BRETT MOFFATT HAS EXEMPLIFIED EXCELLENCE IN THE VISUAL ARTS FOR OVER TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. HE HAS RECEIVED RECOGNITION WITH MULTIPLE NATIONAL AWARDS FOR PAINTING, PHOTOGRAPHY AND DRAWING. HIS ACHIEVEMENTS ENCOMPASS PORTRAITURE, MURALS, AND MINIATURES, AND NOW HIS BACKGROUND IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY COMES TO THE FORE, WITH NEW WORK DEDICATED TO HOLLYWOOD AND THE FEMME FATALE.
After exposure of the widespread sexual-abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein in 2017 and the consequent Me Too social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment, Brett was moved to begin a new body of work that drew upon his former entertainment background, and his strong conviction for change. Through his desire to make art that could affect change in our culture, Brett drew upon his experiences working within the entertainment industry, to develop his Femme Fatale subject, an embodiment of female empowerment. Brett shares his personal journey through his artist’s statement, re-printed below.
“I paint strong, self-empowered women, known as femme fatales. I’m enthralled by the mystery and beauty of these spirited people. Femme fatales have copped a bad rap and are demonised by the patriarchy (an embodiment of misogyny), but I subvert that trope by championing her force of will. I discovered the femme fatale during my teens and early years spent in show business as a makeup artist, and the dream of painting and giving them a new voice has been my life’s pursuit. The Golden Age of Hollywood, Film Noir, cinema, and theatre have been important influences in my work. The femme fatale is the ultimate storyteller, and her character provides opportunities for expression and addressing gender issues affecting women.
My painting is a synergy of storytelling conveyed through a photo-realist technique. Painting this way allows me to construct images employing framing and styling techniques characteristic of film noir. Although cinema and photography provide much influence, painting distills the drama and suspends the narrative. Like a film noir movie that keeps you guessing, my pictures evoke a provocative story by inducing more questions than answers.”
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances.William Shakespeare
Femme fatales and I go back a long way. I grew up in a small country town; however, as a teenager, I was drawn to the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age and read magazines like Men’s Esquire, Vanity Fair, and Spy. I lived vicariously through the silver screen, identifying with private eyes, gangsters, and the sassy ladies that kept them honest. It shaped my imagination and passions.
My desire to be part of show biz was so great that I studied and practiced makeup while studying painting at university. And soon after, I was moonlighting as a make-up artist, working on some of the most beautiful darlings of the time. Studying painting at university was memorable but not nearly as unforgettable as the actresses, chorus girls, and models I worked alongside, mostly for the stage but occasionally for film and photography.
When I traveled abroad and moved to Sydney in the late ’90s, I felt energised and consumed by the metropolis’ experiences. During this time, I began to paint a character affectionately known as the ‘Broadway Princess.’ Throughout many of my paintings, she occurs, taking the guise of various real-life muses, but her character largely stayed the same. She was a Sally Bowles (Cabaret) styled central figure and protagonist, a legacy of my years spent in the entertainment industry. Artistic influences such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Tamara de Lempicka, and Edward Hopper reinforced the exciting, glamorous, and hedonistic world of bohemian life and its romantic ideals.
Over the years, I’ve worked in a creative capacity in makeup, fashion photography, ad agencies, and a subscription TV company. Female gender, haunting beauty, and mystery have remained protagonists in my private work and the frames of reference through which I express my narratives. This is where the femme fatale finds her place in my oeuvre.
Today, we see the femme fatale everywhere. She’s in movies, advertisements, and music videos. Brands, actresses, models, entertainers, and photographers have forged reputations based on the femme fatale and our connection with this archetype. She’s universally recognised and familiar to most cultures and a provocative presence throughout western history. I explore the femme fatales complex story of existence in our culture and the dynamics of our relations to her and of her to others. I ask questions about our culture and our relationship to the female gender.
I make her more accessible to my audience. The femme fatales allure promises romance, sex, love, and compliance. But she often subverts those ideals and expectations. She’s writing her own story and will keep us guessing. Through my work, I address all the angles, from the idealistic clichés of glamour and romance to the enigmatic and subversive alternatives she’s renowned for. I draw upon a lifetime of memories experienced around theatres, studios, nightclubs, and homes of the rich and famous, to inform art dedicated to the femme fatale.
Like a well-honed film noir plot, my life has taken some twists and turns, and the femme fatale has always been there with me, forever the seductive force she has always been. I’m excited you’ve come along for the ride. You’d better buckle up, there’s dangerous curves ahead.