Monday, 27 June 2011

Tim Burton: LA County Museum of Art

Whilst in LA I went to see the Tim Burton show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I wouldn't describe myself as a particular admirer of his work but have (as many) seen a number of his films and enjoyed them for their unique feel. I know very little about film but find that Burton's are very identifiable, the show helped me to explore exactly why that is and what inspirations lead him to create them as he has. The exhibition was very thorough in its explanation of props, models, drawings, costumes etc which all combined to make a visually intriguing show.
Burton was brought up in Burbank, California and always felt like an outsider to his peers and those around him. From a young age he had an interest in German Expressionism, Edgar Poe, Japanese comics like 'Dr Seus,' Dahl and 'Hammer Horror.' He liked stories of the unlikely hero in films, Frankenstein being a classic example. Burton enjoyed a connection with their vulnerability and felt that they showed more soul than their fellow, more human, characters. This for me was a very poignant point, its something you can identify within his films immediately and it touches you when you realise his sentiment is due to his uneasy start in life.
The Japanese comics and culture that he immersed himself in inspired him to draw characters and ideas of a fantastical nature. This start in life, where he was exposed to a visual wealth of genres, had a direct impact on dictating the work that we associate with him today. Something that I hadn't realised is that Burton still translates his ideas through drawing to his actors and crew members, helping them to understand his vision. This meant that the show was mainly made up of his doodles, illustrations and notes showing the very start of his ideas for characters and scenes in his films.
There are a number of themes covered that run through Burton's work, the already mentioned unlikely hero, sinister clowns, the use of costume, the idea of the fairytale, contrasting couples, gothic tones and 'silent cinema' to name a few. All these ingredients help to give identity to his unique work, the Tim Burton stamp.
I really hope that the show travels to London, where Burton now mainly resides. I think it offers a real insight to his work and makes you aware of the complexities in the messages he tries to convey through his characters and story telling.

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