Steps to a Painting: Silent Hill 3

While the overall mood to Silent Hill 2 was that of abandonment, melancholy, and restrained use of blood and rust to provide the player with a sense of dread and unease, Silent Hill 3 accomplishes this by dialing up the blood/rustometer to 1000. Some fans of the Silent Hill series think Silent Hill 3 was a bit of a disappointment compared to the gaming demigod that is Silent Hill 2, but I love both games, for different reasons.

What’s most immediately noticeable about Silent Hill 3 is that it features the first (and so far only) female protagonist in the series- Heather Mason!

I really liked Heather as a character and protagonist- she’s cheeky, sarcastic, and pretty normal. It was nice to play a (comparatively) normal person in a Silent Hill game, after *Spoiler* playing as a dude that smothered his sick wife to death with a pillow in the previous installment. By all appearances, Heather is a normal teenaged girl, seemingly swept up in a series of random, nightmarish events. I won’t get into too much detail about the story, but basically, Heather is beckoned to the eerie town of Silent Hill by the frightening religious cult that resides there, and who are intent on her serving as a “holy vessel” to birth their nightmarish ‘God.’

I found this scenario to be profoundly disturbing, and also refreshing because it’s a uniquely feminine fear- to have something evil, unwanted, growing inside your body that you have no control over- that is surviving off of you. The way that the game repeats this theme throughout , through environments, motifs, and of course, the monsters, is also fascinating and is what people love about the Silent Hill series.

For instance, some environments of the game are seemingly designed to be womb-like. The walls in the “nightmare” environments (every environment in the game has a parallel nightmare version of it) often pulsate and writhe.

image via Gaming Update

Hospitals are a major motif:

And, of course, the more literal. Try to imagine that as anything other than a gaping vagina. You even have to jump down into it to fight the final boss.

Wallpaper courtesy of Parrafahell

Around the time that I played Silent Hill 3 for the first time, I painted this:

-Megan Koth- Sinister Womb- 2008?

I took the main theme of the game that I found so frightening- the idea of a womb festering something evil and destructive. I used acrylic- mostly fluid acrylic, to complete this painting. Playing Silent Hill just makes me want to play with red, rusty colors- so I used those in abundance. I tried to make the painting look womb-like, and the cobalt “crosses” in the painting are reflective of the religious themes of the game. I only realized this later on, as I didn’t include them intentionally at the time I painted this. I did start the painting with Silent Hill in mind, though. I also included some found objects, including some (fake) fingernails in the upper left. For a long time, this was seriously my favorite painting of mine. Looking at it now, I still like it, but more in a nostalgic way. Then again, that’s pretty much the best way any artist can feel about a painting they did in high school.

Exploring the world of Silent Hill is a real (creepy) delight. I highly recommend checking out the series if you can find a used copy of Silent Hill 3 (or 2). It’s critically acclaimed for a reason, people! They’re especially delightful if you enjoy puzzles. These aren’t “move this statue to find something behind it” puzzles we’re talkin’ about here. They can be really challenging and bizarre. Like, “somehow I have to accomplish something with this wax doll and a strand of hair I found in a box with like 1000 locks on it.” That kind of puzzle.

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Steps to a Painting: Silent Hill 2

If Ico is the golden boy of gaming, then the Konami classic Silent Hill 2 is its weird, twisted, but equally brilliant cousin. The Silent Hill series (at least Silent Hill 2 and 3) is noted for its intriguing sense of atmosphere, its unique level of scariness, and especially for its use of realistic , deeply damaged characters. And they look like real people you could meet in real life! No gratuitous breast physics!

                

Especially not on James here.

My introduction to the series was Silent Hill 2, which centers around a man named James who is beckoned to the creepy, seemingly abandoned town of Silent Hill by a letter from his wife Mary. Problem is, she supposedly died 3 years ago. The player must control James as he explores the town looking for Mary, meeting a few interesting characters along the way, including Maria, a sexualized doppelganger of his late wife.

The whore to Mary’s virgin, as it were. This use of archetypal and Freudian elements is rife in the game, most notably in the designs of the game’s monsters, who seem to symbolize certain frustrations and repressed desires of James’s.

Freud would have a field day (and Hans Belmer would sue)

I don’t wanna spoil too much of the story, (even though its a very old game so its past the OMGspoilerz stage) but lets just say that James’ desire to be punished is a huge element of the game (and reason for the presence of the monsters.) In fact, the town itself is a sort of purgatory for Silent Hill‘s characters to acknowledge and be punished for their “sins.” Around the time I played Silent Hill 2 for the first time, I painted this:

               

Megan Koth  -Masochism- 2007

Pretty sure I did this back in 2007. Wow, that’s old. But anyway, yes, a video game directly inspired this painting. The concept was inspired by the overall theme of the game: James’ repressed desire for self-punishment, hence the wires that I actually sewed through the canvas. The color scheme was pretty directly drawn from that classic Silent Hill-esque texture of blood and rust. Pretty much every surface in the game looks like it could give you tetanus or any number of infections.

Of course, that doesn’t stop James form jumping into dirty holes.

The texture and colors are also reminiscent of the fleshy monsters in the game, as I tried to make the painting look like a sort of skin.

Even though it’s old, I actually still really like this painting. The way that the wires grabbed and pooled the paint was a neat effect. It’s something that I even went on to explore further in my work.  And to think it was (partly) conceptually and aesthetically inspired by a video game! *clutches pearls*

But seriously do yourself a favor and go find a used copy of Silent Hill 2. It’s an art and or psych student’s wet dream.

Steps to a Painting: Ico

Ico is kind of the golden boy of the gaming world. Whenever people on the internet want to get into an intense discussion arguing for the legitimacy of games as art, Ico is often the first to be mentioned. And it’s no surprise, given that this is how it looks:

                              

                                 Ico and Yorda

The story, gameplay, and music are elegantly simple. You play as Ico, a young boy who is taken from his village to be (sacrificed? at least imprisoned) in a strange, huge castle. Why? He was born with horns.  The setting is deliberately non-specific, existing in some kind of nethertime, and the sparse dialogue is in a made-up language. Once the player helps Ico escape from his imprisoned state, he is free to explore the castle, where he quickly encounters a young girl named Yorda, who is being pursued by a group of shadow-monsters. Armed only with a stick and simple swinging motions, the player must fight more of these monsters as they guide both Yorda and Ico in an escape from the castle.

That’s basically it, as far as the story goes. But,that isn’t really it, because there’s a magic to the experience of playing Ico that is very emotionally moving to any who play it. Small details in the game, like how the player can make Ico take Yorda’s hand to lead her around the environment, create a sense of attachment to her. Many players say that in playing Ico they wouldn’t run while holding hands with Yorda, and instead chose to walk with her because they felt bad jerking her around. I did. It’s a pretty big deal when a game can make a player stop and deliberately slow down because they feel bad about jerking a character about that doesn’t even exist. And the impact is that much deeper when we’re the one in control of moving through a narrative, as opposed to watching one play out, as in, say, a movie.

So,long story short, I love Ico and around the time I was playing it, I painted this:

                          Pointe Du Hoc

I can immediately notice the similar use of color and lighting: the bright greens and intense,glowing whites in the landscape. However, not so obvious is my use of one of the chief experiences of the game: feeling very small. In playing Ico, the camera frequently zooms far away from Ico, to where you’re overwhelmed by the enormity of the world that you’re exploring, something that games from the PS2 era frequently shied away from, adding to the unprecedented sense of atmosphere and vastness that Ico provided.

Far away

In looking for screenshots to use in this post, I even came across one that shows a striking similarity in general composition to my painting:

The gates

So, I’m not saying that Ico was the only impetus for this painting; it definitely wasn’t. However, I can identify the subconscious influence that that gaming experience had on what I decided to paint, and how I tend to like to depict landscapes in general. I don’t think that a painting is ever the product of a single observation/experience/etc. It’s always an amalgamation of things collected from different times, places, and experiences. And I know that a definite influence on how I treat landscape in my work  has been my experience in the rich, vast world of Ico.

‘Steps to…’ will be an ongoing series of posts in which I focus on a single painting of mine and explore a single (unexpected) influence on said work.