Heitor MagnoUntitled (2013)

There’s no question: this piece owes a debt to David Lynch.

I know that portraits of someone’s head and shoulders presented in front of a textured wall in contrast-y B&W or monochrome is so ubiquitous as to be cliché but consider the preponderance of this motif in portraits of Lynch himself–it’s almost as if this manner of presentation is an extension of his brilliant white button ups, under shadow dark sports coats.

I’ve talked a fair amount of piss about Lynch in the past. I am a huge fan of most of his work–in fact, if you disregard Dune and Inland Empire, his oeuvre situates him as among one of the most consistently masterful, active, contemporary artists.

I watched the Twin Peaks revival in it’s entirety this spring. I am of a mind that it’s the best work he’s ever done–by quantum margins. There is honestly no way whatsoever I can oversell it; it’s an ingenious tour de force that is utterly exquisite to experience. (Also: some of the criticisms that I’ve lobbed Lynch’s way previous about the demarcation between the surreal and the oneiric–and how Lynch tends to play fast and loose with that boundary–well, Twin Peaks: The Return demonstrates that even if such a criticism was valid previously, it is certainly no longer the case.

I’ve not seen all the original run of Twin Peaks. (I was a about three years to young to catch Twin Peaks fever and subsequent efforts to re-watch it have been sabotaged by a constellation of factors. At this point: it is unlikely that I’ll ever see it.)

I am curious if the trope of facial voids and flames feature in the original run–because while the notion of a facial void is very Lynchian, I’m not sure I can recall that specific image in the rest of his work.

Lynch is one of those influences from whom artists would do well to exercise caution in riffing on without careful consideration. Someone much smarter than me pointed out how many ‘artists’ use Lynch as an excuse, i.e. going light on plotting so as to focus on compelling visuals and a sinister surrealism to pull things together. There is always an underlying logic to Lynch’s work–to the extent that even inconsistencies will be consistently applied.

Anyway, I would be curious if the facial void image occurs in the original Twin Peaks because if it doesn’t then I feel like Magno’s image is actually even better than I understand it to be–and I’m basing that of the premise that it ceases to be theft if you take an idea and in the process of making it your own, improve upon it.

This is fantastic for the way it constantly turns in on itself. The lit B&W cigarette resonates with the flame burning through a print. (This appears to be a collage effect, where the picture of a burning print has been digitally imposed over the B&W portrait–creating a mask that is in turn a void with dimension deeper than the image on which it has been overlaid; like one of those haunted houses that is bigger on the inside than the outside.)

Also, the trope of burning photos possesses a sinister value. Typically, when we see this in a piece it indicates someone surrendering something that costs them too much to keep. Think of unrequited lovers burning pictures of the one who has abandoned them or of a criminal destroying evidence.

In a lot of ways I feel like this takes ideas that almost certain were sparked by Lynch and internalizes not only the symbolism but the logic underlying the symbols; then: applies both to personal expression. That would already be impressive. But what I adore about this is that this goes even deeper by then taking the concept and then applying the same system of logic and symbols that codified the conceptual trappings and then applying that awareness to questions of how the presentation of the work will be seen and interpreted by the viewer.

It’s a level of commitment to consistency that is damn impressive. Even more so if it intuited this underlying theme in Lynch’s work and then extrapolated it into something that pushes things a great bit further than Lynch manages to in the Twin Peaks revival.

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