Painting the Town explores the origin of the phrase “Painting the Town Red” which has historical roots in the town of Melton Mowbray, one night in 1837, the Marquis of Waterford and his men whilst drunk caused mayhem throughout the town, with a few of the men literally taking brushes with red paint to part of the town. Also inspired by the ending of High Plains Drifter (1973) dir. Clint Eastwood, which sees a violent ghostly figure played by Clint Eastwood manipulate a town into doing his bidding. Ultimately advising them to paint the town red. Taking this as starting point and the newspaper accounts of the violence in Melton, which by today’s standards are exaggerated. Compared with the violence found over in America’s lawless Wild West. Focusing on the violence of the frontier America as depicted in the Western. I have chosen 4 films that have violent scenes. The sets of those scenes have been built into white model miniatures paired with the reaction of violent acts to the victims are projected into. Focusing on the effect of the violence, not the act which is often glamorised in film
- Unforgiven (1992) dir. Clint Eastwood paired opposite the Japanese remake Yurusarezaru mono (2013) Sang-il Lee. Focusing on the final scenes when the build up tension for violence is finally released in a blood bath of guns and swords.
- The Hateful Eight (2015) dir. Quentin Tarantino paired with a spaghetti Western The Great Silence (1968) dir. Sergio Corbucci both scenes are focused on the innocent parties caught up in the violence created by cowboys and bounty hunters.
I can’t remember the last time I spent some real time with this work which I’ve been working loosely with since the summer. Today I’ve spent some good time in the studio playing with my lights and projector, directing them onto the white models I made in the summer. I’ve finally been able to do what I set out to all those months ago. It was rather satisfying to see these ideas take form, if they worked or didn’t was another thing, to actually follow through on a thought that had been there for a long time means I’m happier for it.
So it was all about colour to begin win, wanting to shine block colour, taking the phrase almost literally – painting the town red – with light. I found that the red was coming out more pink, turning to less obvious colours such as green and blue, before finishing with orange. Photographically the results aren’t the best. I found myself returning to earlier work, which is not where I want to be heading, I need to move away from the literal yet atmospheric.
Moving onto another idea I had was to project video onto these essentially blank canvases which meant getting the projector out and finding clips of Westerns I have, seeing what work. Not really choosing anything in particular I went for the rollerskating scene from Heaven’s Gate (1980) which pushed me to consider how to really use the projector and the model, which with every consecutive scene grew ans grew. With this scene it was more about how can I cove the whole or the majority of the model.
It was nice to see how the image consumed the model, becoming an outdoor cinema, projecting its image against a saloon. The image come up well on the model, it will ultimately vary depending on the model being projected onto. I moved onto a scene from The Searchers (1956) which was more of the same. I went to another scene from the film, this time bringing another model, meaning that the projector had to move back to accommodate them both.
What happened here was that the images took on a status of being bigger, yet still very much part of the same world. When I saw the landscape against the more urban models, this is something I wanted to explore, the background being part of these models in the foreground. Pushing it further with the final gunfight in True Grit (1969) which had wide open spaces to take advantage of.
This particular scene worked more so because of the action, the cinematic presentation of the scene, these gigantic god-like being behind the models. I also moved all four of the models in front of the projector, experimenting with layout, creating shadows, which ultimately don’t really matter as the image is still caught on the models in front, the light becomes sculptural. I carried the god-like status through to the next scene – the family massacre in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) which I was very pleased with, partly down to the close-ups.
For the last set-up I positioned the models into a more conventional street set-up, with a gunfight from A Few Dollars More (1965) which drew me to my final thoughts of the day, linking nicely to the original inspiration of the Marquis in Melton – Street violence, or that of gunfights in the genre. I’d like to see how more models and more gunfight scenes work with this set-up. I still want to see how the cowboy figures work in terms of shadows they produce.
So as you can see I have been very busy and had lots of fun, immersed in the Western. To me this piece is about the violence that is created/depicted in the genre, this is where I maybe leading this piece going forward.
I have to admit I’ve taken the eye off the ball when it come to Painting the Town… which is stuck in hiatus at the moment whilst the animation is into full post-production. However I have found some work part of New Mills Festival (2016), part of the Big Weekend Mark R. Binks has an inspirational piece in the Torr Mill which I had to check out to see how it was set-up, informing my work still very much in development.
Horizon is a light based piece that relies of the public to work, they are invited to make a paper pyramid, all from an A4 piece of paper that are held together by a single paperclip. The placed among a growing collection of pieces that are placed in-front of two projectors. So I have an idea of how the art engages with the public and the construction of the work. Binks is using two DLP projectors, whilst I have a single LED projector. Both are very different, whilst I am also considering projecting video and not just colour onto my models.
I got a chance to meet Mark, who told me what was next for this work, it was exciting to hear what he wants to take the work, elevating it to something really special. I came away from the work with an idea of how to set up the work, whilst I hadn’t considered the public element to his work which makes it unique wherever it’s shown, the public truly shape and define it. After hearing from Mark this piece has a lot more mileage to go further, I can’t wait to see where it leads him, more projectors, more input from the public, here more is better.