The Lecter Legend

Tonight NBC are set to release a brand new series entitled Hannibal. The show will explore the relationship between Hannibal Lecter and FBI forensic psychologist Will Graham. These roles are being played consecutively by Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy. There will also be notable appearances by Laurence Fishburne who will playing Special Agent Jack Crawford and Gillian Anderson as Dr. Du Maurier, Lecter’s psychotherapist. The show was commissioned and confirmed for, an unusual, thirteen episodes. With the glossy promotional trailer it seems that Hannibal is back with a sultry swagger. With the gaining buzz around the series the question arises as to why the legend of Lecter still arouses such interest more than thirty years after the character was first introduced to us by author Thomas Harris?

The answer lies in the blood-stained chronicles of a charming yet extremely dangerous man that we have come to know through both the books and movies. Red Dragon (1981) covers the dramatic relationship between Lecter and Graham. Each opponent manages to inflict deep wounds on each other in both a physical and psychological capacity. The reader is left with the impression that Hannibal Lecter is ruthless in his endeavors and gruesomely exact in his vengeful retributions. It is also evident that he can hold a grudge. The next novel was The Silence of the Lambs (1988) where we see Lecter assume a seemingly helpful, if twisted, demeanor. His appreciation for manners is shown and through his attitude to Clarice Starling we come to understand that he can also truly adore certain women. The novel Hannibal(1999) takes this theme to the extreme and the twisted seduction evolves into a strange story of love, passion and control. The final book to be written and a precursor to everything was Hannibal Rising (2006) which brings the contributing factors of Lecter’s penchant for consuming his prey to the fore. The novel weaves an intricate tapestry of love, loss, lust and longing that leads to a complex depiction of the character that is Lecter.

The film versions of the novels mainly stayed close to the narrative. The first film to feature Lecter was called Manhunter (1986) and starred Brian Cox in the lead role. Cox portrayed Hannibal in a physical and powerful way. However, it was the performance of Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) that seemed to cement the character in the consciousness of the viewer. He showed us a sharp tongued seducer with a taste for the bloody and a vicious undertone resided in every sentence he uttered. Hopkins reprised the role for Hannibal (2001) which was directed by Ridley Scott. This adaptation significantly veered away from the narrative of the novel. The film maintains the characterization set up when Lecter and Starling met initially and foregoes the grotesque scenes of the ending chapters of the book. Finally, Hannibal Rising (2006), with Gaspard Ulliel in the lead role, tells the tale as told in the novel of the same name explaining Hannibal’s origin. Taking us right back to the character.

I remember the first time I came into contact with the macabre material. I was probably too young to be watching The Silence of the Lambs but my eyes were glued to the screen as the thrilling and terrifying story about a young female FBI agent, a weird skin loving creep and the sinister, yet at times, sweet Hannibal unfurled in front of me. By the end of the film I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in the FBI just like Clarice Starling. A number of factors stood in my way, I’m really short, I live across the Atlantic and I definitely wasn’t a U.S. citizen so that dream was ended as abruptly as the squealing of the lambs. Yet, through writing I found a way to enter that world. Now I create and control men like Lecter day in, day out. The result is a fascination with learning how such a character can come to be. I hope this series sheds some new light on the charismatic killer and oh, by the way NBC – you had me at Hannibal.

Poe Revisited

poeThe first time I came into contact with the works of Edgar Allan Poe was the gruesome day of the tacks. My older cousin, Kevin, carefully plotted to play a trick on me. Strategically he arranged an entire box of brass tacks upwards on the floor so that the pointy spikes glinted heavenwards. He yelled for me urgently and my ten year old self ran heavily into the room barefoot. The screams were loud and many tears flowed as Kevin had to shakily remove the embedded spikes. As an apology and in a hopeful bid to buy my silence he told me to pick a book from his shelf to keep. Kevin knew I was already a dedicated, fully fledged bookworm. My eyes scanned the spines of each book excitedly. I remember seeing a lot of Terry Pratchett books and The Hobbit. My eyes finally settled upon Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe. I had never read any Poe and now the book still sits on my shelf. It is well worn, continuously revisited and serves as a reminder never to walk around barefoot.

I was saddened to read recently that the Poe House and Museum in Baltimore was vandalized. Having lost its curator when it was closed last September a number of incidents have raised concern. Since the closure reports that the front steps have been stolen and the exterior has been defaced with graffiti have emerged. However, hope is on the horizon with local groups pulling together to come up with a way to make the building self sufficient. Poe Baltimore, a nonprofit organization, is aiming to take over the operational issues entailed in maintaining the museum. They will also endeavor to raise the annual operating budget. I can’t stress how important it is to keep museums like this alive. To be able to see how and where great authors worked can give us an insight into the context of their writings. These places aren’t simply shrines they are architectural educational tools. They are present history. They are places that must be visited and revisited time and time again. They must be cherished as artifacts as much as the treasures they house.

An Interview with an Artist

Belfast based sculptor Patrick Colhoun discusses his work and what drives him to create his dark art. Originally trained as a ceramicist Colhoun now incorporates black clay, hosiery, piercings, latex and metal spikes in his sculptures and installations. Contemporary and provocative Colhoun has a talent that is sure to create conversation… 

Can you pinpoint the motivation to create sculptures?

My motivation to make sculpture came when I was unable to play rugby because of injury. I wanted to find something that gave me the same satisfaction that competitive sport gave me and it turned out surprisingly to be ceramics. I had always loved art as a child and I had done some lathe work with my father when I was a young boy so for some reason I was drawn initially to the potter’s wheel. After that I started hand-building sculptures. I have no formal art education. The wonderful thing is that it can go wherever I want it to, so I want to see how far I can take it.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My motivation is many and varied. My first exhibition coincided with redundancy after a twenty year career and I found it very therapeutic to make work around this very negative experience. I liked the reaction that I got to the darker work and started using ever darker subject matter. After that early work was influenced by subjects such as death, decay, containment and sexual deviancy. This became the total antithesis to my previous career and the subject matter gave me the opportunity to develop almost an alter ego. Later on, when my father passed away I tried to use my work in a therapeutic way to help me through this and inspiration came from this in several ways, mainly in the fact that I was determined to succeed but on my own terms, traits that he would relate to and approve of. Also much of my work is in the form of truncated heads and torsos. These started almost as a partial self portrait in terms of a downward looking, brooding, grieving head but developed to a degree to relate to the inability of men to express themselves properly and to find their voice. The introduction of materials such as latex, hosiery and piercings really started to add an edge to my work, to the point where the pierced heads won an award, the Signature Art Awards in London in 2011.

What are the main difficulties you experience while you are working and how do you cope with them?

I juggle constantly with the work in terms of trying to keep a signature to my work but without it getting too boring or repetitive. It is important that people recognize your work but there has to be a constant development to it also. The introduction of other materials such as red hosiery on the Pigskin piece keeps the work fresh and also introduces an element not generally associated with ceramics.

You work with a variety of materials in a multi-disciplinary fashion how do you manage working on sculptures, installations and commissions simultaneously?

The making process allows different pieces to be worked on simultaneously as the work is built as it goes through a drying process. Also a lot of the work is related in terms of content, so an installation may pull in several pieces of previously made work.

Other than ceramic what is you favored material?

I worked in wood a lot when I was younger as it was what my father did but nothing for me beats clay. It was my way of standing apart from him to a degree. I love the challenge of doing what I do in what is a very conservative, craft based ceramics market and doing it differently, to the point where it may actually cause slight offense in terms of subject matter and content. For me the edgier the better, but yet at the heart of it all for me there needs to be a level of skill and a quality in what I am doing.

Where can your work be viewed?

My work can be seen in Canvas Galleries in Belfast and I am about to start showing with a gallery in Harrogate. Also on my website

What advice would give to those with a creative passion who would like to promote their work?

In my opinion you cannot beat the satisfaction of making something with your hands and someone then likes that piece. I think if someone is that way inclined, just to keep making and to find their audience. It may take a bit of time, but if the quality is there, it will happen.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I have reached a point where I am evaluating where my work should go from here. I have had a lot of positives in the last year and I would like to build on those. I am looking to do more international exhibitions in the future and I will continue to strive to make unique work, to keep dividing opinion and to keep loving what I am doing.

To see more artwork or to contact Patrick Colhoun please visit the website 
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