Latest

On Death


I am pleased to announce that I will be exhibiting a segment of my animation – Playing with Plastic (2016) at On Death with Esoterica Arts in Norfolk at the Banham Barrel NR16 2HE on 6th May. It would be great to see you there. I’ll be exhibiting alongside

Cally Trench, Claire Nelmes, Emma Macleod, Frog Morris, Helen Breach, Michael Battams, Natasha Day, Owen Thompson, Ron Bailey, Simon Kelsal, Sophie Sherwood, Susan Jones, Tilly The Talespinner, Su, Tony Warner.

More names to be added soon.

Advertisements

Un[dis]criminate


I am pleased to announce that part 6 of my animation Playing with Plastic (2016) will be exhibited online as part of a new archive UN[dis]CRIMINATE with the Unstitute online gallery.

Located in courtyards of the Unstitute – in between spaces, between other structures, temporary or otherwise – is a network of diverse encampments serving any number of uses; political or otherwise. In these digital encampments you can see the building of a new archive: UN[dis]CRIMINATE.

The outlying buildings of The Unstitute are not guarded by anyone in particular, and often entrances sit wide open for anyone to see. But mainly the nomadic eruptions in disused or otherwise vague areas of The Unstitute appear of their own determination, and deterritorialize as long as they please.

Painting the Town… Update (17/4/18)


As I approach this years open studio I have really been starting to take the safety of these pieces of seriously. As stable as these pieces are when I’m testing, they are not with the public, and I know they can if knocked…fall. So I devised a method of adding triangular feet to the base of two of them. These two are the Unforgiven pair, which I’ll be testing out this coming weekend with the public.

I came into the studio, starting the day by adding a few more coats of paint to the new additions which are now in place. I also applied fresh gum-tape to further secure the plinth. I’m surprised I had enough to go around and still have plenty left over. The opportunity to finally see this large piece projected into was too good to pass up.

I was then freed me up to focus on further stabilising the model miniatures for the public. I had an idea for triangular legs, but I knew I needed to flesh them out at this scale, so I decided to sandwich them out with strips are cardboard inside two triangles. Repeat that method 3 more times and hopefully I have made a piece more stable for the public. Only time will really tell as I make a start on the other legs for the other pair next weekend before I do another test with all again.

The real test in this Saturday, if things go to plan I will be a step closer to bringing this piece to a close and exhibition ready.

A Quiet Place (2018)


Never have I been asked by the makers if a film to stay silence. A short piece ran before A Quiet Place (2018) began. Asking for no food, no phones, no talking. They might as well have added that no one else is to be admitted to the screen after the film has begun. Obviously the filmmakers are taking a leaf out of Alfred Hitchcock‘s book. Requesting that no one be allowed to enter once the Psycho (1960) began. With a focus more on cinema etiquette once a film has begun. As much as cinemas rely on the sale of refreshments after a huge chunk of the ticket sales are deducted. The request at the start of A Quiet Place reminds us to keep quiet and actually watch the film. A huge part of this film functioning is the reliance on silence, if the silence is interrupted by a rude cinema goer than they potentially ruin the atmosphere that the film has constructed. I even asked my friends to stay quiet, we had a nice hearty meal before we went in, allowing to really focus on the film.

What drew me to A Quiet Place to begin with is the lack of traditional dialogue that allows a conventional film to progress. Instead we have an apocalyptic universe in which blind monsters rely on the slightest noise to find and kill us. It’s too later for most after less than 100 days, the monsters with extremely acute hearing have decimated the population. It’s only the clever few who have been able to remain alive. Adapting to an almost quiet existence where even the slightest sound can draw out one of these monsters and end it all for you. Cue the Abbott family who we meet in a general store, tip-toeing around to find some much needed supplied before heading out.

If you thought that the projectionist has not been playing with the volume, it is deadly quiet and for reasons that are too soon revealed to the audience and reminding the family how important it is to remain silent. It helps that one of the character’s is played beautifully by young deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, who plays a deaf teenager who the family have recently had to adjust to her perception of the world. Usually film has treated the disabled as the other, the victim who we pity, not celebrate or embrace until more recently.  The reminder of the need for silence becomes too deadly real for the family as they return home. It takes a battery operated toy to bring home that fact before we are even 20 minutes into the film.

Jump forward a year and we have time to take a breather – a quiet one. We see life on the mid-Western farm that has become more than just a home, carefully constructed base to stay quiet, nothing is left to chance as they have adapted to a life of quiet fear. Oh and did I mention, the mother Emily Blunt is now pregnant, bringing with her the potential for real danger, once the baby arrives which will bring a whole load of noise. Don’t worry they have that one covered too, literally nothing is left to chance, having to go to some unorthodox lengths to stay alive.

What is never far away is the threat of the these monsters that are lurking in the woods. Leaving the audience incredibly tense, there’s very little relief in the tension, a minimal soundtrack and even less dialogue. We have to rely on subtitled sign language, we are part of this world and there’s no escape for us or the family. It’s far more immersive that just having them talking in whispers which would defeat the object of staying silent, leaving them vulnerable to being killed in no time.

Each member of the Abbott’s are given or less equal screen time, we see how they experience this changed world. how they have all adapted to this silent world. Being just over a year in this world, adapting to it is easier for the parents who have to protect their family more than the average family in the noisy world. The aftermath of the opening sequence stays with all the family as they try to survive another day in the silence. Everything comes to a head on the final day as father and son (John Krasinski and Noah Jupe) go fishing/male bonding/survival training leaving a daughter guilt ridden and a mother heavily pregnant at home. It leaves everyone vulnerable to the blind monsters who we finally get to see more intimately, we understand how they function, the incredibly sensitive hearing really on show. Revealing a twist that connects Reagan’s deafness and the monsters together which leaves you waiting for the big finale that is really drawn out and that’s not a criticism. If anything it really leaves you wondering how and when it all pays offs.

The finale feels really drawn out, maybe that’s due to the almost silence, we have nowhere to hide either. Accepting that we have to see this through to the end, A family that has been brought to the edge and living through a silent hell pulls together to ensure that they do all they can to survive. With a few extra twists that leave me and my friends ready for a nice relaxing drink and a chance to breathe. Experiencing the world of noise as we leave the screen takes a good half hour to adjust to our surroundings. As if we have been given back our hearing. Just moving a chair reminds me that it would bring on the monster, the sound of coffee being ground up is too unsafe in the world I’ve just left. When we finally get sound in the closing minutes that breaks the silence it comes as a massive relief.

A Quiet Place is easily read as a metaphor for those facing parenthood, the fears and anxieties that comes with that. The daily decisions to ensure your family are safe in the outside world. OK it’s an extreme here, but that’s what a good horror film does, heighten emotion for the effect of scaring the life out of you. It’s not just a thrill, each build-up of tension is gently relieved if only momentarily before that fear of the unknown dangers of the outside world return to remind you, it’s not as a safe as I thought it was. For me it was a real breath of fresh air. I rarely watch a horror, however the reliance of near silence was the added element that attracted me to want to see this exciting film that demands your silence for it to work, to function as it was intended, listen and understand so you can see the outside world with new ears and eyes, more cautious, more alert.

Field of Dreams (1989) Revisited


I’ve just checked my original review for Field of Dreams (1989) it was nearly 4 years ago, a film that even then struck a chord but not in terms of my written expression for it. As time has passed my critical thinking (and maturity) have allowed me to come back to this film and at times be really moved by it. I think also life experience allows you to view the things you have differently. That and an increasing love for Burt Lancaster which I’ve mentioned a few reviews back. Now I can go into more detail with a film that maybe a little heavy on the schmaltz which can be a hallmark of either a really cheesey or a filmmaker that really knows his craft.

Now I’m not the most religious person, the notion of there being a heaven is mostly a comfort for those I have lost and said goodbye to. A coping mechanism, however that may turn out for me I’ll have to wait until I kick the bucket myself. I’ll let you know if I can, just watch for the sign, I’ll let you know nearer the time. Now imagine a possible gateway to heaven, a heaven for long dead baseball players to return to this world. Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) has come across one of these gateways, completely by accident. A man whose own relationship with the game is fraught with personal regret. Hearing voices is only the beginning of Rays journey of discovery.

There’s something rather quaint about the film, nearly 30 years old, like myself next year, it has aged gracefully, as have I. It has an innocence of a simpler for a whisper from the heavens of a baseball player to grab Ray’s attention and set him on a course that changes his and his families lives forever. A modern miracle for our times is being written, ok that maybe going a bit far, but he has received a message from a higher power, one that can enter and leave our existence at will. He’s soon compelled to build a baseball pitch on the edge of his corn field, putting his families future at risk over an impulse that he can’t shake. If sport or baseball were a religion, which to huge portion of America, Baseball is a big part of so many lives, then Ray is building a church, if at first for no reason other than the whisper of  “If you build it, he will come.”  A line that could be used as an excuse to build almost anything you can think of. But we know it’s a baseball pitch from the prologue that sets up Ray’s backstory. A collection of archive footage and doctored photographs that place both Ray’s younger self with his father. I can see the actors who play the baseball players are also added subtly for added realism, they are part of the fabric of the films history, not just getting actors who look like these old time heroes.

With the pitch built it’s waiting time, after so the families life-savings are exhausted, what was it all for? A chance to play catch with his young daughter or to wait for that “he to come”. We don’t have to wait long for Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) to turn up lout of nowhere. Amazingly it was the daughter to first witness this miracle, not Ray. The innocence of a child, still open the possibilities of life and the wonders that are out there to be discovered. Ray soon follows to see who this guy, who could have just driven up to check out the pitch, really is. There’s already a sense of wonder, something special emphasised by the soundtrack, the heavenly tones of the church out in the corn fields of Iowa where life just passes by. The next night more players are on the pitch – the Chicago White Sox A team are out there now, all the old faces of an era that has begun to fade into the memory of an older generation.

It really is seeing is believing in this film, you have to see the miracle to believe, something that Ray’s brother in-law Mark (Timothy Busfield) is not prepared to do. Seeing only what is in front of him without that added belief that allows faith to take hold in a person. Instead only interested in the realities of life, his sister’s families impending financial ruin. wanting to buy them out before the bank pulls the farm from under them. Just as things become more real, they become more interesting for the audience. A heated debate on a Terrance Mann book compels Ray to go out of his way to track him down and bring him back home to see a game. A weird thing to do, an author who has now shunned the limelight of celebrity, working on computer programs for kids, the recluse is hard to win around.

Mann played by James Earl Jones brings real experience to the film, not just his place in film history as Darth Vader but sense of having lived a life full of change of upheaval, wanting to do what was right during at the time. When Ray meets the reclusive writer it’s a war of words and a shared experience that allow this pilgrimage to continue. It’s not very often you can use religious words in a review that actually translate so well. Moving on from Boston to find Archibald ‘Moonlight’ Graham (Burt Lancaster) who they learn has already passed on. Again I had forgotten that he has died before we have even seen him on-screen. Built up already in previous scene, a collection of bar stool interviews that paint a full and sad picture of Lancaster’s last theatrical film role. When we meet him, we have travel back in time, a cheeky reference to the era’s films before we meet an elderly doctor walking alone, with a hint of Irish in his accent we have Lancaster and we are under his spell once more.

Trying to persuade a ghost to join him and Terrance for a match is a lot harder than we think, instead we have to wait a little longer for another miracle. As we reach the close of the film the schmaltz is poured on a lot thicker to make the non-believers in the film realise what has been going on all along. It’s a film that relies on the faith to work, to really suspend your disbelief and just wonder what if. Well you don’t really have to go far, just go to a small independent cinema when they are playing a release or a classic film for a season they are curating. They have the power to bring back to life, if only for the duration of the film these stars of the screen who have long since died. Trapped forever in celluloid that has the effect of giving them immortality. The screen is a gateway for them to return, just as the players use the corn to remain hidden and rest before coming out to pitch a few more rounds or whatever the terms are. When Terrance is invited to join them, is he being taken to meet his maker or is he just old enough to understand whats going on. Does he have enough life experience to understand the meaning life of life of what is in store for us. We will never know. Field of Dreams maybe laughable for some, for me I was sold by the miracle that happens before for Ray, his family and Terrance who all are willing to believe. It speaks to a part of me that hopes there’s something in the next life, if there is one.

Painting the Town… Update (8/4/18)


After taking a much needed day off this weekend to recharge I returned to the studio where I spent most of the day. The fourth plinth is now up.. again. After tearing it down, amending the tracking also to accommodate the lack of cardboard (yes I’m running short of the right cardboard). I had to redraw the tracking to ensure I had enough to make this plinth work. I went as far as pulling it altogether and drawing up where the cables to/from the projector will run into the plinth. I’ll be securing it further next time.

I spent half my time adding coats of paint to the saloon bar and raised projector platform. I felt that by the end of the day that I feel more at peace with this addition. It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do. I think it was the jarring of the cardboard in such a white space that made it stand out and feel alien.

I also carried out a minor structural adjustment to the saloon. I noticed last week that the wall with the doorway was wobbily. I knew that it had to be reinforced, first I thought a piece at the top, which I learned only did half the job. Even re-gluing the base of the walls wasn’t enough. Later in the day I decided to add a longer piece that ran the length of the gap on the exterior, this did the trick. It practically hides the intruding wall/door and making a flush wall again. It’s something I’ve learned for future internal model miniatures with similar walls.

Next time I’ll be adding the finishing touches to everything I’ve done today and also edit the re-timed videos as they will be used in the exhibited pieces. With the annual open studios on 21st April, I’ll be testing a few of them out during the day to see how they stand up to an extended length of time. I’ll be on hand to check on how they are doing.

Painting the Town… Update (2/4/18)


After 4 days straight in the studio, I’m tired. I’ve completed all I set out to do – to fix the projectors into the four model miniatures. I’ve removed the need for horrible tripods, which looked horrible and also created a real hazard in the dark. Having removed that I’ve now got everything attached or concealed to each piece, whilst hopefully they will be fire safe too. They are all secure and well ventilated allowing them to project the slow-motion violence into the spaces. They may no longer consume them. but they are more intimate which can only add to t he miniature aesthetic.

Onto today’s piece I quickly set on where the project would go, It wasn’t going to be hidden in the double bed. For once it was going to be suspended well raised above and attached to the a wall. The fixing had to be right for everything to work, otherwise it would be loose and dangerous. I was careful when even trying the projector in its final position. Angling and support were the first things to get right. The angling was achieved and ensured with five pieces of lattice that sit below the shelf.

Once those criteria were met I moved onto securely holding the projector above adding ventilation and allowing easy access to the ports/buttons. Once this was sorts I could fix in place, and work on the hidden pocket that concealed the media player within the plinth. I finished the day by returning to the first model miniature and hiding the supports in the bar, boxing out the bar before I got the paint out to begin work on the new features that I want to be seen as part of the pieces, whilst others will be left bare. I’m still not happy with the structure I made yesterday, it maybe completely redesigned before it’s fixed in place. Even though I have begun painting it, that won’t stop me.

Next time it will be all about making the new plinth and carrying on the painting of the new pieces which then allow new tests to be carried out.

Painting the Town… Update (1/4/18)


We’re into the final half of the Easter holiday and I’m doing well. With a structure in place to hold the projector for the Japanese model. One that I am beginning to have second thoughts about now. However I need to see how it looks once painted. Part of me is not used to such a massive change that from the view I’ve been looking at to be obstructed. It wasn’t an easy decision after looking at all the possible positions for the projector to site. I was prepared to construct a bar for it to sit with in at an angle.

The construction of the piece was pretty straight forward once I got the initial height to build a base which I could then adapt, cutting into and repositioning to allow the projection to dramatically fall onto the back wall. The position of the piece now means that a new plinth’s required too. Working with the base, to consider the ventilation I worked in a lattice pattern that would also look interesting and allow the viewer to see within to what is slightly hidden – maybe that’s a fair compromise that I need to accept here.

Now all I have to do is paint and more than likely fix in place ready for presentation. I’ll make a start on a new plinth once all the projector positions have been sorted and painting is underway. Laying the groundwork with new tracking in place. I’ll be making use of the old one to make a start on the new. I have also been looking at added a line of cardboard around the interior of the bar in yesterday’s model miniatures to hide the additions, I’ll paint all the new additions too that sit within the model. The first one I’ll leave bare as its external. Lastly I have the biggest and most interesting model to work with. I’m not sure where the project will go. I have a lot of space to place with too.

Painting the Town… Update (31/3/18)


We are half-way through the Easter Holiday and I also half-way through adapting my model miniatures to hold the projectors within them in some shape or form. After weighing up my options for this one – the saloon from Unforgiven (1992) I decided to conceal it within the saloon bar itself. Which took some time to figure out, after carefully removing the bar, I began to look at the angle and how to then secure it in place. Whilst also allowing the image to come through the bar unaffected. Also considering the ventilation which runs through under the base and straight outside again.

Once the projector was secure I had to consider the bar itself, how do I keep it secure, yet lose. I decided on a system on cardboard strips that would run around three sides of the bar on in the interior, so that it slides over the top, holding it in place.

Again I made some necessary cuts to the plinth for the cabling, with the addition of the media player pocket, which will be a standard part of all of the modifications. I’m pleased with how this one has turned out and the creative thinking which went into make the. This new method will really free up the presentation, only restricted by the length of power cable which is easily resolved.

Next up I’m hoping to work on the Japanese piece, to conceal it would be hard under the raised floor, causing more work than I really want. Also the positioning of the projector (which I am think will be overhead) could potentially change the plinth it sits on too, as it currently sits on it’s side. All come make more sense when I return to the studio.

Painting the Town… Update (30/4/18)


I’ve got four days off during the Easter break and my intention is to make use of them at the studio. During the week I had some ideas for how to contain the projector within the model miniatures. Taking the sketches with me I had a few options – 1 a bar across the top of the pieces with a secured and angles projector above, positioned into the work. 2 – angled below and also secured in place and 3 – a concealed projector within the piece, which I drew up sketches of where they could potentially go based on each piece.

All being very unique I have decided to work with each one alone, allowing me to focus better on them. I began with The Great Silence saloon, moving the projector around the space, looking at the possibilities before deiced what was best. With this one I went with option 2. With some new cardboard I found at work, which is surprisingly strong 1ply card, I began to construct a case that is individually tailored to the model, the angle of the projectors and the distance. I have made the decision that this should be the method used for all of them. The case considers all necessary ports and ventilation to reduced the risk of fire. The real test will be to leave the pieces on for an extended period of time to see how they work and will withstand.

Concerning the cables I have made a small cut into the plinth and also made a pocket/shelf to holder the media player inside  the plinth. I think this will be a standard piece, whilst the option for the projector will vary. I’m happy with how well it’s gone, something I’ve not done (securing kit with cardboard) since my degree show piece. So far it’s going well, the real test will come when I have to conceal as I’ll probably have to repaint or remake sections. It’s nothing I can’t handle, I’m confident that it will turn out well.

Pursued (1947)


Sight and Sound ran an article on psychological Westerns, with a smaller side piece darker Westerns starring Robert Mitchum. I’ve been keeping a look out for these film, so far this year I’ve seen two – Track of the Cat (1954) and today Pursued (1947). I can’t begin the review without a brief look at Track of the Cat which just on a visual level is fascinating. The colour pallet restricted to black and white, with splashes of red, every other colour was muted down – unless you were Mitchum. He wasn’t even the overall focus of the film that saw a family restricted by the biting cold of the mountain snow. Even more so with the threat of a black cat that had been spotted. With a terrifying performance from Beulah Bondi as the matriarch who used the bible to keep her family in line. Not thinking about how the scriptures were doing more damage than good. Driving the husband and father Philip Tonge to drink, hiding a bottle of whiskey in every thinkable place, yes a serious look at alcoholism in the genre.

Coming back to the earlier film directed by a Western director Raoul Walsh in this black and white noiresque Western set again the barren landscape of Gallup, New Mexico, which mentions the Mexico Border war 1910-19, however the costume is very confusing as to the era it depicts until we return from the front lines. I’m reminded tonally of Ramrod (1947) which is more overt in it’s visual connection to noir, with Veronica Lake paired opposite Joel McCrea. I still find that film confusing even after a second watch a few years ago. Unlike the majority of of Pursued which as with most noirs that are told in flashback. With the arrival of Thor Callum (Teresa Wright) who rides into join a man in hiding with a burnt out wreck of a homestead. We find Jeb Rand (Mitchum) wounded, tired and scared.

Beginning the film where he began his short life as we fade into flashback. A young boy hiding in a basement is rescued by a woman Mrs Callum (Judith Anderson) who welcomes him to live with her two young children. Life is not safe for them as they are soon on the run themselves. It’s a film of great upheaval and change for everyone in the Callum family. It’s not just a time of change politically but also on a domestic level. With such a focus on the family the film leans more towards drama than action which the Western generally fits into. We meet the children who are able to hold more screen time, danger is slowly creeping into their lives when Jeb’s horse is shot dead from under him. My first reaction was that it’s pretty dark in any film to kill a child. Thankfully he lives to be filled with fear that he takes home to the family. A child who we know has been plagued with bad dreams which we see flash upon the screen throughout the film.

We also meet an embittered Grant Callum (Dean Jagger) who soon loses an arm, which doesn’t stop him trying to muddy Jeb’s family name. But why is he out to get Jeb, how can an innocent boy have incurred the anger of this man. The ex husband of Mrs Callum who is more than happy and capable to raise three children alone, shows little fear, aware of the reasons but these are not revealed to us. The audience is left in suspense for the films duration. Tensions introduced between brothers Jeb and Adam Callum (John Rodney) after Jeb returns home early from the border war. The vendetta against Jeb is about to enter a new adult phase of fateful violence that follows him like a curse. Pushing him away from his adoptive family and love Thor who for a long time shuns him for the hurt he causes.

The question of why looms heavy over the this film. Why is Grant Callum so determined to see Jeb outcast from those he loves, to get him alone and kill him. All whilst Jeb is tortured by his recurring dream that he struggles to understand he returns to to brotherly rivalry that ends in death. Leading to the a court case being heard with the dead body in the room. The pressure to do right by the deceased and the accused has never been so acute. Whatever the result Jeb is cast out by his family, trying to find a way back into their favor. Something made harder with the a new man in Thor’s life, which is manipulated by Grant who tries to further push Jeb into the line of fire.

Throughout the film I noticed that we were missing one key ingredient of the noir genre – the femme fatale which is revealed late on and maintained for a few minutes before we are drawn into the safety of a happy ending. The women save the day after the Callum en-masse close in on Jeb who was destined to meet the fate of the rest of his family. The ending allows the woman rarely to take control on-screen, unlike the man who is generally expected to. Where there is pretty much a happy ending here, I much prefer the bleakness of Track of the Cat that left a family forced to come together under extreme pressure after such heavy losses. The turmoil that the respective families go through can’t fairly be compared. It’s the intensity of the situations and how they are resolved and that makes for more dramatic ending. Maybe it’s due to more confidence in the director, the script or a combination of both and the times that the films are made in. Either way they are both very interesting and obscure Westerns that dare to push the boundaries of the genre as it blurs with another.