Visiting artist residency at USC School of Cinematic Arts, LA (Part 6) / by Anna Madeleine

This week I experimented with painting on glass animation for the first time. I loved it! After getting some useful tips from Sheila Sofian including this article on several artists' techniques, I began with simple acrylic paints mixed with glycerin (to keep the paint from drying out) on backlit clear glass.

I’ve been swimming a lot recently and thinking about how I could make an animation that conveys the meditative nature of swimming, and the sort of fluid yet repetitive aesthetic and patterns that emerge - like shapes and silhouettes appearing for a split second overtime you take a breath, the abstraction of glimpsed body parts, the light in the water, the geometry of tiles on the pool, the darkness and rush of a tumble turn, the strength of muscles in pushing off and pulling through the water

For me, I spend a lot of time thinking about maths when I swim - mostly about the fractions and percentages of how much of the swim I’ve done, as I’m doing it. It always starts off with a prediction of how many laps I’ll do, then how many breaks I’ll take, how many laps in each set, then how many of those laps I’ve done. I want to try and merge or layer this mathematical structuring of the swim with imagery of the fleeting and abstract imagery experienced while swimming.

So painting on glass seemed a good way to start this idea, by using the fluidity of water itself. I started just splashing paint down in different consistencies of water to paint. As usual it took a while for the animation to take shape, but at one point I saw what could have been a figure from within the splashes, and I worked with it to make it swim out of the frame. I did this a few more times, as well as more literal line work of the pool itself, feet at a diving board, a tumble turn, the flags above the pool, and the tiles on the bottom of the pool passing by. I think the maths component will be in a different medium, possibly digital and layer it over the top later. Sound will make a big difference to this work as well.

Possible title: What I think about when I think about swimming

A video posted by @matchbox_movies on

Another thing I tried in the Oxberry studio was working on white plexi-glass, as suggested by Sheila. I discovered that oil pastel works really well on the plexiglass, because I can get the really smooth blends that I normally like to draw with. Usually paper doesn’t allow oil pastel to be rubbed off, so the plexiglass is perfect for it.

A video posted by @matchbox_movies on

I was invited by Elizabeth Ramsey from the Division of Media Arts + Practice to a tour of the SCA Media Arts Research Labs.  These labs include the Emergent Cities Research Group, the Game Innovation Lab, the IMAX Immersive Media Lab, the Jaunt Cinematic Virtual Reality Lab, the Mobile and Environmental Media Lab and the World Building Media Lab. A lot of the research is using new tech in really exciting and experimental ways to look at new forms of storytelling and visualisation (lots of VR) with initiatives ranging from health, sustainability, and political and social change.

The Mobile and Environmental Research Lab

The Mobile and Environmental Research Lab

On my second visit to LACMA I was able to see Chris Burton’s kinetic sculpture in action. Heaps and heaps of toy cars set loose - a very true to life depiction of Los Angeles.The attendant has to stand in the middle of the installation and reload the cars after the stop, to keep them moving consistently (unlike LA). I was intrigued by this, the way it had to be kept going manually (they were also really loud!)

Chris Burden's Metropolis II

Chris Burden's Metropolis II

The Serial Impulse at Gemini GEL exhibition was one of the best things I’ve seen in LA so far. It showed prints by artists like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Julie Mehretu, Richard Sierra - many of whom I don’t immediately associate with print as a medium. The show gave an insight into serial production print-making techniques and some really experimental ways of using print different - eg. Michael Heizer’s Scrap Metal Drypoints. Using salvaged bits of scrap metal from the California aeronautical industry, he used surfaces that already had scratches, marks and corrosion on them as his printing plates. My all time favourite from this exhibition was David Hockney’s weather series. This series of six prints each explore a different atmospheric condition - wind, snow, mist, sun, rain, lightning - while referencing Japanese woodblock prints, French Impressionist paintings, and the streets of LA. 

Michael Heizer, Scrap Metal Drypoints

Michael Heizer, Scrap Metal Drypoints

David Hockney, Weather Series

David Hockney, Weather Series