Painting Gotye: A Q&A With the Aussie Body-Painting Artist Behind the "Somebody I Used to Know" Video

Painting Gotye: A Q&A With the Aussie Body-Painting Artist Behind the "Somebody I Used to Know" Video
Emma Hack's bodypainting work for Gotye’s Award‐Winning Music Video, "Somebody That I Used To Know"
(Courtesy of the Artist)

If you are one of the more than 200 million people who have viewed the film clip for the Gotye song "Somebody That I Used to Know" you will be familiar with the extraordinary transformation of the bodies of the Belgian-Australian musician and New Zealand singer/songwriter Kimbra into amazing works of art that gradually fade into a background image until both are totally camouflaged.

The amazing metamorphosis that takes place in the video is thanks to Australian artist Emma Hack, whose extensive experience as a 'skin illustrator' caught the attention of the video's director Natasha Pincus. Hack, an Adelaide-based artist, is well known in Australia and internationally for her extraordinary photos of painted bodies camouflaged against often complex background images. Her artworks have grown in popularity since her so-called "Wallpaper Collection," featuring models against the '60s- and '70s-era wallpaper designs. Now she paints her own canvas backgrounds; each of her photographic artwork takes eight to fifteen hours to complete.


For the "Somebody I Used to Know" video, Emma worked closely with Gotye himself on the background design — the video's painting is actually based on an '80s work by Gotye’s artist father Frank de Backer, whose work is also featured on the cover and inside of the CD packaging of the album "Making Mirrors." In a recent exclusive interview, ARTINFO Australia executive editor Nic Forrest spoke with Hack about the details of her work on the clip.

What was the concept behind the work you did for the Gotye video?

Natasha Pincus, the director/producer, wanted to create a blend of the bodies into a background to make them appear as if they are in a relaitionship whilst blended. Then Kimbra leaves the relationship as the paint disappears from her back.

What was it like painting Gotye?

He is lovely. The process is very difficult and he was a trooper — never complained even though in pain. In all, it took 23 hours to create the work on them both. He loves and understands the process, which makes it easy to work with him. I painted him again last week for an image that is to be auctioned at Art Melbourne on Friday, the 25th of May.  The final image will be hung on my stand at the art fair (C8).

How have people reacted to the work?

An Aria and 200 million people can't be wrong I guess! Everybody tells me they love it, so I guess it has been received well...

How did the Gotye project differ from your normal body-painting projects?

It differs greatly from the art I create, which is what I want to do, creating in a calm environment with my regular models. The Gotye project is similar to a commercial gig, where I'm working for the good of the client and their needs — but it is a lot more demanding emotionally on me.

To see the clip for "Somebody That I Used to Know," click on the video below:

To see a video of Emma Hack at work, click on the video below:

A version of this article originally appeared on ARTINFO Australia.