Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Environments Used in CLAY CONTINENT

Over the next few months, I will be using my blog as a place to work out ideas, preconception, dramaturgy, etc. for the Mammals upon coming revival of CLAY CONTINENT. Your comment, encouragement, and questions about the play, the process, etc. are most welcome.

One of the major influences upon the look, feel, and character of previous versions of CLAY CONTINENT were the paintings of Francis Bacon.

Previously when analysing these portraits, I was primarily conscious of the foreground. The faces the figures in Bacon's canvas were what held my fascination. The drama, the intensity, the emotion, and the conflict are inexplicably vicious. Using these pictures when talking to cast and crew about the characters was always exciting and communicated directly and visually about the direction of the piece in a way that my vocabulary could not.

But, I revisited these paintings I found I was now becoming equally enthralled with the backgrounds of many of them. The environments that Bacon puts his figures into are equally as potent as the twisted features of his faces. One of the goals for the Mammals' latest incarnation of CLAY CONTINENT will be to utilize and replicate the environments in Bacon's work to create minimal/precisionist(wink to that word) set pieces that aid in the spectators' immersion into of pageant of villainy.

The Popes painted by Velazquez were an undeniable influence in Bacon's painting. Looking at the image the eye in drawn into the face, the expression, the intention of the clergy represented here. But what about what is going on behind the pope? We often miss that part of the painting altogether, and who could blame us. that haunting visage of God's emissary on earth is ripe with commentary and just too dramatic not to aim your eyeballs upon.
But that expanse of dark behind him, with the outline of a hall or a tunnel that perhaps ends, perhaps does not. Also the slightest twist to the perspective both frames the head and places the entire figure in a liminal space that is just as integral to the sense of the painting, regardless of what sense it eventually instills in you. The horizontal black line that bisects the pope's jaw could simply be a representation of a the bottom of a wall behind him extended to the edges of the painting's frame. That line could also be the actually horizon of this space far far behind the figure of the pope. The environment is ambiguous, expansive, and confining simultaneously.

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