The terms tough guy and tough man are generally defined as a person who is strong or resilient; a durable, often pugnacious and of undoubted resolution and resilience, able to deal with hard or difficult situations or a hard life. Both tend to bring to mind the hard-boned loner – cowboy, warrior, etc., perhaps battling the odds. Someone of a disposition to be reckoned with.
All of this is true enough, as far as it goes. But the “tough” part of these terms isn’t just about being a hard man, a fighter, or similar, or in having to show any particular prowess off. The genuine “tough man” is a person of confidence, understanding, and strength of conviction and ethics such that he is willing to do the right thing; he is a person that doesn’t see the need to hide behind façades of toughness or be afraid to should emotions or vulnerability.
It is these latter points that make Hilaire Beaumont’s new exhibition Tough Man, which opened on August 11th at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, an outstanding selection of single-frame stories.
Hilaire is well-know for his avatar studies, although he does not tend to exhibit that often in-world – something that makes Tough Man even more appealing. He also does not regard himself as an artist – a point I would dispute, because his works contain all the richness to be found in any true work of art, not just from a technical perspective: framing, lighting, colour, etc., but because of the sheer depth of story each and every image carries with it, together with the richness of life, vitality and emotion each conveys.
This is doubtless in part because of his background in role-play in Second Life. Creating and inhabiting a character is very much an artform it itself; bringing that character to life such that they can be believed and interacted with requires a strength of imagination and willingness to emote and remain in character. Coming from that background gives Hilaire, I would suggest, a deeper connection with his characters, and this is evidenced in the twelve images presented in this selection.
In this 12 images (the exhibition poster is actually by David Silence, albeit based on an image by Hiliare), all of them new for this exhibition, gets inside his characters in a manner that sets his work above others; whereas an avatar study is generally posed and framed to convey an emotion such that the image is essentially a moment out of time, the avatar a puppet in the telling of the story, Hiliare’s work genuinely conveys the story of the character within each of these images. Thus, rather than being a moment out of time, these are very much moments in time, capturing a specific point in the life of the character.
And while they well be framed in “tough man” situations, they go further than the typical archetype; each one offers a depth of emotion that is the true hallmark of the tough man – that willingness to stand firm for what is right, to show vulnerability, to stand against odds for something worth believing in; to be someone who finds not loneliness in being alone, but the comfort of his own company.
As pieces of art or as stories or missives on the nature of the tough man, these are pieces that have a lot to say, and as an exhibition, Tough Man should not be missed.
- Nitroglobus Roof Gallery (Sunshine Homestead, rated: Moderate)