Eleven In Motion: Abstract Expressions in Animation
The recontextualization of Ontario’s first abstract painting group, Painters Eleven, with the work of eleven contemporary animators, assists us to see these, now historic, Canadian artists in a new light. There has been resurgence in recent years in interest in abstract art practices in Canada. Major exhibitions and publications, along with a significant increase in the attention of collectors to this mid-century work, has made the material more accessible to a larger public audience. Alexandra Luke, a member of Painters Eleven, (and whose personal collection of 37 works would be gifted to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery at its opening in 1969), organized the country’s first traveling exhibition of abstract work, Canadian Abstract Exhibition, in 1952. Luke was one of seven artists whose work was presented in October 1953 at the Simpson’s department store in Toronto in a display entitled Abstracts at Home. The concept of showing abstract paintings with contemporary furnishings was that of Simpson’s employees William Ronald and Carry Cardell, who paired the works of seven artists with the store’s mass-produced modern Danish to French provincial furniture. During the publicity photo shoot of the seven artists, Jack Bush, Oscar Cahén, Tom Hodgson, Alexandra Luke, Ray Mead, Kazuo Nakamura and William Ronald, discussion centered around the possibility of extending their exhibition opportunities by joining forces as a group. Their first meeting was held at Luke’s Oshawa area cottage with additional invited artists Hortense Gordon, Jock Macdonald, Harold Town and Walter Yarwood. It was here where they officially adopted the name Painters Eleven. The group had their first exhibition at Roberts Gallery in Toronto in February, 1954, with other opportunities, including an exhibition at the Riverside Museum in New York and a nationally circulating exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada in 1958; they officially disbanded in 1960. Eleven in Motion brings together a diverse group of artists — twenty-two in total. Each of the animators was paired with one of the original Eleven and asked to develop an animated piece that was influenced by that artist or his or her work. The resulting animations are as varied as the work of the members of Painters Eleven. From paddles turning into paint brushes, to portraits into symphonies of abstract images and the manipulation of a 1950s film of a striptease becoming reminiscent of stripes of paint in a similar era work, these animators have brought their artist’s works, not so much up-to- date, but to be seen differently. Some animators use specific works or series of works that immediately bring to mind their artist while others bring to mind the era in which these works were made. In all, the approximately thirty-five minutes of moving images and sound reinvigorates our viewing of the more stationary two-dimensional paintings from the mid 20th century.
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
Director: Patrick Jenkins (inspired by Kazuo Nakamura) / 2:45
Kazuo Nakamura’s art has its roots in the visual patterns found in nature. His keen interest in science and mathematics was a way of rediscovering the structure of our world. In this animation, Jenkins attempts to recreate Nakamura’s workusing p aint on glass animation. A selection of Nakamura’s paintings and sculptures have been animated as if they are being created in front of our eyes, like constantly growing and evolving plants. Set to music performed and composed by Paul Intson, with Ron Korb improvising on flute.
THE YARWOOD TRAIL
Director: Richard Reeves (inspired by Walter Yarwood) / 3:58
Inspired by the artwork and sculptures of Walter Yarwood. This abstract film was created by carving stamps and applying the images directly onto the film using bleach. Frames were then hand painted and a soundtrack produced by drawing shapes along the optical sound area directly onto the film. Images represent the structure and design found in Walter Yarwood’s artworks, especially the colours of the acid washed bronze and patterns found in his paintings.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HORTENSE
Director: Lisa Morse (inspired by Hortense Gordon) / 4:1
Hortense Gordon was a teacher as well as an artist, and studied abstract painting under one of the great teachers of that movement, Hans Hoffman. As an artist who makes figurative images, even in what is known as “experimental” animation, I had to do some research not only on Hortense, but on abstract painting. Also, researching Hortense turned up as much about her teachings (and, by extension, Hoffman’s) and philosophies as her work, so in the end I felt I was working through the film as a pupil. These are my exercises.
Director: Richard Raxlen (inspired by Harold Town) / 3:49
Using primarily the black and white drawings of Harold Town and riffing on the original drawings by primitively animating their contents, this short, abstract, primarily black & white piece eschews continuity and embraces the non‐linearity of the drawn/painted etched line.
Director: Ellen Besen (inspired by Tom Hodgson) / 4:13
Action painter, Olympic paddler, bon vivant of the highest order: these are words that exemplify Tom Hodgson, a man of many seemingly contradictory parts. This film explores the connective tissue that held his life together. Vivid, rhythmic imagery pulls the viewer into a world where the mighty sweep of a paddler’s arm becomes the abstracted sweep of paint across a page becomes the primordial, sexual stroke of a life fully lived.
THE END IS THE BEGINNING
Director: Craig Marshall (inspired by Ray Mead) / 2:23
“My opinion is … the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio in the old forms of the Renaissance … the modern artist is living in a mechanical age … working and expressing an inner world—in other words, expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces.” – Jackson Pollock
Working from Pollock’s notion that the modern world of atom bombs and destruction obliterated the need for representational art and called forth a new, introspective form of art creation, Craig Marshall takes a Ray Mead painting as his starting point and moves backwards.
Pasquale LaMontagna (inspired by William Ronald) / 3:00
With joyful spontaneous energy, William’s Creatures sets no boundaries in this light‐hearted and fun adaptation of one of William Ronald’s later Works. With an oceanic setting of bizarre and unusual sperm creatures playing their performance to the improvisational score Brotherhood of Adventure (Tiny Orchestra Trio), William’s Creatures will prove to tickle your pickle for a full three minutes!!
AS ABOVE SO BELOW
Director: Élise Simard (inspired by Alexandra Luke) / 1:44
Guided by Luke’s spiritual and philosophical preoccupations, Simard creates a film that addresses the natural tensions between the extraordinary and the ordinary, and the search to transcend everyday experience.
TRAFFIC FLOW II
Director: Nick Fox‐Gieg (inspired by Oscar Cahén) / 2:59
Traffic Flow II is an abstract animation tightly choreographed to a soundscape evocative of mid‐20th‐century Toronto.
Director: Steven Woloshen (inspired by Jock Macdonald) / 2:45
Jock Macdonald painted in both worlds: figurative and the abstract. Playtime pays homage to his dedication, spirit and wonderful subject matter – both real and imaginary. In Cinemascope.
Director: Félix Dufour‐Laperrière (inspired by Jack Bush) / 5:22
Crossing from pictorial representation to abstraction is, among other things, a matter of organizing the visual information in the image. When the frames from a vintage striptease film are cut in stripes and replaced in various orders, we may witness this transition. Filmstrips, stripes and stripteases all together in a short film about the passage to abstraction. Inspired by Jack Bush’s painting Stripes to the Right (1965).
Madi Piller Bio
Madi Piller es una cineasta de origen Peruano que actualmente vive y trabaja en la ciudad de Toronto. Obtiene su titulo en Ciencias de la Comunicación en la Universidad de Lima, Perú. Comenzó su carrera en publicidad y producción de comerciales para la televisión para diferentes compañías. En 1998 Madi se traslada a la ciudad de Toronto y comenzó a trabajar en estrecha colaboración con la comunidad cinematográfica independiente realizando cortometrajes experimentales. Sus trabajos se han exhibido en numerosos festivales en Canadá y el extranjero. Muchos de sus proyectos han sido elaborados con el apoyo del Consejo de Artes de Ontario, Consejo de las Artes de Toronto, Centro de Distribución de Cineastas Canadienses y el National Film Board de Canadá. Madi actualmente desempeña tareas como Presidente de la Sociedad de Imagen Animada de Toronto (TAIS) entre otras actividades.