Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New www for news from the bog and films

I'm moving over to a new wordpress website, where I can eventually have all the stuff together.  My Spellbound website is flash and it's no good on the mobile devices, so this winter I'm consolidating.

Here is is! It still needs a bit of work.  For one there's a  cannibal doing revolting things on the front page and I'm not sure it gives the right impression.  But if you want to keep abreast, you can follow me over there, and eventually I'll flush this one down the bog.

Monday, November 12, 2012

British Museum - Lion hunt and Fearful Folly

We had an outing at the British Museum, and instead of heading straight for the family sandwich room or the cat mummies we went to room 10a to look at the eye poppingly brilliant Assyrian Lion Hunt (645 - 635BC).   The sculpted reliefs depict the sporting achievements of King Ashurbanipal for his palace at Ninevah.  It was wet in Assyria and there were alot of Lions.  Lion fighting was the sport of Kings, although unfairly the lions were brought to the Kings, and fought in an arena.  The reliefs show the events in episodes, so for some, it was like reading a comic.  A comic rendered in beautiful detail, not just the muscles and claws, but the violence and the drama too.    

In the exhibition space, the British Museum's collection of Spanish prints is on display.  I hadn't seen Goya's prints before, and seeing them in the context of an exhibition of his predecessors and contemporaries was enlightening.  Stone lithography was in it's early days as an artistic medium, and some of Goya's experiments didn't quite work, but when he got going with it, he propped his stone on an easel and standing up, used his crayons like brushes, and sometimes he coloured the whole surface of the stone in wax crayon and used just a knife to create the image. He was getting older too, so he often needed a magnifying glass. I thought they were amazing.  Here is an image from Los Disparates series, there are 29.

Fearful Folly from Los Disparates (1815 - 24)

Monday, November 05, 2012

Laburnum Boat Club

I've just uploaded an animated film that I made with Laburnum Boat Club to You Tube. We made it during a day long workshop last year, it's called The Nature of Laburnum Boat Club, and it features acts of great daring, some in live action, some by zoetrope.  The workshop and film was commisssioned by The Floating Cinema.   Emily and I are hoping to do some more work with them next year on the community engagement part of their programme.  They have launched a crowd funding campaign, it's such a good venture and Up Projects are really brilliant, if I had some spare money, I would spend it there.  Instead I have some spare time, so Emily and I are writing funding applications too.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

LIAF 2012

LIAF has been rescheduled, and it arrives at half term, so it's harder for some of us to get away and visit and revisit the LIAF feast as it unfolds.  I can only imagine what the long shorts were like, or the creepy Into the Dark screening at the evocative Horse Hospital.  I went to the opening Gala, the Koji Yamamura retrospective and to Best of the Fest.  It's wonderful to see LIAF settled and supported at the Barbican.  Both splendid directors Nag and Malcolm have worked like dogs for nearly ten years, and their unshowy, thoroughly eclectic festival deserves a good home.

It was great to see Kōji Yamamura here, he's a really good and very busy artist.  My favourite of the films he showed on Thursday is Mount Head (2002).  It has a brilliant raucous voiceover and a strange twisted, traditional story: the protagonist is so stingy that he doesn't throw anything away and gorges upon foraged food, so I expect we all have little people living on our heads making merry at the moment.  It was a great pleasure to see The Old Crocodile (2005) on the big screen, the traditional story told by Peter Barakan and Yamamura's simple graphic artwork make it really enjoyable to watch. My only thought is that the depiction of the Sudanese people at the end is uncomfortable, and perhaps stops the film from being really great.

There was a great mixture of films shown this year in Best of the Fest.  Of all of them I enjoyed Stephen Irwin's Moxie the most, it was awarded the Best British film. The film been travelling the world, though I havn't seen it yet. I  love the artful way Irwin uses loops, and  the bold way he cuts his shots together.  Will Anderson from ECA scooped the Best of the Fest, which is fantastic.  His film The Making of Long Bird had a really charming feel to it, though perhaps it didn't quite merit the long short form, I might have cut it up a bit myself.  It reminded me very much of Jim Le Fevre's ECA student film The Little Princesses Birthday Party from 1997.  

The Little Princesses Birthday Party by Jim Le Fevre, 1997
It was a treat to see Joseph Pierce's new film The Pub, his style is really unique and it lends itself to this study of a range of drunken public house visitors.  A live action performance underpins the work, and his actors are always spot on, with generous uncomfortable silences.  The amazing Vladimir Leschiov's new film Villa Antropoff was good to see there too, though it didn't have the mystery and calmness contained in his earlier films, and perhaps I missed that.

As a final thought, I noticed that there were no women's films in either the Best of the Fest audience votes or judges favourites, which was something that cropped up during a panel discussion that I was involved with for Best of the Fest ever a couple of years ago, I wrote a blog entry about that evening.  It's unsettling to notice that women's films are becoming less visible, or that there are less of them, or that they are just less popular.  I'd have to do some counting, but a quick scan of the programme reveals that women aren't making up half of films screened, visitors or judges at the moment.  Perhaps the best thing to do is get on and make my film in time for next year and make sure it's good.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dennis Franz

I found my portrait of Dennis amongst some older drawings, I've put him on the wall tiles for a bit, I listen to a lot of detective fiction on the radio in the studio, and he keeps me on track. If I could have a moustache (it may yet happen) it would be just like this one.

Light Music

At the weekend we made a too brief visit to see some of the projections and events from Filmaktion at the Tanks, Tate Modern.   Lis Rhodes' Light Music (1975) has been on for longer than the Filmaktion week, but it was a highlight for me. I love her brave and spare Dresden Dynamo from 1971, it's such an exciting work to show to students, so it was brilliant to enjoy the noisy and immersive Light Music for the first time.

My visitors

Having a studio in the house is nice, there's the fridge of course and then small visitors too, who put me to shame with their easy ways and quick ideas.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nut the nut

These little fellas are a part of a home-made party game called Nut the nut. If you are interested in the rules you may contact me directly. They are made out of pistachio shells and it has fulfilled a long cherished ambition to make a little army of bugs out of nut shells.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Water Folk

Emily and I are hoping to work with extremely tiny beasties for our new project, here we are doing some research in the River Lea yesterday with scientist Malcolm Burrows.

Danbury Ring

A few weeks ago we visited the iron age hill fort Danbury Ring in Middle Wallop, a much loved family Sunday walk from many years ago.  The sunny autumn days need to be saved up and treasured.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Ushev

If I hadn't been lucky enough to have met the man last year, I would think Theodore Ushev was a company of ten people working around the clock.  He is so extremely prolific.

He has a blog here, and you can see the catalogue of films, prizes, reviews, new productions...  I didn't manage to get to Ottawa where he won Best Canadian Film for Nightingales in December, but you can see a masterful music video for Kottarashky and the The Raindogs, a tribute to pre-cinema, drawn on vinyl and beautifully cut together.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I'm assembling a lovely, informative film made with young people in foster care over a 4 day period in the summer with an amazing team in Cambridge. I hope it will be on the internet at a later date. I'm working towards the cinema premiere at the beginning of October.  It's hot in the studio, and quite messy! It's lucky I don't have any assistants, I would have lost them by now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Ware Case - animated version

Emily and I made a three minute version of Broadwest Films Ltd 1917 film 'The Ware Case' using just publicity stills and a synopsis.  There's a lot of scrumpling.  It was a part of the film we made for The Pop Up Picture Palace earlier in the year.  It is showing as a part of the wonderful Walthamstow International Film Festival at Vestry House on Saturday 15th September 1 - 5pm.

Come on!

I'm really pleased to finally have a spell to work on the music video I'm making or mending for KT Tunstall.  I'm mixing live action, printed out and cut with stuff drawn on clear cels with ink.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Silhouette workshop

Today Satoko and I ran a  silhouette workshop for families at the National Portrait Gallery.  In the gaps between families I made one of her:

I love those Victorian crafts, now where is my flower press?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Prom 47

We made it to Prom 47, celebrating the centenary of John Cage.  It was fantastic, we were part of an attentive audience and it was beautifully planned for the shape of the Royal Albert Hall, musicians and their amplified materials at lit tables set in the boxes and the floor. I'm glad we stayed for the amplified cactus although it was nearly midnight.

Monday, August 13, 2012


 Guggenheim, Bilbao

 Toes in the breeze
 near Horrandibia
 Topic puppet museum in Tolosa
 Topic puppet museum in Tolosa
Bibat museum, Vitoria Gasteiz
 Bibat museum, Vitoria Gasteiz
Near Lekeitio

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tricky Women - Women in Animation

We are off on our holidays soon, and I'm taking Tricky Women - the book (Women in Animation).  It's really good. Waltraud Grausgruber & Birgitt Wagner have commissioned some properly serious essays (eight in English, four in German).  In the first place the book offers a fresh historical perspective of the history of women in animation from Jayne Pilling. Because we know she knows her stuff, she can write informally. She reminds us of the some of the chronological landmarks or milestones, but also offers thoughts on subject matter, viewing contexts, Eastern European animation and the necessity for contextual knowledge, or not.  For German speakers there is an essay about Mary Ellen Bute about whom there is not enough written or screened.   Ruth Lingford has written a wonderful essay about Vera Neubauer, it's short but incisive and together with the interview with Vera, gives an insight into Vera's powerful, joyful and brave work.  Eliška Decká has written about the The Czech and Slovak New Female Wave of Animation, which of course includes Michaela Pavlatova.  Julie Roy from the National Film Board of Canada has written about metamorphosis in Michèle Cournoyer's work.  
A still from Michele Cournoyer's film The Hat, 1999
Suzanne Buchan's essay is about Animation installation, focusing on Rose BondMarina Zurkow and Tabaimo.  The installed, projected works are described really beautifully, which is important for works that exist in a space far away and at a time that has passed.   At the end of the book, and if all that wasn't enough for 24 euros, there's an explosion of fantastic thoughts and connections from Esther Leslie.  Her essay Shadowy, Shape-shifting, Shaky Animation as Subversion sends you scurrying all over the place making mind altering connections, which I marvel at and embrace as a practitioner.  Leslie revisits some of the works from an exhibition Shudder at The Drawing Room in 2010, for which she wrote Shudder, Shutter, Shatter, but her written work here is all entirely new.

Did I say that it comes with a DVD too.  I can't think of another festival that has commissioned such an important collection of essays, can you?


Not me, but my hard working Dad. We saw this rainbow with gold at the end of it after his party! It must be a good sign?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reflecting Fashion

There's a large and comprehensive exhibition at Mumok in Vienna called Reflecting Fashion.  I didn't mean to go, I was in the building for the Pop Art show, but I was very glad that I did.  The central theme of the exhibition was the intersections between art and fashion, and they had gathered all the key artefacts from modernism onwards and presented them beautifully.  There's a lot of eye catching edgy stuff, including Valie Export's 'genital panic' action pants, outfits from Stephen Willat's Multiple Clothing Event (1993) and the elegant Elsa Schiaparelli & Dali Lobster Dress, worn by Wallis Simpson shortly before her marriage to Edward VIII.  I was most excited by the first floor, dedicated to Modernism. There was some beautiful textile designs by Sonia Delaunay and Austrian ceramicist Vally Wieselthier.  Giacomo Balla's 'modifiers', designed in 1914 were pretty splendid.  These were variable decorative elements that you can attach to your clothing as you wish, they were colourful graphic shapes created from felt and embroidery.  I've had a similar idea myself because young mothers often acquire splotches of this or that on their shoulder just before leaving the house, and if you could pop a colourful modifier on top, it would be very useful.
Sonia Delaunay's textile designs from 1920's
Cindy Sherman was well represented too, and she had made a paper cut animation on super eight in 1975 called 'Doll's Clothes'.  If you find yourself in Vienna, Mumok is definately worth a visit.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Animation Summer St. Pölten 2012

Thank you to Tricky Women. They do everything so carefully and well.  It was so nice to be in Austria again.  I can tell a bit of the story of the week in photos.
 "tiny frame - big projection!"
photograph by fh St. Pölten 

Ivoneta's lovely metamorphosis work
photograph by fh St. Pölten 

Many buffets


Really lovely work

Comfy bed

Refreshing lake for dipping into

The other workshop leaders were very cool and the participants were studious and all so interesting. I hope I can go back again soon.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Musical summer evenings

A sticky night in Cafe Oto to see Simon Payne's Iris Out from 2008, projected thrice and squiffy, so the iris's in question were all lined up.  It was very exuberant and a delighted woop was issued from the crowd when the projection finished.

We made an annual visit to the church of St Anne & Agnes for the first of three Music we'd like to hear evenings.

Talking of sticky weather, tomorrow I set off for Vienna, and I shall be happy to be back with my Tricky Women friends, new and old.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

 I'm busy assembling a portable 16mm cameraless film workshop kit.  I hope if works and I make it to my European destination.  I think my hand luggage is going to be bulgy and fragile and my suitcase full of chemicals and sharp objects. However, it's a really nice task and I'm gathering knowledge and experience at a great rate.

There's also little trips to the plot and further afield to lovely Whitstable and I put these here to remind myself that it's not always been rainy this summer.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tippoo's Tiger

I'm fascinated by this Figurine of Mr Hugh Munro being mauled by a Bengal Tiger (1792).  It can be found in the British Army Museum.  I don't think I've seen such a violent incident depicted in earthenware before.  Tippoo's Tiger in the V&A shows the same gory scene in life-size, and I plan to make a special visit soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jeff Keen

Rayday Film, 1968 - 70 +1976, 16mm, 13 mins

I was very sorry to hear that Jeff Keen has died.  William Fowler has written a good obituary in The Guardian here.  Nearly this time last year I was involved in a panel discussion in which we chose  works that had influenced or inspired us, and I showed CineblatzWhite Lite and Marvo Movie (1967/8).  Both for the films themselves, which are political, humorous and exciting and also for his attitude and methods.  GAZWRX is a very good box set of his films, and his painting and graphic works have been showing here and there around the world.  I hope they will come here soon to spread the word about this wonderful artist.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Something Very Far Away

This lovely fellow is Johannes Kepler, who travels in his rocket ship So Far Away into the Universe that he finds it still Under Construction.  He is trying to look back at life on Earth, to a time before his sweet Tomasina perished in an accident with a performing horse at the circus.

Something Very Far Away was a 35 minute show for children, performed at the Unicorn Theatre. It featured the puppets of Matthew Robins, the creator of Fly Boy, and was written by Mark Arends.  It was similar to the work of Paper Cinema in that the mechanics of the work is privileged, and that's where the magic lay. Nearest the audience were four live cameras, lots of cables, the puppeteers, their puppets in a row, a mirror ball, a guitar, sparklers waiting to be lit and a holey bucketful of water.  It's performed on a small scale, but the theatre was also tiny so we could see clearly what's coming and how they were doing it.  The projection of the story, mixed from the cameras was almost secondary to the absorbing spectacle of the clever performers and their carefully timed tricks and changes.