Last week’s opening of artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel’s exhibition at the AGO prompted me to revisit the idea of mixed media within the arts. Described as a “master at both” Schnabel first became a household name in the 80s with his large-scale works, most notably his trademark “broken plate” paintings. Years later he tried his hand at film and directed such renowned films as ‘Before Night Falls’ and ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ as well as ‘Basquiat’. Schnabel claims that there is no direct correlation between creating a painting and creating a film; that he uses two completely different parts of his brain. However, there are probably a good number of individuals in the artistic community that would be inclined to disagree with this statement.
A friend just began a two year tenure at film school. On the first day of school the students were handed a bushel of art supplies and a first term schedule chock-full of drawing, painting, and art history classes. My friend wondered what he had signed up for, as this first day was slightly reminiscent of my first day of art school where paints, pencils and sketch books were something we anticipated. While first-timers in film school might expect to be bombarded with expensive filming equipment and a director’s chair, the raw creative process behind every blockbuster is something overlooked.
In recent years, drawing and animation have become hot commodities in art school. Some films are made entirely through drawing – look at the work of William Kentridge for example, a pioneer of modern-day animation. This begs the question: a draftsman or a filmmaker? While Kentridge’s work stands on its own as a work of art, films stem from initial drawings and paintings and have been rooted in this medium long before the days of computers.
Many will agree that various mediums of art would not exist without others – Exhibit A: painting and film. Some food for thought: would you agree with Julian Schnabel? Do these two mediums have to remain uninfluenced by each other? Or is it important to be exposed to all aspects of artistic practice before being able to truly appreciate one media.