Still Life Moving Fragments

Still Life Moving Fragments, Tin Sheds Gallery: Work process

August 29th, 2012

Building on Still Life Moving Fragments at the Belconnen Art Centre (BAC) exhibition  in February, we expanded from our original two series of three to two series of six for the show at the Tin Sheds Gallery (TSG).

My three 5-minute pieces at the BAC feature three different views (shot using a stationary camera) in combination with three different movements (composited onto the video footage): a window with exterior views gathered from a number of different locations, a painted brick wall with an animation of a kite-flyer, and a painted door with an animation of ice-skater. For the new works at TSG, I focus on the assemblage of the window (with external views partially blocked by the blind) and rotoscoped/ animated drawings of ice-skaters.

I am particularly fond of the ice-skater footage  Icollected over a number of years at an ice-rink situated inside a shopping centre (Festival Walk) near my parents’ flat in Kowloon Tong (Hong Kong.) The ice-rink is used daily by a large numbers of skaters. During the day, student skaters are trained by their coaches in the largely empty rink, and at night the rink is packed with skating enthusiasts, amateurs skaters, or generally anyone who wants to give skating a go.

The footage I choose to work with is of student skaters. I like how their learned movements display the correct maneuver yet each moves remain slightly awkward and ill-at-ease. I find a lot of idiosyncratic gestures in their physical movements. These are not yet expressive (in the way that is required professionally), but they are fully congruent with their personalities (or as it appears to me).

It was during the making of the works for the BAC show when I finally found the perfect medium for these sequences: ink and brush. Rotoscoping is not simply a matter of tracing or copying from the still frames; the art is in choosing the details necessary to transmit desired information. Like all other animation techniques, effective rotoscoping expresses movement eloquently. The emphasis cannot be placed on individual frames, rather they must work together as a sequence to articulate the gestures in motion.

Each of the 6 animation sequences (featuring 6 movements by 4 skaters) is paired with one of the 6 x 5 minutes video footage (chosen based on their compositions and movement within the frame and duration). This pairing is deliberate and the each composit considers how the shape, size, and movement of each skater fit in with the moving light and shadows of each window. The appearance of the skater is adapted to play with elements within the video footage. For example, ‘Window-blind 5’ plays with the light reflection on the glossy leaves seen through the dark shadows in the background. The original colour of inked skater is  inverted, and the translucent white figure is sized to match these reflections. At times, the spinning skater mimics the dancing light and at other times, the light reflections give the illusion of the skater.

Introducing the animated element into the pictorial scene needed a rule that would provide the consistent framework for the series. My intention is not somehow ‘reward’ the viewer for the patience with glimpses of animated footage, but rather, to integrate the skaters into the 5-minute scene. I devised a simple rule to bring in the skater just before the shadows move (by the wind). Following that rule, each composit play with the figure’s movements in response to the moving elements and the stillness of the video footage.

The works are split into 4 groups of 3 interweaving the two series (Louise’s and mine) of works in the installation.



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