Self-referential, infinitely intriguing and impossible to pin down David Lynch: The Art Life reveals much whilst still retaining its most treasured secret. Martin Carr takes a closer look…
There is a certain beauty to be attained from watching an artist at work. Moulding, mixing and sculpting inspiration through their manipulation of materials. Better yet when that work is in an unfamiliar medium changing perceptions and engaging simultaneously. Which is exactly what happens throughout David Lynch: The Art Life.
By following a young Lynch at pivotal moments in his artistic journey, we are able to link burgeoning artist with impresario director seamlessly. Directors Jon Nguyen and Rick Barnes have captured Lynch in his element crafting paintings and sculpture oblivious to the camera. That this might remain at odds with the public persona, due to his reputation for creating surreal and horrific masterpieces, need not colour the man personally.
This revelation is one of the more revealing things they capture here, as Lynch the director and Lynch the artist seem to be two different people. His use of abstract imagery and themes in film may share similarities, but there is a sense of separation. In documenting Lynch and his travels during those formative years you feel a sense of dislocation between himself and the world around him. Even at seventy years old there exists a restless, driven, vividly challenging individual who relishes carving his art into the rock face.
Watching him work you see how tactile and abrasive those visions are as he fights with materials. Bending wire, drilling holes, moulding putty and making those paintings breathe. Heedless of distractions, perpetually drawing on a never ending cigarette, he finds the essence then wrestles it from thin air. Nguyen and Barnes intercut conversational voice over with music by Jonathan Bengta that puts you on edge yet compliments the subject perfectly. Add to this his musical contributions laced in behind the scenes and suddenly Lynch’s Art Life becomes something else entirely.
From that point on it morphs into performance art which is at once mesmeric yet abstractly challenging, Lynch essentially becoming the centre piece of his own installation. Self-referential, infinitely intriguing and impossible to pin down David Lynch: The Art Life reveals much whilst still retaining its most treasured secret. At no point losing any of Lynch’s mystique or magnetism, leaving you wiser but not savvy, informed but not disillusioned. Similar to Anton Corbijn’s Inside Out, David Lynch: The Art Life allows the audience to retain a respect for its subject, without bursting their bubble of adulation or intellectual hero worship. A worthy accolade to have earned bearing in mind the subject matter.