Copyright © 2008-2017 Phil Illingworth. All rights reserved
Individual sizes (l to r) 7.5 x 10, 5 x 3.7, 5 x 5, 10 x 10cm.
Pencil on paper, found objects (2009)
‘Dust’ is a group of four works, presented as a single piece, which combines very small and detailed original pencil drawings with assemblages of sourced found objects*.
The drawings are based on Hollywood publicity photographs and show former stars who, for various reasons, were dropped by the studios. In some cases the actors were huge stars in their time, but victim to the enormous power of the industry, fell into obscurity as quickly as they ascended to stardom. These great idols were never more than a commodity and could be made, or destroyed, on a whim. Many were blacklisted during the McCarthy witch hunts; stars of silent movies did not survive the transition to talkies; some had a reputation of being ‘difficult to handle’ through ego, drugs or alcohol; some were carefully nurtured by a studio but never got the platform their abilities warranted; some were groomed simply to exploit a physical resemblance to another studio’s box-office pull.
The work is intended to be ambiguous. It aims to highlight parallels, not just with the contemporary celebrity, but with the everyday obstacles, events and external influences faced by ordinary people. The group could be a shrine to the celebrity or a handful of family snapshots. The objects over the eyes reflect, in part, the actor’s on-screen persona as well as something of the circumstances surrounding the end of their career. These objects also refer to the practice of placing coins over the eyes of the dead to prevent the corpse looking for souls to accompany the departing spirit into oblivion.
*Antique and vintage frames, teddy-bear eyes, antique carved ivory buttons, electronic components, cufflinks.