Oscar Romp

Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.
J. Ruskin

Unstill lives is a series of pictures which arose from my love of music and of dancing to music at soul, funk and jazz danceclubs.

I cannot make music, but I can draw dancers dancing to music. I can imply the kind of music being played by the rhythms, tones and energy of the marks I make. Dance, in all of its forms, is about drawing with the body, so for me, dancers are a natural subject for drawing. The resulting pictures are not just about recording visually various dance moves and steps. I am concerned with evoking the atmosphere of the clubs.

In these images, I evoke the excitement and rituals of the dance event, where it seems ordinary life is left suspended upstairs at the street level and the TV is turned off. It is not just about recording dancers at an event as a camera would do; it is about capturing the emational and imaginative aspects of the event. I am not interested in caturing a facial likeness when I draw people — a camera can do this better. I isolate and dramatise the physical characteristics of the dancers and their movement mannerisms. Photography alone can't do this — it's a human, organic process.

The busy club scenes depicted in Unstill lives were created at my favourite jazz dance club called the The Hi Hat", hosted by Snowboy and Phil Levine and located firstly at the Blue Note and then the Jazz Cafe in London. The jazz dance flag has been kept flying recently at "Shiftless Shuffle" in Soho, hosted by Perry Louis and his famous Jazzcotech dancers. Here tunes from Miles Davis, Cal Dtjaeder, Fela Kuti and Tubby Hayes rub shoulders with tunes from Sergio Mendez, Pucho, Manchester's Inner Sense and the mighty Snowboy himself. The event is co-promoted by music magazine, "Straight No Chaser".

First, I tape the paper to the dance floor or to an adjacent wall. I then work with broad sweeps of charcoal, establishing the composition inside the dingy club rooms. The direction and nature of the light is always changing with the music, sometimes soft and oily, sometimes harsh and angular.

I find that somehow my excitement about the music and dance is transposed into the picture's composition and the drawing that constructs my dancers.

The excited marks and rendering suggest figures in motion: speed, light, smokey rhythm, stomping feet, whirling arms and spinning bodies.