Painting the Play

As WTD Theatre prepares to present The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson, Sean Worrall speaks to the artist, Daphne Flynn about creating our poster image.

The artist, Daphne Flynn, was commissioned to create an original painting for use in our publicity material. Here, she speaks about her signature style of painting and the challenges of creating art for theatre makers.


“I’ve been interested and engaged in art for as long as I can remember. Professionally, I have worked in the design field all of my adult life, but I guess I only began to think of myself as an ‘artist’; when I began painting about 7 years ago. In terms of inspiration, I love classics like Van Gogh for the emotion he brings, and the energetic expressions of Jackson Pollock. David Hockney’s colours really appeal to me and, most recently, I have been inspired by the photographic effects created by Marcel Heijnen. But like many artists, it took me a while to find a style that I could call my own.

When I first began painting I mostly created visually representative images, usually inspired by my travels. But then I moved into a freer style, constructing images and meaning from pure chance. Basically I begin with some splodges of acrylic paint on a canvas, then I turn away from it, and drag a simple pole across it. When I turn back, I look for meaning in what is left behind, and start from there.

Perhaps because I am a designer at heart, I love to start with a brief and explore directions within it. So I guess I brought this mindset to my painting. I like the idea of setting down a foundation and letting that inspire the direction of the image – it feels very ‘me’, and discovering that has been liberating.

But this is the first time I have created original art for theatre makers, and that has felt quite challenging. Obviously one needs to convey a sense of the play’s narrative, so balancing my random style with that requirement made me a bit anxious. Initially I tried to sketch out a couple of ideas with the guys at Wag the Dog, but I was struggling because it was too prescriptive for my technique. And they just said: “Look, we love what you do, and we trust the process, so go for it and let’s see what happens”; So I did and, almost miraculously, the images of the three girls and their mother just appeared. Then I filled in some details and finally found a moment when I said “Okay stop, Daphne, that’s enough!”.

Obviously I read the play a few times before I started, and it really resonated with me in several ways. It’s a sensitive piece dealing with some very emotional issues, but the use of humour is very appealing. There are moments when you don’t know whether to laugh out loud, or cry, but I think life is like that sometimes isn’t it? And like the characters in the play, I also come from a family with very different personalities, and sometimes different agendas. We’ve definitely been through some roller coaster emotional events ourselves, and also confronted that pain of losing our mother.

I’m really looking forward to watching the play now, and see how they bring it to life on stage. Going through the process of creating original art for the production has been really rewarding for me, and I hope that other visual artists can get more involved with theatre makers. I think this sort of collaboration brings a richer diversity to the arts scene – different voices, different inputs. We’re all artists working on a shared stage really, so it can only further enrich the Singapore arts scene.”

Daphne Flynn

Daphne Flynn 

Born in Malta and raised in Australia, Daphne’s passion for the arts began while studying art then design in Melbourne. Daphne has spent most of her professional life overseas, for a large part in the Asia region.

The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson is showing at the Drama Centre, Black Box, from 30 June to 9 July. Tickets available through SISTIC.

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