I paint strong and empowered women, known as Femme Fatales. I’m enthralled by the mystery and beauty of these spirited people. Femme Fatales cop a bad rap, and she’s demonised by the patriarchy, but I flip that stereotype by championing her independence and resilience. I discovered the femme fatale during my 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 limitless opportunities for expression and addressing gender issues affecting women.
I mostly paint in oils using a realist technique. Painting this way allows me to construct more potent images employing framing and styling techniques characteristic of film noir. Although cinema and photography provide much influence, painting can distill drama and suspend the narrative. Like a good film noir movie that keeps you guessing, I think my pictures tell a provocative story by asking more questions than providing 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, at an early age, I was drawn to the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age and read magazines Men’s Esquire, Vanity Fair, and Spy. Through the silver screen, I lived vicariously 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 life 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 I affectionately called 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 open 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.
The femme fatale’s 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. At her most vulnerable, her back’s to the wall, and she is powerless; at her most powerful, she commands her full potential. In my work, I play out both sides. The idealistic clichés we cling to, of glamour and romance, versus enigmatic and subversive alternatives. 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. I make her more accessible to my audience, hoping to inspire intrigue and conversation, with a desire to know more.
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.
Brett Moffatt is an Australian based artist. He graduated from Queensland College of Art with a Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1992 and from Monash University a Masters Degree in Visual Arts in 2006. He also possesses Diplomas in Cosmetology, Special Effects, and Theatrical makeup and earned a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Visual Arts Teaching from the Queensland University of Technology in 2012.
His painted portrait of aboriginal elder Maroochy Barambah was selected as a finalist in the inaugural Brisbane Portrait Prize, Powerhouse Museum, in 2019. In 2017 his portrait of world champion swimmer Cate Campbell OAM was a semi-finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. His photographic portrait of Cate Cambell OAM was highly commended as a finalist in the Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraiture, 2019. In 2015/16, he was selected for a mentorship with Nick Knight as part of Fashion Photography: Mastered. He has been awarded nine prizes, including in 2004, an Ian Potter Cultural Trust Scholarship to travel and study art in Florence, Italy, and was a finalist for the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2003. Moffatt has had 7 solo exhibitions and has been included in over 20 group curated and commercial exhibitions, including the New York International Art Expo in 2003.
Moffatt has completed works for some of Australia’s highest-profile clients and designers, including – Alan Jones, John Singleton, Maggi Eckardt, Sir Timothy & Lady Beverley Ward, and others. He has painted the portraits of – HRH Princesses Natalia & Irina Guicciardini Strozzi, Alan Jones, Jeff McMullen, Sir Donald Bradman, Greg Norman, Shane Warne, David Beckham, John Wolseley, Rick Amor, Euan Macleod, Nicholas Harding, Anwen Keeling, Natalie Gruzlewski, Erin McNaught, world champion swimmers Cate & Bronte Campbell, Miss World Australia 2018, Taylah Cannon, and aboriginal elder of the Turrbal nation, Maroochy Barambah.
His work hangs in corporate, public, and private collections in Australia, United States, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, and Greece. He has also been commissioned to work alongside designers to create film & stage sets, theme park settings, ad campaigns, press photography, and brands. Past collaborators and clients include – Foxtel, Warner Brothers, SBS & ABC Television, Australian Film Television and Radio School, Polytech, ArtNow Studios, and The Australian Yoga Journal.
He produces paintings, photographs, drawings and videos. Selected works from past series feature here