Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Postmodernism essay

I am really proud of my essay this time around. Compared to my usual routine of writing it at the very last minute, I had the foundations written in early December. I even had time to get some feedback before the deadline. I did, however, feel like I was rambling a little and am not sure if it will meet the essay requirements, but fingers crossed (It may just be my confidence has been knocked after my last attempt) ...

Chloe Jones
BA/Hons Illustration
Year 2

Choose one designer (from your pathway area) post 1960 that you feel has
made a significant contribution to contemporary design. Give reasons for
your choice, examine at least one piece of work in detail and link their workto relevant post-modern ideas and themes

I have chosen to examine some of the illustrations of Tim Burton, as I feel that he is most relevant, for me, to the essay requirements. Tim Burton is both an illustrator and film director, working as an animator for Disney during his early career. His work spans from 1981 with his first film ‘The Fox and the Hound’ until the present day. His designs are characterised by their style and he has a tendency to look back into the past to reference his work, hinting at the post modern framework of this module. He is notorious for his contemporary and controversial films, but I am going to look at the illustrations behind the finished product. His ‘visual influences are … Edward Gorey’ (Newman, Kim, 2005) and references to Gorey’s work constantly recur. Burton gets a lot of media attention, reviews and criticism on all of his works and his films are greatly anticipated by a wide audience, thus making a significant contribution in the modern day industry.

The work I have chosen to examine is an untitled illustration from Corpse Bride and another untitled illustration from Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately on Burton’s website he does not have the dimensions or media for the illustrations. From primary analysis of the images however, it appears to be a combination of both fine liner pen and watercolours. The majority of his works are done in watercolour most probably to depict their fantasy like and dreamy quality.

This is a portrait of one of the main female characters from the film. There is an emphasis on the character’s lips with the spot use of red making this the focal point of the piece. This shows that the story has some love connotations by focusing on one of the intimate areas. The secondary focal point is on the top half of the characters body with the additional detail which is lacking in the remainder of the image. Additionally, there is more spot colour but in a larger quantity with the addition of blue. The blue will reference that the palette of her skin is different to those who live indicating that she is in fact a corpse. It is these subtle ideas that make his work so interesting. Untraditionally though, Burton does not conform to usual constraints of feminism and keeps the character well covered. Yes, the curvaceous lines are apparent but her dignity remains in tacked. Additionally, the ‘living doll of Nightmare is promoted to active heroine’ (Newman, Kim, 2005). Burton is not afraid to deviate from the norm and chooses the focus to be on a female character instead of their usually more superior male counterparts. Post modernism work breaks all former rules in the art world prior to the late 1960’s and Burton definitely makes his own. He has a niche audience which has only grown with the success of his work and his ever evolving style and use of different tools contributing to the post modern world makes him an ever successful designer.

The background is very dark referencing a night time scene and the crosses in the ground depict the backdrop of a graveyard, highly fitting for the title of the film. Yet, the title of the film is less obvious with the attention being on the character and not the setting which is what references the Corpse aspect. Although she is the Corpse Bride, it is the setting and background which give the notion that she is a corpse, not the character herself. She is not made from bone for example.

The angular elements mixed with the flowing dress of the bride make it disjointed and it is difficult for the eye to flow over the piece. It is very staccato where your eye jumps from one element to the next with no continuity. The heaviness of the black suggests that this is a deep story with serious deep seated concepts. It does not reflect the cartoon style that he actually developed in the film. This looks like one of the final illustrations where more time appears to have been applied. The feel then, should be reflected accurately for the cameramen to be able to reflect this. The heavy and deep issues are not apparent in the film, making Burton’s own representations of the character inaccurate. It is however, typical of his illustrations using the type of setting which is synonymous with his style.

Burton, with his use of dark themes, (and constant use of them) hints at the revivalism of the Gothic art era and is ‘renowned as a master of the macabre’ (Brown, Jenny 2009). Founded in the twelfth century, gothic art was primarily religion orientated with typical media being sculpture, panel painting, stained glass and fresco. Although Burton is manipulating the use of modern technologies connoting a reference to Charles Jencks’ double coding the religion theme is still very much alive in his work. The story is adapted from a traditional ‘Russian Jewish folk tale "The Corpse Bride"’ (Kozachik, Pete, 2005). The double coding is relevant as he has combined modern techniques, opposed to the traditional ones of the Gothic era, with ‘something else (usually traditional building) in order … to communicate with the public’ (Jencks, 1978) For Burton, this double coding his highly important as it is his audience that makes him so successful and he needs to be able to communicate with them in a fashion that is contemporary and ‘something else’ different from everything else available on the market. His other macabre illustrations include Edward Scissor Hands, Sweeney Todd and Beetlejuice. The macabre element comes from his use of satire evidently referencing parody in his work also. ‘As Burton has been saying since Beetle juice (1988), the dead have more fun -- or at least afford more opportunities for inventive sight gags’ (Newman, Kim, 2005). Tim Burton has a knack for ‘mocking tradition rather than merely plundering’ historical styles (Ward, 2003). He focuses throughout his work on the dead, the creative ability to extract new things from old tales and new characters with more satirical elements, for example Edward Scissor Hands. He does this to communicate new and intriguing ideas with an ever more intrigued audience.

Although using more recent technologies that were not available in the twelfth century, he does not use the most current. He prefers to stick to what he knows and prefers which is stop motion animation. ‘The film is unmistakably set in a world that is wholly his rather than, say, partly Bob Kane’s, Roald Dahl’s or Washington Irving’s’ (Newman, Kim, 2005). This is due to his imaginative and creative characters that are set apart from others. His use of stop motion animation gives the texture and movement which computers just cannot grasp but which others directors seem to prefer, this also sets Burton apart from other film directors and puts him at the forefront of the industry, his attention to detail is clearly paramount.

Another illustration is the Mad Hatter from the recent Alice in Wonderland sequel. Compared to the original Mad Hatter, Burton has completely thought outside of the box. It is almost as though he is taking somebody else’s idea and completely dismantling it and putting it back together in a whole new way with a twist to create another creature and another dimension. He takes ideas to a whole new level, to a platform where usually boring or traditional ideas are completely unexpected and become current and relative again. His manipulation of line is well mastered and looks like quite a quick attempt. The colours are lucid almost as though it is a dream and there is no heaviness in its production hinting that the finished product should be light hearted and fun, unlike the first.

It is a very free illustration where his hand has brushed the page to create these lines. Therefore, he is a very confident artist and has a clear idea of what it is that he wants to produce. His choice of palette also reflects a dream with the exception to the vibrancy of the yellow in the lower half of the image. The shock of the yellow reminds the audience that this is not a dream.

It has been established then that Burton’s purpose in his work is to surprise and intrigue his audience and to modernise existing ideas. He wants to evoke that exciting emotion where something is completely different to anything that people have ever seen before. He has taken something that he is really interested in (Gothic art) and made it accessible to everyone on a platform that everyone is excited about too, this is quite a clever tool and has clearly made him very successful as a post modern artist and director.

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