I’ve come to the conclusion that animation is to film as poetry is to the novel. I was delighted when I found this articulated in Professor Kim Collmer‘s introduction to her paper; ‘Independent Animation and Memory Reconstruction’. In this paper she states;
‘Like a poem, short animation can give us small moments of intense reflection, crystalized jewels representing past events. It can also provide an independent artist the possibility of expressing personal recollections, fragments that might seem mundane, obscure, ephemeral or vague to the passing glance. But through the carefully detailed rendition of one’s own imaginings, that singular small moment can contain a universe. In those instances we not only see the magic of film, but the magic of our own humanity.’
It is this potential for helping us explore ‘…that singular small moment…’ that ultimately drew me to want to use animation in my own creative practice. Over time, my studio practice has been incorporating a range of media, including painting, printmaking, poetry, drawing. Animation is the latest medium that I’ve added to my studio practice – and – as a result – I have been finding that it offers me all of the aspects of expression that I’m looking for. It offers me images, sound, story telling and poetic licence. It has taken me some time to discover that, like a poet, I look for inspiration in the slowness of time; in the things which would pass us by if we weren’t paying attention. This is what I want my animations to achieve – I want my animations to have the intensity of a poem and the sensuality of an oil painting – I suppose therefore that I am looking for an immersive experience.
I grew up in the sixties and witnessed television becoming a permanent fixture of the living room. Short animated films were ideal for this new medium. For me, it wasn’t the works of Disney that caught my attention, it was the short animated films which didn’t conceal their handmade qualities. The techniques of manipulating sand and paint on glass, perfected into a unique art form by animators such as the Canadian animators Frederic Back and then Caroline Leaf still excite me now, because they took the mark making process to a magical level. Back’s ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’, combines the qualities of his water colour paintings with a way of manipulating time and space that takes the audience on a journey through a decade of war and destruction to peace and prosperity. He does this in the space of thirty minutes in a style reminiscent of ancient cave art. Leaf’s films such as ‘The Street’ and ‘The Metamorphosis of Mr Samsa’, appear to have been created through a process of instantaneous and expressive painting. Of course, the reality of the process was that ‘The Street’ was the result of a year and a half of dabbing and erasing paint from a small glass plate and ‘Metamorphosis’ took three years of moving sand around. As painstaking and laborious as these animation techniques were, they gave the artist great freedom to explore the tactile and sensual aspects of the human condition. The limitations of their chosen techniques meant that these animators pushed the boundaries in terms of representing time and space in ways which hadn’t been seen before.
Children’s television programs during the 1960’s brought the intimate nature of these short animations into the dysfunctional environment of my family home and showed me a new way of seeing time and space. It’s taken some time to filter through into my conscious mind, but I now realize that they laid the foundations for what I am presently trying to do in my own work, particularly regarding looking at the relationship between memory and animation.
In the words of Victoria Grace Walden;
‘Animation has long been interested in depicting things which are impossible to represent in live-action, and the embodied, fluid experience of memory is certainly something that photography or live action film cannot satisfactorily depict.’