One hundred and ten

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Untitled (The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories)

c1982-84 by Tim Burton
Currently at The Museum of Modern Art, New York

On walking into MoMA’s Tim Burton exhibition, one is immediately confronted by just how much Burton has realised from his wonderful imagination; we realise the ease, or rather the difficultly of choice, someone mush have had in putting this display together. We are given the obvious room of film memorabilia, the familiar corpse bride, the revelation that of course the aliens from Mars Attacks were Burton’s, screens of cartoon clips, a glow-in-the-dark carousel — a rotating figment of this teeming imagination — but, more intriguingly, we are given drawings. Dozens of drawings are spread before our eyes; littering the walls like a sketch book ripped apart, these characters dance out of their pages, released in order that they may surround us, crowd us, with their over-sized heads and amusing expressions, encompassing us in the brilliant world of Burton. The sheer creation of such personality in Burton’s drawings is in the delicacy of their execution; little lines of articulation come alive on the page as they stretch and curl to form the figures they play to. In this image, we have Burton’s characteristic corpse-like face of the right-hand figure, the dark depths of his mouth and eyes crowded by these expressive little lines, his hair leaping to electrified attention with the action of his person. His attacker in contrast is given tiny clenching teeth; gritted in concentration, they are meticulously drawn, mirroring the rest of his body, a maze of miniscule and tangled bandages. They cross over his face in frustration, and, dangling from his head, their ends curl up with the might of their owner and his determination. Burton’s lines possess a tightly knit unity, all articulation is a contribution to a character’s personality; it is what gives these drawings their liveliness, and what makes them so appealing to our inquisitive eyes.

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