The Paintings of Reverberation
The process behind their creation
By Theresa MacNaughton, Community Engagement Associate
On the two-level apartment set of Reverberation, designed by Andromache Chalfant, several large canvasses of original abstract paintings can be seen hanging on the walls of the main character’s, Jonathan’s, dwelling. These bold, vividly-colored paintings help illustrate pivotal plot points in Matthew Lopez’s play.
The paintings were created by Hartford Stage’s scenic artists from photographs by Chalfant’s friend and colleague, theatre director Robin Guarino. The compositions were taken from urban walls from Guarino’s travels around the world.
“When a script calls for original artwork, sometimes I do it myself or I find an existing artist willing to lend their work. But both situations can be limiting in their own way. When I saw Robin’s photographs, I thought there was a chance they could work. And when Todd (Kulik, Properties Manager for Hartford Stage) said that the team would be willing to actually reproduce the photographs as paintings, I was thrilled,” Chalfant explained. “I think what drew me to Robin’s photographs was that they had an urban, contemporary feel but they also reminded me of Abstract Expressionist painting of the 40’s and 50’s. Robin has such a sharp eye that each photograph was a sophisticated composition in its own right. In other words, they felt informed by art history and this seemed right for the character. I wanted them to be intelligent and emotional but also believable as paintings painted by a real person who maybe hasn’t quite made it yet but is clearly talented and has amazing potential. When the paintings were brought on stage, I was ecstatic. I was so moved by the skill and care with which these paintings were created. It was not simply copying some research – these were works of art.”
Scenic Charge Artist for Hartford Stage, Curt Tomczyk, recently explained the process the team – comprised of Allison Jackson, Erin Keller, Sarah Morgan, Martina Rodriguez and Tomczyk – used to bring these paintings to life.
According to Tomczyk, full-scale images were first printed and perforated – employing the same perforation processes used by Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century. White canvases were then textured with white paint and crumpled tissue papers. Base coats of paint were laid in with the color most prevalent or underlying in the original photographic images. Line drawings were transferred, using perforated pounces with bags of charcoal, onto materials such as brown paper and cardboard – which were then torn and/or painted. The completed collages were assembled onto the canvases using white glue. Additional textures, created with items such as joint compound for sheet rock, were applied to the pieces – along with supplemental layers of paint in different colors. Final applications of washes, sealers, and glazes (thin, clear tinted colors) were used to unify the pieces into cohesive and complete works of art.