Friday, March 2, 2012

Grisaille, ailes grises and gray trees

Grayscale is often used to support a bleak atmosphere in virtually any visual medium. I am therefore, going out on a limb when i propose a couple of examples in modern media which seem to have been more specifically influenced by the grisaille painting style. Still, artists are, after all, drawing on a much wider knowledge of artistic examples. To them, style seems to be not so much a nebulous collection of ideas as it appears to me as a mere viewer but a series of influences, some stronger than others. It doesn't seem so farfetched that the following anime and game would have been created with a strong awareness of the possibility of adapting a painting style to modern media.

First up: Haibane Renmei (linked to the Anime News Network page and not the official site because i don't want to pretend i speak Japanese). I have to wonder if the use of the french subtitle 'une fille qui a des ailes grises' is not only an internal reference but also a little joke by Yoshitoshi ABe which would confirm my theory. Certainly the palette used through most of the series and the original comic is not strictly greyscale, but the lack of sharp contrasts, the feel that the story is only a gradation on a continuum of events in the mysterious, isolated little town, the subtlety and gradual transitions, the doggedly sedate pacing of the whole thing all seem too coincidental.

The second example is Diablo, a game dating from the times of yore when Blizzard Entertainment, despite dumbing down gameplay, had not completely abandoned the idea of quality. Here it really is the palette itself that makes me think one of the visual artists was reliving his art-school days. Granted, the limited technology of the time made complexity all but impossible, but most games, including Blizzard's own Warcraft series, took the opposite route, banking on humorously cartoonish, garishly colorful graphics. Diablo not only used bleak monochromes as backgrounds, but also a technologically unnecessary stillness, a lifeless, dusty, stifling atmosphere. Other 'goth' games of around the same time like Planescape:Torment with its bleak, despairing mausoleum, trash warrens and the like, still used moving backgrounds or critters scurrying about to create atmosphere.

Well, there you have it. Mock me for a tin-hat conspiracy theorist if you will, but i'll stick by my crazy notions until the artists themselves show up to tell me they weren't trying to adapt Bosch for the computer age.

No comments:

Post a Comment