In 2017, I gave quite a few lectures about my life as a fine artist and designer. I talked about my inspiration and how I often return to that same inspiration when I work. So here is a list of some of my most influential music, movies, pop videos and TV, that have stayed with me all my life.
Picnic at Hanging Rock.
My mum told me I would love this when I was ten, and I did. This film, like the book by Joan Lindsey, is told as a true story, which until only a few years ago, I still believed was true.
It is, in fact a novel, set in Victorian Australia against the dry and scorched landscape of the Northern Territory around a geological phenomenon called Hanging Rock.
It is about several school girls and their teacher. They vanish on the rock during a St. Valentine’s day picnic in 1901.
What I love about this movie is the haunting and surreal atmosphere that director, Peter Weir captures through the use of over layered images, slow motion and an exquisite soundtrack and score. I always notice music in movies and I usually have a soundtrack to my work, in my head.
Meadows of dried grass, thistles, boulders that have faces, a soft summer colour palette and the screech of Parakeets is what makes this movie so interesting. It is the strange ingredients of setting, era, location and how the story moves with the music. It gives you goose pimples! The movie was also my introduction to melancholia, something I find very inspiring.
Beethoven and Listening to Beethoven.
‘I love to listen to Beethoven’, is an 80’s pop song from the Eurythmics and I remember hearing it for the first time and thinking is was so cool and unusual and original. The video for this song is very Cindy Sherman-esque, and features a house wife who has multiple personalities, and ends with her dressed like a drag queen. Looking at the video today I feel really lucky to be a child of the 80’s where creativity was far more edgy than today.
I also listen to Beethoven and was infatuated with Piano Concerto no. 5 which is part of the soundtrack to the afore mentioned film. I am a big classical music fan and wonder at its complexity and transformative ability.
The Pearl Fishermen by All About Eve.
Oh gosh was I in love with this band. Teenage angst! I was even in love with the album artwork to ‘Scarlet and Other Stories’. It’s very romantic and that is something that inspires me, but more so is a good story. I love telling stories. All of my works have a conversation or a poem. Again, it’s quite sad and magical. Here are the lyrics from this song.
The milkmoons dwell in their quiet shells
Where they fell from the heaven
Two pearl fishermen hold their breath again
Fight to the death again for the same prize
Oh my brother, one of us loses
One must drown and the other she chooses
The jade of the blue offers diamonds to you
But you find it’s not true when the sun sets
You dive far below
Where the sun doesn’t go
Where your brother won’t know
And you hear her saying:
“Oh my lover, now that you’ve found me
Now your brother is bound to be drowned
I don’t know why you’d feud over me
All those pearls lay asleep on the sea bed”
The pearl in his hand
She’s just a grain of sand
She’s dressed up as snow
In the moonlight
On his sallow skin
He’s been taken in
Oh my brother, we’re both of us losers
I don’t know why she ever did choose us
To call one her lover and bury the other
So I’ll hold my breath ’til the story is over.
Eurostar – 1995 TV advert.
This advert was the first for the new train service through the Channel Tunnel.
It was released at the same time I graduated from Winchester School of Art and I really connected to it from a design point of view. As a bright new graduate, it felt like it was an advertisement for me.
It’s very fast, choppy, surreal, quirky, colourful and slightly alien. Looking at it now I love how brave it was! It’s great to see such a bazaar advert conveying aspiration and ‘the new’. If only adverts today had as much personality about them.
It has strange movements, a diversity of people, odd colours and a message of aspiration that stays with me. I love a bit of crazy.
This is one of those movies, when as a child, I watched over and over again on the VHS machine. Science fiction is one of my all-time favourite genres, and this movie doesn’t disappoint on the front of other-worldliness. This is quite a grown up movie and is eclectic in its vision. Costumes and scenery change from the baroque and neo classical to punk and alien.
The story is rich and complex, which is why it can be watched so many times.
The acting is fantastic as is the script, but it is the dark atmosphere and strange and weird styling that stays with me.
Mozart’s Requiem & Elizabeth.
Here I refer to a very specific scene that is the ending of the movie Elizabeth. It is contemporary but is on this list because it is so strong and I remember it so well.
Cate Blanchet as Queen Elizabeth I, decides to transform into a bride, fashioned on a marble statue of the Virgin Mary. The self-made metamorphosis is further compounded by the use of Mozart’s Requiem, so powerful and epic against the colours of white, gold and dark red.
More goose pimples before it fades to black.
Orlando & Jimmy Somerville.
Tilda Swinton makes the transition from Elizabethan man to 1990’s woman in this dramatic interpretation of Virginia Wolf’s novel. The film is really moving and charts the different worlds that men and women inhabit through the story of a character called Orlando.
It is the final scene where Orlando reflects on her history whilst pop singer, Jimmy Somerville hovers above her as an angel, singing.
I think this is the point where I saw how the new and the old can be used side by side to create something new and original. Not to mention the discovery of androgeny.
Kate Bush Rocket’s Tail.
Kate Bush had to be on this list. Most pop songs are about love and money, but Kate’s songs are about washing machines, dancing with Hitler or being a ghost. This song is about jumping off Waterloo Bridge dressed as a rocket. I have known moments of madness but it is the genius and fearlessness to make this a song that impresses me. Anything can be made beautiful but only through bravery.
I was not popular at school for loving this album whilst others liked Iron Maiden. It only made me stronger. The lesson is, not everything is about popularity and remember, creativity is a valuable commodity.
Tales of the Unexpected & Picture Box
I can’t create this list without having a little bit of horror in it. This TV show was eerie, and its opening credits, which is my favourite part, is full of signs and symbols, representing the elements, death and the occult. The stories which followed were strange and creepy and often didn’t have a happy ending.
I really enjoy horror and there is a faint vein of it in my work. Like in the theme to Picture Box, which was a children’s story program. The spinning glass box is mesmerising but the music is so incredibly creepy and out of tune, I adore it and remember it well, even though I was only six or seven years old.