one of my inspirations

Sunday, 19 September 2010

First Two Weeks

As ever starting something new was nerve-wracking and I found the first week at Chelsea quite tough but it got better in the second week.
But the people in my group are really nice and I'm looking forward to the year ahead. Doing art 24/7 is a completely different experience from A Level and I've already visited more galleries than I used to go to in a term. I particularly liked the Saatchi gallery which included a sculpture of people in a corner which took me a long time to realise wasn't real.