Monday, November 16, 2015

Implied Narrative, Joshua Risner From TRAC 2015

As I mentioned earlier I got much from Joshua Risner's presentation, Understanding Representational Narrative Painting as Implied Narrative. He succinctly laid out historical definitions of what narrative is and why it is important, how ideas have shifted, and then explained how much painting is not narrative, but is actually implied narrative.

I've an interest in story telling strengthened by years of working in the visual effects for film business. One of the challenges of visual effects design and animation comes when handed a concept painting often depicting a culminating moment of a story, while asked to figure out/choreograph how the visual effects would support or move through a scene. This adds quite a new dimension to a highly technical job. A specific example that comes to mind is John Milius asking for animation around Conan in a rather long scene: . His visual reference was Frank Frazetta.

In live action this is the domain of a team of actors, extras, directors, and choreographers. Storyboards help film makers pre-visualize their narrative. Storyboards, comic books, graphic novels and movies are usually narratives. On how this differs from an implied narrative, read on.

Some key points on what makes a narrative:

A narrative demonstrates cause and effect
A narrative shows how cause and effect are connected
A narrative moves through time
A narrative has a definite conclusion

Difference between implied narrative and narrative:

Implied narrative does not suggest a conclusion
Implied narrative allows viewers a more open ended perception
Implied narrative reinforces paintings inability to depict more than a single moment, instead lies somewhere between the spark and the outcome

"Unlike a book or a movie, a painting can only represent a static moment because it does not unfold over time."

Paul Barolsky makes case in his article that There is No Such thing as Narrative Art.

This difference is actually a strength in painting, not a weakness,
"Implied narratives emphasize potentiality which promotes free thinking, imagination and creativity."

So, if anyone is keeping score, it seems a picture is still worth a thousand words. Perhaps many more.*

To learn more about Joshua Risner and his painting visit his website:

Joshua Risner's paper Ethics of Implies Narrative Art  can be found on his page and covers the subject in much greater depth.

*To the writers whose evocative words conjure incredible visions and feelings - you know I don't mean you.

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