Every picture tells a story

What do you get when you bring together an Oscar nominated film director and award–winning painter? You get a multi-media installation that centers itself around a narrative painting.

Moulin Rouge
director Baz Luhrmann and painter Vincent Fantauzzo, both friends, collaborated on ‘The Creek, 1977,’ which was created especially for the recent ART HK 10 fair held in Hong Kong.

The work comprises of a large Caravaggio-style painting hanging in a blackened chapel-like setting of a young man apparently being rescued from a car that has gone over a bridge. By engaging the audience in much the same way as a scene in a film does, the two artists are inviting their audience to ask, is this the beginning or the end of the story and the all important question, what happens next?

“A lot of classical art was narrative…you have to get a lot of stories in a single frame,” Luhrmann says.

The painting was created in much the same way as making a film, with storyboards and casting well-known actors to appear in the image, which also featured Luhmann and Fantauzzo.

Narrative paintings have influenced filmmakers since the early days of cinema. Way before film, paintings depicted scenes from classical history, mostly religious and historical, that invited the viewer to engage with the painting and wonder at the story unfolding within the frame.

Usually, the title of a picture is the only indication of what the story is about, by inviting the viewer to imagine the situation; the painter hoped they would get the full story for themselves.

The principles that the painters employed to depict a scene were picked up by film directors and played a part in influencing the approach to staging and composition of early cinema.

For example, the diagonal layout of action in ‘The Creek, 1977’ creates dynamic and strong composition and depth, which guides our visual search, allowing us to discover a great variety of postures and facial views as the scene reveals itself.

Luhmann and Fantauzzo used pockets of light as well as a sound track of ambient sound and voices in their installation to guide viewers through the scene and add emphasis to the most important parts of the picture.