Christopher Morris’ collection of cinema-and-TV-inspired artwork adorning the walls of The Phoenix cinema in East Finchley genuinely blew me away. Not only is his skill very apparent, but his ability to illustrate visual and contextual themes from each of the films he chose to focus on in completely original ways breathed life in to these classics in a way I’d never seen before.
Blade Runner, The Wire, Psycho, The Night Porter, The Man who fell to Earth, The Deer Hunter, Sexy Beast, The Shining, The Comfort of Strangers.
The Phoenix has long had a reputation for showcasing student artists and new talent on its walls, and its collection of Dark City Gallery posters are definitely worth seeing too (they are collaborating in a new ‘Alternative Film Poster’ exhibition as part of London Design Festival). Bringing alternative art forms into the cinema environment is a wonderful way to create a energised, interactive gallery-like atmosphere that keeps an old establishment like The Phoenix relevant and exciting.
A good piece of art is almost like a love letter to its subject: emotions you feel for something are made literal on the page. Morris pulled specific strands from the films and gloriously exploited all their worth for us to enjoy. I was particularly struck by the Sexy Beast drawing of Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) and Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) in an advert for a boxing fight. Putting them in an actual boxing match perfectly illustrates the two of them as juxtaposing forces in the film, and the tagline – ‘No no no no no! Yes yes yes yes yes!’ – pulls out a classic feature of the film that people love to talk about, and instantly remember. A battle of two wills.
The drawing of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) also captures a very striking moment in Psycho that is often talked about. Although it is post-shower stabbing scene and devoid of blood, the shot that starts with Marion’s eye and spirals outwards to reveal her pressed to the bathroom floor with water dripping down her face is a true feat of cinema and one that deserves to be drawn. Morris’ pencil drawing is very simple, but it still captures her expression perfectly, the 50s swirls in her hair, the ominous tiled bathroom floor that reminds us of where she is and what has just happened, and the two water droplets dripping from her nose.
These drawings have something of the classic Film Noir poster to them, in that they are surreal and suggestive, dramatic and romanticised. You can also see this in the extreme areas of dark and light in The Wire and The Deer Hunter drawings; an expressionist style that suggests dark themes. Every piece was clearly based on a deep emotionally understanding of the subject that related to how audiences had received them, and this is I think what makes them so successful in the cinema environment.
Pop by The Phoenix to see Christopher’s work and The Dark City Gallery Collaboration, this September!