Who Does The Colossus Look Up To?
MEANING
11/09/2022
by Yar Varsobin

The power of visual media can never be overestimated. After being inspired by life for thousands of years, art turned from the simple depiction of the world around into a cathartic measure – a medium to show your views, voice and feelings through. Art educates, excites and inspires. And if the purpose of art depends on the artist, the meaning is dictated mostly by the viewer's experience with it. Art rearranges perception and serves as a creative way to interact with the world. Reflecting everything around, art is constantly changing, disintegrating into many different forms, keeping the term afloat and the craft relevant. Through tribal masks and old mosaics to surrealism and performance art – all this keeps the ceaseless chain of inspiration going.





Art is eternal, gargantuan, bigger than life, but still has no power to stop the times from changing: while Rubens and Caravaggio have been and will be praised, technological and cultural progress inevitably changes the way people both perceive and do things. While old pillars in the form of traditional painting are here to stay, the intrinsic human urge to discover new ways of expression led to the next round of development in art in the 20th century. With cinema came relatively new ways of creating your own visual language – a plethora of opportunities for mature and young artists, and dozens of new professions that require art training and visual taste. Cinema has become just as big as painting in terms of influence and the ability to translate everything that art can, and sometimes even more. If life is a journey, then painting is a feeling of the journey you recall, and cinema is the experience of the journey that's not your own. There's no denying that painting and cinema can both be mirrors of life and soul.
The many forms art comes to life in
When comparing the two forms of art, painting and cinema, it becomes obvious that one had far more time to develop, and the other – more opportunities to borrow. The influence of art is prevalent in modern cinematography: from color palettes created by old masters, to the whole scenes referencing famous works of art. When the sequence is paused, there is an opportunity to let the character speak not with words but with essence – with the body, the appearance, the atmosphere around. The necessary pause is there to ask the viewer: why does this scene feel so familiar? Art references in cinema range from classics like The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) and The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David in About Schmidt (2002) to modern oeuvres like The Kiss by Gustav Klimt in Shutter Island (2010) and Dawn by Nerdrum in The Cell (2000). Cinematographers get inspired not only by the paintings, but also by the artists. Frida (2000) and At Eternity's Gate (2018) are the most well-known examples of movies that try to connect the viewer with art through more familiar things – through the artists' lives.
However, the influence of painting goes deeper: the allure of the famous scenes influenced by painting gets overshadowed by the art movement that became the forefather of the genre of cinema – expressionism. Expressionism as we know it now, was mainly established in Germany before World War I and focused on the portrayal of subjective human feelings and rejection of reality. The most prominent are two art groups – The Bridge and The Blue Rider, which included such painters as Bleyl, Kirchner, Kandinsky and Marc. The rapidly changing world with industrialization and dehumanizing, degrading policies was too much to bear, so painters and later cinematographers immersed themselves as well as their audiences into the bizarre, unnerving atmosphere of hectic, dream-like reality. The movies of German Expressionism are stylistically bold, with a shifting or oppressive environment, daunting exteriors and shifting masses of light and dark that always reflect the internal experience of the character. The ideas and techniques that pioneered in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Metropolis (1927) and many other masterpieces would later be developed into the horror genre and film noir.
It's time to give back
Amid the universal respect for and historical significance of painting, cinema proved that it's not just a reflection of an age of technology but an influential instrument and a distinctive language of art. Cinema, being thousands of years younger, became one of the most fast developing and important forms of art for decades and established itself as a titan of the entertainment industry. The impact of the early cinema can be seen in the artists of the 1950s, who were among the first to be influenced by the silent black and white movies and slapstick comedies. The magic of cinema not only inspired them in painting, but also made them eager to try the new form of expression. The influence of the silent films of Chaplin and Keaton is distinguishable in some major works of Salvador Dali, who spoke about those movies with respect. Dali got intrigued by cinema and worked with famous directors multiple times: on Un Chien Andalou (1929) with Luis Bunuel, Spellbound (1945) with Hitchcock, and with Walt Disney on an animated short film Destino that was finished and released only in 2003.
The deep respect for both art and cinema leads to the everlasting cycle of inspiration. The famous British expressionist Francis Bacon admitted that the movie Battleship Potemkin (1925) deeply affected him, and those feelings of terror were let out on canvas. "Study for the nurse in the film Battleship Potemkin'' is a macabre piece depicting a nurse in her spectacles, screaming just like she was in the movie, in the Odessa steps scene in the middle of mass assassination. The works of Bacon, known for their graphic and bold portrait imagery, still impress the wider audience as well as many directors. The pictures of Francis Bacon gave an interesting spin on the scenes in movies like The Silence of the Lambs (1990), Alien (1979), The Dark Knight (2008). David Lynch, who was thrilled by the art, used the painter's work as inspiration for The Elephant Man (1980) (Self Portrait 1969) and the Red Room in Twin Peaks (1990-1991) (Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962; Seated Figure 1961). Christopher Nolan admitted that he was inspired by Bacon too. 'You have to look to art to teach you or guide you in terms of expressing things beyond the dialogue and narrations', Nolan opens up about the significance of other forms of art in the cinema in Tate interview. Moreover, he adds that the disturbing textured portraits Bacon is famous for served as an inspiration for the Joker's worn out makeup in The Dark Knight.
The two giants, painting and cinema, are heavily intertwined and are still interdependent – it might even be argued that one is the logical continuation of the other. There is no rivalry, though: the lines between the two are extremely blurred. Digital and traditional painters work with cinematographers to help them express their unique vision in the most captivating of forms. They work on concept art, in post-production and as independent creators of motion picture films. Moreover, many famous directors had a fine art background but then turned to cinema. So it's hard to tell for sure who the colossi look up to – maybe painting and cinema have become so gargantuan they can hardly lift their own heads, so they sit beside, look at and adore each other.
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