Nov 7, 2011

PROFILE | Jamie Hewlett | Murdoc's Maker

Jamie Hewlett, Murdoc.

Growing up in the country of Cyprus, there was not a lot of opportunity to become familiar with Western Culture.  I clearly remember the first slap of mesmerizing, western culture I received;  a little restaurant that pipped in the BBC (quite the accomplishment for the island) was playing the Gorillaz.  My siblings and I were hunched in front of the screen watching Jamie Hewlett's characters conquer a tombstone planet in Clint Eastwood.  Our lives were changed, all three of us share a common love of Jamie Hewlett's animation.
Jamie Hewlett's design career started with his character Tank Girl,  a collaboration with artists Alan Martin and Philip Bond.  In 1998, Hewlett and his room mate, Damon Albarn, dreamt up the virtual band Gorillaz.  Damon Albarn created the music for the band while Hewlett created the band.  Hewlett created a world so fantastic that the audience becomes absorbed by the characters and design.   I believe his greatest success in his animated art are his videos for the band's album Plastic Beach, the third album for the hugely popular band.

Journey to Plastic Beach is a mixture of animation and live film.  The scene opens to the bassist, Murdoc a repulsive, dark, and sexual creature.  He explains how he has gathered the band back together, after he left Noodle to be destroyed at the El Manana music video.  Then Murdoc takes the audience on a tour of his faux- pink landfill named the Plastic Beach, the cinematography is much like Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle 4 (after 6:50);  wide sweeping angles that narrow in accompanied by beautiful orchestral music.  As the video progresses, Hewlett's music video for the song Stylo is introduced, the two-dimensional characters have been given computer generated bodies as the band races against the ever attractive Bruce Willis.  The characters are rendered with excellence as Hewlett has had over 10 years of experience with the band.  Comparing the Clint Eastwood video from the beginning of his Gorillaz career, to the On Melancholy Hill music video the mark making is polished and perfected.

Hewlett has merged his well known flat animation style with the realistic surroundings creating the conflict between Hewlett's imagined band and the real world and musicians.  In the Journey to Plastic Beach video the animated band is blocked from going on stage during a show because the real-life musicians were there;  this maddens Murdoc.  The featured artists (Snoop Dog ect...) are then flattened out in the On Melancholy Hill video making another conflict between the two worlds.  It will be interesting to see what the next animated musical adventure of the Gorillaz will bring for Jamie Hewlett.

- Catherine Rigdon


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