“Creating a New Visual Reality”: Dark and Cinematic Illustrations by Katherine Lam
It was Jacques Tourneur’s film I Walked with a Zombie that sparked illustrator Katherine Lam’s interest in the history of cinema, the gate that lead her to the films of the likes of Hitchcock, Bergman, Kurosawa and Tarkovsky.
Classic cinema opened up a new visual world and the possibility to experiment with art in ever changing ways, and, most importantly, in ways that are specific to the medium of illustration – because artists who choose to create in a visual medium should accept and pursue the challenges of form-creating work, Katherine believes. Bernie Fuchs, whose creative restlessness was one of his biggest assets, and Edward Hopper, the visual bard of American solitude and a masterful painter of light and shadow, are two other big influences on her work.
An element of surprise permeates Katherine Lam’s art. Her illustrations have a distinctive mood, she has a way of working suspense and voyeurism into her pieces, beautifully contrasting dark corners and streaks of light. Hitchcock comes to mind again – his suspenseful visual narrative tactics remain unmatched to this day. Katherine invests her pieces with a sense of suddenness in sights that compress time, her subjects feel taken by surprise, and we, the viewers, are too, from afar. It’s as if we are waiting for something to happen and the moment keeps being prolonged. And it all happens in a single image. That’s the work of a true visual storyteller.