“Beyond the theatre is life, and behind life, the theatre. My point of departure was the imaginary and I discovered the real; but behind the real there was the imaginary.”
-Jean Luc Godard
Stylistically and theoretically influenced by French New Wave directors, Jean Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer, Bridgette McNab’s work explores the process of painting and its long-held affinity with cinema. Romantic but never sentimental, The New Wave pioneered the importance of an auteurs visual theme, favouring eye pleasing sets, colour and casting above all else. Avoiding block buster theatrics they utilized quiet moments, lingering portraits and sporadic jump cuts to reveal their narratives, paving the way to a new reality in film, one that deemed cinema more than a moving image, but an art form.
Red, Yellow, Blue is McNab’s first iteration of a painted, cinematic series, presenting narratives that unfold over the course of the 5 part series. Linked through a mise en scène approach to painting; her bold use of primary colour and clever editing is analogous to a film still from the French New Wave era, each work reminiscent of a ‘close up’ or a ‘cut away’.
Created by using a lexicon of appropriationist techniques, McNab’s subjects have been plucked from a wide range of films. By maintaining a sense of neutrality to the characters she has borrowed, in that their hair, clothing and make up could belong to any time, she leaves us wondering where and when this story has taken place. The plot twist is that there is actually no narrative at all, simply a staged fantasy world and McNab the auteur.
It is here that we begin to see McNab’s philosophical affiliation to the New Wave and their preoccupation with artifice and absurdism. By taking advantage of its slowness as a medium, painting can constitute a means of thinking about and reading images – a paramount activity in modern life that hints at the bareness of existence and the wistful and grandiose stories we create to keep it at bay.
Bridgette McNab (b 1985) graduated from the National Art School in 2011 with honours in painting; and was the sole recipient of the prestigious Clitheroe Foundation Honours Scholarship. Currently living and working in Melbourne, McNab has been a finalist in many of Australia’s most esteemed art prizes including The Archibald Prize in 2014, The Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2013, 2014 and 2017 and The Portia Geach Memorial Award in 2010. McNab is currently represented by Robin Gibson Gallery in Sydney.
Red, Yellow Blue runs until 4 November. For a full exhibition listing click here.
[Images by Cricket Saleh]