Tonello and Taylor

Underpass Motel DVD cover
Underpass Motel DVD cover

Last night’s opening of The Underpass Motel exhibition was also the launch of the film from which it all began. Looking around the gallery (as best one could – it was standing room only) at the paintings, sculpture and drawings being shown it was easy to see why the film itself might be forgotten.

The collaborative video project began 18 months ago when Stuart Elliott invited eight artists to take a room in a motel which didn’t exist. Beyond that there was no brief and few of the artists knew what anyone else was doing. Most of us had never met. We all worked in different ways with different mediums – pencil-drawn animation, puppetry, live action and computer animation. The rooms we made and the characters which inhabited them had nothing in common, no storyline and no controlling direction. From this came hours and hours of footage in every format imaginable from which someone had to make a film…

Still image from Patrizia Tonello's animation Underpass Motel
Still image from Patrizia Tonello’s animation Underpass Motel

Those “someones” were Patrizia Tonello and Graham Taylor. Their participation was noted in a press release which said “Pivotal to the creation of the movie trailers was the involvement of Graham Taylor and Patrizia Tonello. Graham …3D animation, web and graphic design. Patrizia, a well known local artist, brought not only artistic skills to the project but found herself developing great editing and film skills. …Together they created a world that has incorporated Stuart’s themes and iconography, weaving a story about a story about a yellow suitcase that keeps appearing, a case that is baffling police…”.

What that doesn’t tell you about is the thousands of hours of creative editing which turned a disparate pile of disks into The Underpass Motel. It’s pretty easy to miss that they made a story where there was none. It doesn’t mention that working within a group of eight single minded artists can be far more difficult than attempting to herd cats. It doesn’t tell you anything about their own animation – computer generated by Graham and stop motion puppetry by Patrizia. Nor does it say that they also created the posters, the packaging design and the booklet which accompanies the dvd.

And while all this was going on Patrizia was, like the rest of us, painting and sculpting for the exhibition. Hardly surprising then that only 9 of the 111 works being shown are hers. In the catalogue we see 8 paintings and one sculpture. There are also some of the sets used in her film which are being shown with the others in a room behind the main gallery space. Not listed: is the film itself. Nowhere does it say that Patrizia is a tenacious and talented filmmaker deserving more than an ordinary place in the list of collaborators. Nor that without her and Graham The Underpass Motel would be just a pile of disks. We need to keep that in mind for ourselves when we are watching the video or seeking out her work. Make the effort. Her puppet, a little old man, is to be found sitting on the edge of her set – look for him – he’s exquisite.

See you there,

Patrizia Tonnello is represented by Gallery East in North Fremantle – details of current work can be found there. Her own website shows a wonderful visual history of her work.

Graham Taylor’s website includes both still images and animation.

The Underpass Motel exhibition is showing at the Turner Galleries until the 7th November 2009.

The Underpass Motel DVD is also available from the project’s website.


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