Hot Docs 2017: Shadowman

The life and career of artist Richard Hambleton is told in Shadowman. Born in Vancouver, Richard Hambleton became known for his New York City street art in the 1980s, which were often done in the form of shadowy silhouettes. Hambleton eventually moved into studio painting and quickly became a sensation along with his friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. However, with a drug habit and disfiguring skin cancer, Richard Hambleton becomes a recluse and perfectionist.

While less remembered today than his contemporaries Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, Richard Hambleton is an artist, whose shadow paintings were considered to be an influence for current street artist Banksy. Shadowman is the typical biography of a very talented artist, who suffers from some major personal demons, which makes him a really hard man to work with. This is seen in the film, as Richard Hambleton is preparing for a comeback exhibition, yet is very reluctant to declare his new paintings finished, with him often destroying them and starting again.

The story of Richard Hambleton is one that has been told of many artists, with his talent being overshadowed by a major substance abuse problem. Despite receiving some level of a latter career comeback, Shadowman is ultimately a sad tale of a man overwhelmed by his demons. In fact, some of the latter moments of the film are somewhat difficult to watch, as Richard Hambleton’s health visibly deteriorates. That said, Shadowman is a film worth seeing for those who enjoy contemporary art.

7 / 10 stars


Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).