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Behind the scenes of 'Body Crash'

Explore the intriguing project of Adelaide body paint artist Emma Mack as she constructs a road accident out of human bodies. Video courtesy: Motor Accident Commission, South Australia.

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FOR many viewers of the video clip for Gotye's global hit, Somebody That I Used To Know, the art was as captivating as the song.

Melbourne musician Wally De Backer's melancholy flows from the lyrics, of course; but might it not also be the strain of standing up and being painted for hours at a time?

''That was hard on them,'' says Emma Hack, the woman who painted the background and the bodies of De Backer and his collaborator, Kimbra.

Body artist Emma Hack paints Wally de Backer - aka Gotye - for the video clip to his hit song <i>Somebody That I Used To Know</i>.

Body artist Emma Hack paints Wally de Backer - aka Gotye - for the video clip to his hit song Somebody That I Used To Know. Photo: Darren Clements

''Kimbra's took about 12 hours. It really requires core strength.''

The subdued brown and green triangles that crept across the singers' bodies were inspired by De Backer's father's artwork, Hack says.

She didn't claim it as an Emma Hack original.

One of Emma Hack's works from the <i>Pop! Optimists</i> series, a homage to Roy Lichtenstein.

One of Emma Hack's works from the Pop! Optimists series, a homage to Roy Lichtenstein.

However, her profile rocketed with the success of the video clip directed by Natasha Pincus and viewed an estimated 300 million plus times.

Now Hack is represented in galleries in several countries and her work is much in demand among collectors at art fairs in Toronto, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Hamburg and Singapore.

In upcoming exhibitions she's created startling new images that differ greatly from the harlequin-like shapes of the Gotye video.

An Emma Hack work from the <i>Pop! Optimists</i> series.

An Emma Hack work from the Pop! Optimists series.

A new blue-and-white collection spans a world history of decorative porcelain.

''It began during my travels through Portugal and Spain, where I was fascinated with the blue and white, particularly in Oporto.

''I also studied the techniques in China, and looked into Wedgwood. The influence from Islamic art flowed through Europe but the techniques used in different countries varied strongly.''

The blue-and-white palette features heavily in Hack's new show, opening at Queenscliff's Seaview Gallery on January 12. She begins her three-tier method by painting elaborate backgrounds, in this case curlicues of bold blue. Models' bodies are then painted with identical colours and designs, blending into the background as though camouflaged. Hack then photographs the image and it becomes part of the exhibition.

Also at Seaview, she'll exhibit her Pop! Optimists, a nod to Roy Lichtenstein, with models emerging like 3D characters from the comic-book page.

Briefly back in Australia between travels, the Adelaide-based artist says she's brimming with ideas and works intensely to keep up with demand generated by successful art-fair shows in the past year.

However, she admits body painting is ''not an easy process'' for model or artist. Working with regular models ensures they know what's in store.

''It can take up to 10 hours to paint a model in front of a background, and they're standing the whole time. I try not to worry about it because it would affect the work - but it's a fine line between being considerate about the models and getting the detailed work done!''

She has also completed an astonishing commission for South Australia's Motor Accident Commission. Seventeen models were painted and wrapped around each other to form the shape of a crashed car - the message being that many people make an accident happen. A behind-the-scenes clip, Body Crash, shows the elaborate process before, during and after the careful brushstrokes.

In March she has a Melbourne show at Catherine Asquith Gallery in Collingwood. For this she'll work more closely with the Spanish and Moorish blue-and-white influences. Mid-year she has her first solo show in the United States at Rebecca Hossack's New York gallery.

''My work's been selling heavily in the past six months so I'm creating a lot of small collections. Travel inspires me.''

Commercial success has been welcome but Hack hints that critical acclaim has taken a little longer. A strength of the Gotye video was that it showed the process of applying body paint.

''In art fairs I'd overhear people saying about my work: 'Oh, that's Photoshopped.' Now in the Gotye clip they can see how it's done. Not a lot of people do what I do.''

Emma Hack's exhibition opens at the Seaview Gallery, Queenscliff, on January 12. She is also showing at Catherine Asquith Gallery in Collingwood from March 12.