The Two Faces of January; Patricia Highsmith
Inkjet on watercolour paper
90 x 67.5 centimetres
Patricia Highsmith, the American expatriate writer who spent the latter half of her life in Europe, had a dark and complex personality that was reflected in the psychological narratives of her novels. These are themes that are hard to transpose into visual images, and rather than passing on the opportunity of commenting upon Highsmith’s work I opted for the simple solution of depicting the quarrelling threesome from The Two Faces of January in an environment that most Australians are familiar with, the sidewalk cafe, instead of the Greek bars and cafes of the novel. Chester, the sharply dressed alcoholic conman in the suit accuses the man he is reliant on in avoiding the law, Rydal, of sleeping with his wife while she attempts to placate him. The scholarly but equally shady and younger Rydal, in contrast to Chester’s sartorial formality, is dressed and posed like an errant teenager tensely waiting to respond to the accusation.
The composition relies upon the positioning of the hands, placed centrally in the frame, and the positioning of the feet, as much as where the eyes are directed to tell the story. This strategy is designed to avoid the crude characterisations typical of 3D modelling facial expressions which quickly result in comic exaggerations. The street reflected in the cafe window is in a historic town in central Tasmania, an ironic nod to the ancient Greek ruins visited in the novel and the name of the cafe elliptically suggests the aura of doom that hangs over the trio.The Two Faces of January: Existential Ennui