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Film Panorama #2 - Acrylic Paint on Canvas, 535 x 1700mm
 

 


Film Panorama
   

 

 

Project Statement

Figures and scenes from films are edited so characters and situations happen at different times; characters interact with others from previous or future stills from different points in the original movie.

The manipulation of film time and re appropriation of the scene creates a false environment never directed, edited or filmed, offering a second view and narrative directed, edited and painted by the artist. Thus creating another level and world mediated by the artist/director when it is transferred from a film image to a painting.

The artist becomes the director editing the film image creating narratives that exist only on the painted surface, the painting becoming the world that the viewer sees and can relate to on different levels depending on their experiences within their own outside world or previous experiences.

 

The Prince and the Paintings

In 1985, I directed a one-off performance of Hamlet at Elsinore Castle in Denmark, where Shakespeare set the play. The production was staged in the round, in a medieval brick-arched cellar with no electricity, called Erik of Pomerania's Chamber: no set, just the actors lit by 36 candles, and the audience hemming them in. In the course of the performance, I was able to walk unobserved behind the audience in the darkness, viewing the action from all angles. The young actor playing the Prince held that audience in his hand, constantly and restlessly moving around the five-metre-diameter acting area.

This experience comes back to me on observing Simon Taylor's latest works, Film Panoramas. Over two decades later, all those puzzling, paradoxical questions posed by Hamlet and Hamlet come back, the mystery and the ambiguity of both the play and the eponymous hero. Simon Taylor takes as a starting point a film still, just as the actor takes the script; both then meditate upon the material, analyse, interpret; both look from multiple angles, circle as though tethered on a rope that makes sure they do not wander too far off. We see in the paintings different viewpoints, differing levels, bringing to the viewing of them our experience, our memories, and being drawn into the world of the painting as surely as the actor interpreting the role of Hamlet eases us into the world of Hamlet, whether he is doing this in the shadows of a Danish castle or in the daylight of Shakespeare's original stage.

I have meditated on these paintings, searching for meaning while enjoying that sense we have that, whatever the artist intended, we can also add our own meanings. “Did Shakespeare really mean that?” we might ask. Maybe he did, maybe not; the fascination is in the pleasure of being in doubts and uncertainties, with the possibility of future enlightenment. In the meantime, we can open our minds to endless interpretations.

One phrase from Hamlet has bobbed up from the depths of my experience of reading and directing the play when I have been contemplating Simon Taylor's paintings. Hamlet, deranged by the revelation of his father's murder and the possible involvement of his mother - disclosed to him by his father's spirit - finds his head spinning with thoughts that twist and collide and fly off and zoom back with such destructive force that he wonders whether he has tipped over into the realm of the mad. Unlike no other character in drama, he constantly shares his thoughts with the audience; even those who have never seen this play will know the start of his great reverie on suicide and death and the after-life: To be or not to be: that is the question. When these soliloquies were first spoken over four centuries ago, in the Globe, the actor would have been at the very midpoint of the theatre, the front of the stage, equidistant from most of the audience, whether stadning in the pit or sitting in the three banked tiers. What is real for him can only be what is created in his mind. He puts his hands to his head, feels the bone beneath the flesh, imagines, within his skull, all those swirling, maddening thoughts: This distracted globe, he calls it. But he is also in the Globe Theatre, at its very centre, performing a role, so that for the duration of the play the spectators believe he is the Prince of Denmark; they are distracted till their applause at the end breaks the spell, and they go out into the world beyond. And that world beyond is a third globe, one distracted by love and hate and sound and fury, in which we move in our own worlds, distracted by our own concerns in our own brains that lie pulsing inside the globes of our own skulls.

As I contemplate Simon Taylor's Film Panoramas, the two-dimensional paintings come alive, coil, and draw me into their world. I am confronted by enigmatic images that seem to swirl round in a mysterious dance: we view the characters who people these paintings from different angles, we try to see into their minds, see what distractions trouble their brains. The pleasure is in the puzzling: on the page or stage, the Prince; on the wall of the gallery, the paintings.

Michael Day, Artist, Director.