A Trip to Tativille with Bren Luke April 10 2024


Bren Luke is an artist/illustrator living and working in Ballarat, Victoria, specialising in pen and ink drawings using a finely detailed cross-hatching and stippling technique. Bren's work often reflects upon urban scapes and glimpses of everyday life in the not so distant past as well as in contemporary life.

“Bren reacquaints us with the quiet vibrancy of things. First we notice the painstaking intricacy of his work, but then we settle into poignant moments that gently transport us to Tokyo and Meredith, to classic jazz and cinema. Yet as faithfully as he renders architecture and emotion, he invites us to see these faces and scenes anew, often from surprising angles. In the process he restores the inherent delicacy of the world around us: a hypnotic latticework of curves and contours.” - Doug Wallen, 2020

Artist statement:

My 'Tativille' series of drawings is an exploration and celebration of the wonderful cinematic world created by French actor, director, screenwriter and producer Jacques Tati. In the scenes depicted in these 17 drawings I endeavoured to capture the spirit of Tati's films: his gentle humour, the intricate visual poetry he found in traffic jams and the carefully choreographed clogged up roundabouts that he transformed into merry-go-rounds. The endless skies and fluffy clouds surrounding the futuristic glass and steel of the new modernist world and the characters trying their best to navigate their way through the mazes. The serenity of innocence. The fun and beauty to be found by observing everyday life around us.

Bren's show opens April 19.

Interview by Gab Lewis. Images supplied by Bren Luke.

Welcoming back Bren Luke once more to Outré Gallery! Tell our viewers what they can expect to see this time from your upcoming solo show Tativille.

Thanks! It's so thrilling to be exhibiting again at Outré! This exhibition features 17 drawings exploring and celebrating the innovative work of French filmmaker and actor Jacques Tati. The drawings are of mostly iconic scenes from the films Jour de Fete (1949), Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953), Mon Oncle (1958), Playtime (1967) and Trafic (1971) and are made with pen and ink using a combination of crosshatching and stipple/pointillism. I've also added a few select areas of gouache painted block colours in some of the works. Hopefully the work in the exhibition brings joy to fans of Tati's films and inspires those unfamiliar with his films to go and explore them!

What captured your attention to prompt a Jacques Tati inspired series?

I've enjoyed watching Tati's films since watching Mon Oncle on DVD in my late twenties and the idea of working on a series inspired by scenes in the films has been in the back of my mind in recent years, perhaps prompted by SBS television recently airing some of the films on its World Movie channel.

While I was researching the films I learned so many things about Tati and his creative style which really endeared me to his work. I love that he had an enormous, specially constructed set and background stage, known as "Tativille", built which included movable scale model modernist skyscrapers and cardboard cutouts of people in backgrounds, which become more conspicuous after a few viewings! I love how his characters interact with spaces and objects within the scenes and how they seem lost in the bustle of the newly modernized world. Hopefully the drawings portray a sense of joy, satire and occasional melancholy moods in the films.


Your works have a wonderful cinematic quality, certainly lending itself to the thematic parameters of this exhibition! How do you reach these captivating compositions? Can you give us an insight to the initial stages of your process?

With these works it really is a case of thank you to Tati for creating the wonderful compositions. The initial research for the series involved watching the films and screenshotting potential scenes to draw. The choice of scenes was dependent on which screen-shots I could see working best as compositions suited to my drawing style. For some, I would work on a basic sketchbook pencil drawing to get a feel for the composition before committing to the drawing. Some of the drawings needed more sparse stippling or some needed deep crosshatching dependent on the spaces and light in the scene, I'd say that's what most of my preparation and planning goes into, but even then I don't really know for sure if/how the drawing will work until I'm inking it.

It definitely teaches you about the elements of captivating composition and space when you're drawing cinematic scenes and I can only admire and pay my respect to the incredible talents of the filmmaker and cinematographer for that! I also have to say that the incredible 5 volume book by Alison Castle 'The Definitive Jacques Tati' was an invaluable research source.

Your work often depicts urban scapes and captures moments of the everyday; what draws you to focus on these scenes?

Yes, that's certainly a theme that's run through most of my work to date and I suppose that's also what attracted me to the Tati films as subjects.

Particularly the film Playtime where there is no plot line as such, it's mostly a study in humans interacting with and navigating their way around the new modern spaces of the time - the modern airport, offices, apartments and the carousel of cars at the huge roundabout. I love the dizzying whirl of people and objects that characterises every scene in that film.

There's a quote I found which is very instructive where Tati says: "Film making is a pen, paper, and hours of watching people and the world around you. Nothing more."

What is your recipe for a successful studio day, or what does a typical working day in the life look like?

A typical working day for me involves lots of coffee and trying hard to not be distracted by our dog Morty!

I have a semi-regular routine that works around my caring duties for my mum and if I get at least 5 hours drawing a day done I'm happy. These days I think it's just as important to be flexible time-wise than overly regimented.

Do you have any failsafe remedies for artist's block or any influences, films, music you can turn to that reignite your creative flame?

I like to listen to records while I work, mostly instrumental based cinematic soundtracks. Some records just inspire a state of flow while you're working along to them.

Recently I've been listening to a lot of British Jazz from the 1960's - people like Ian Carr and Joe Harriot as well as the more experimental sounds of Basil Kirchin.
I also found a brilliant double LP compilation of all the soundtrack music to Tati's films composed mostly by Francis Lemarque and Charles Dumont which was so great to work along to.

When I'm at a dead end the best thing I find is to get outside and take Morty for a walk to clear my head a bit. If you're feeling an artistic block I find it's really helpful to allow yourself, if possible, the time and space to refresh away from the drawing board and the pens.

Contrast in light, immense detail and striking composition has become part of your visual vocabulary. What has helped to shape this distinctive Bren Luke style?

Early on I was inspired to draw in the detailed crosshatch style demonstrated by Albrecht Durer and also Robert Crumb. I later came across the work of Australian born printmaker Martin Lewis whose intricate scenes of everyday life in and around New York in the 1920s really inspired me to become more daring and varied in my line making. His nocturnal scenes are absolutely stunning. He was friends with Edward Hopper and you can see the influence on his work too.

Your work features enormous levels of detail as well as moments of restraint particularly in the more recent inclusion of colour, a fine balance! Is the design aspect prominent in your practice before beginning the drawing stages?

The introduction of some block colour elements to the drawings has been fun! At first I was a little hesitant in painting directly onto the pen and inked drawing surface but luckily the first effort worked surprisingly well and gave me some confidence to experiment with the colour areas in more drawings. I enjoy the painterly results of what gouache can achieve particularly with flat/block colour and I've been wanting to combine drawing and painting in some form for a little while now. It is something that I spent more time thinking about before I began the drawing, planning out where I can use the right colour in the right space. Tati's colour films have so many vibrant primary and secondary colours throughout them so it was definitely important to me to include some of those colour elements in the drawings. But yes, it was a fine balance sometimes and restraint was needed when I was painting, it's way too easy for me to get carried away when I've got a brush in my hand!

How was the process of these series different from perhaps working from your own photographed reference material, were there challenges that arose from this?

I think the main challenge I had regarding reference material was choosing the right combination of scenes across the scope of Tati films and presenting a good representation of scenes. I probably had about ten more scenes I could have chosen to draw, so it was rich pickings for choice.

What's next for you, Bren Luke? What do you have in store for your practice?

I'll be continuing to work on the occasional private commission drawing and commercial illustration as well as work on my own artworks and

I'm hoping to exhibit some more work late this year, early next year, but nothing is set in stone at the moment. Maybe I'll work on some more painting within the drawings? I'm still thinking about themes for a new series...maybe I'll go take Morty for another walk..!

Thanks for chatting with us, Bren! See you at the show!