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The Creation of Torrit Smoke

by on July 12, 2011
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“The Creation of Torrit Smoke” is so simple an idea I’m astonished it’s never been done before. Or if it has, I haven’t seen or heard of it.

J. Wakeford Francis’ documentary short is a portrait of a painter and a painting. Over the course of several months, the cameras follow Blakely Dadson as he begins a new work, whose title gives the film its title, and he struggles to complete it. It includes extensive use of time-lapse photography, so we see this large, complex painting take shape in sudden, thrilling bursts of activity.

We also see it change and regress and, at one point, I felt like jumping through the screen and forcibly preventing Dadson from altering his art any further.

Dadson is not like the average painter who thinks of a subject before sitting and painting it. Coming from a graffiti background, he combines the spontaneity of that street-art world with the carefully planned crafting of the expert forger. To wit: Dadson incorporates images from other paintings, pop culture or illustrations in his work.

At one point, he even uses an overhead projector to create a lighted image of the Virgin Mary on his painting, then carefully traces over the lines with his brushes. Is this art theft? Aggregation? Inspiration? As Dadson notes, Andy Warhol pretty much nixed the chances that he would be sued for creating art in this way.

“I don’t feel like a creator, more of a composer. So this is like my hit single,” says Dadson, who lives in Portland and has a pleasant, slightly fuzzy vibe to him.

It’s an interesting subject, but Francis’ doc suffers from not letting us find out more about Dadson, other than he had some early success in his painting career and works part-time at Trader Joe’s just for the health insurance and to get away from other artists.

“The Creation of Torrit Smoke” is a novel enterprise, but the film needed to fill out the edges of its portrait.

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