'Moving Pictures': Review by the writer Helen Redfern
There’s a look of relief on the face of the artist. There is nothing more she can do. No more decisions to make. The time is 6pm. The pictures are mounted. The wine is poured. The doors are open.
All is prepared.
There’s a sense of expectation in the air. Those who have gathered are eager to see these works for the first time. These works they have heard so much about. These ‘Moving Pictures’. For how can a picture convey movement? How can an image encapsulate dance? How is that even possible?
Bernadette Koranteng is a visual artist, who studied at the Royal Academy of Art in London. The human form has always been the main inspiration for her work. If anyone can take on this challenge, Bernadette can.
She stumbled upon the Eliot Smith Company through a random encounter. She was invited to watch them rehearse and as soon as she starting sketching, she was hooked.
‘In the back of my mind, I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to draw dancers. As a figurative artist, I always felt that dancers would make amazing subjects. When I saw Eliot and his dancers perform, what drew me in was the depth of passion, both physical and emotional. Even though I don’t have a dance background, I could relate immediately to that passion and commitment that they have for their art. These dancers were not afraid to work.’
So here’s the big question: how hard is it to draw a moving subject?
‘Really hard. This was a new challenge for me and it caused me to find a new way of working. A new approach. I had to draw quickly and intuitively and then take these numerous on-the-spot drawings back to my studio to work on further.’
Over the past six months, Bernadette Koranteng has watched the Eliot Smith Company rehearse and perform numerous times, both at their studio on the Newcastle Quayside and at other venues across the North East. Each and every occasion brings new inspiration.
‘Every time I watch them dance, I come away with a new insight, a little idea that I can then play around with and develop. I feel privileged to be able to observe other artists going about their creative process with such energy of movement – and plenty of blood, sweat and tears. There’s a feeling of connection that is present when they dance.’
However hard it is to draw a moving subject, Bernadette Koranteng finds a way. There is no clear face; the expression is all in the body before us. There’s a simplicity in the single curves that define a muscle. There’s a depth of movement in the strokes. There’s a depth of feeling in the colours.
Those that are familiar with Bernadette’s work will wonder at the techniques she has used to convey this passion and intensity of movement.
Those that are familiar with the dance technique will wonder as they recognise the contraction. The release. The spiral.
And then the dance and the art work come together as one. The room falls silent. We all know we are witnessing something of significance. The three young dancers come out and perform ‘Space’ against the backdrop of these moving pictures. There’s a depth of emotion as the dance connects to the images and the images reflect the dance.
As in ‘Space’, each dancer does their own thing. They perform together and yet independently. And during the journey leading up to this point, each artist has done their own thing in their own way – the artist and the dancer working side by side and yet independently.
As in ‘Space’, there are moments of connection. Moments where the dancers move and breathe as one. Moments of collaboration where dancer and artist have connected as one.
As in ‘Space’, there is an occasion where each individual has their moment. One by one, each dancer creates their own interpretation of the same rhythm and haunting melody. And this preview on this night is Bernadette Koranteng’s moment to contribute her interpretation.
This is the last installation in this gallery at the People’s Theatre before the refurbishment. When the drawings come down, the walls come down. But for Bernadette Koranteng, this journey is not over.
‘I definitely haven’t finished yet. There is more that I want to do. Now I want to focus in on the individual, be more specific…and see where that takes me.’
Wherever it takes you, Bernadette, we want to come with you.