After the completion of the residency Moya Dyring Studio, Cite′ Internationale Des Arts, Paris in 2011 I returned to Australia and developed the research into a large charcoal drawing like a Chinese scroll. The symbolic aspects of the drawing included a globe representing migration, a large painting referencing The Raft of Medusa, the large Dividing Line painting flooded with dramatic light. Dark one side, light the other. Using a combination of film and animation I began by documenting myself in the studio opening up the drawing onto the studio wall, like a scroll. I selected certain symbolic areas in the drawing such as the globe, the figures on the raft, the cat, the bat, the artist and the ocean image. Combining drawing in ink and charcoal required experimentation with focal points, film speed and sound. The large charcoal drawing revealed some complex narratives and I discovered as I developed each version of the animation I had endless possibilities. I wrote in my diary:
The artist is tired or asleep at the desk. He is surrounded by his paintings about migration, one large painting a remake of Theodore Gericault’s painting, The Raft of the Medusa; a cat stands in the shadows. Above in the darkness hover bats or owls referencing Francisco de Goya’s final plate for Los Caprichos, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (1799). On the desk next to the artist is a globe. What dreams occupy the artist? The image raises a question: Is the artist tired or depressed by social issues and doubt? The large painting of the ocean and sky unite with global images, the artist loves the world. As a romantic artist he wants to play a part in changing the world, art can speak and heal. Goya said of his work: “Imagination, deserted by reason, begets impossible monsters. United with reason, she is the mother of all arts, and the source of their wonders”. (Studio diary 2012)
There are various debates about the meaning of Goya’s work but perhaps the artist is suggesting that rational thought and reflection are valuable to an artist. This leads then to correcting and adjusting previous held thoughts and beliefs. That studio became a space of transformation and memory.
The film assembles the archive of migration into a site of the imagination, the site of making whereby reflecting the migratory themes of an artist who seeks a truth that goes beyond the studio, the place of creation. Using animation and film to narrate an artist’s imagination became a form of visual geography of intuitive thoughts. Drawings that map our thoughts and movements become like a diary, a diary of our lives at a point in history. After four versions I described the final work:
The video opens with the artist rolling out a large drawing on the studio wall like a Chinese scroll not revealing the full work. Historically Chinese scrolls are not to be seen on continuous show and the format allows for a narrative or journey through time and space. A strong light casts shadow of the artist on the drawing as the screen cuts to a part of the drawing, the globe on the desk. The globe begins to move, twisting and turning in dark black ink sketches and collage pieces cuts to another view with the artist at the desk as the globe turns blue alive and vibrating with movement. Another cut to the globe where longitude and latitude lines move and disappear in concert with figures on a raft, arms waving, helping others, a map of Australia is suggested as a globe within a globe appears morphing into the ocean and clouds. Cut again to the drawing as the camera moves across the surface from the head of the artist to the dark area behind a painting where the bat shape begins to move, flapping wings. This movement seems to form a black head that then becomes the cat that moves behind the painting. A cut to a long view of a corrugated image on the beach in the shape of the Raft of Medusa then to a silvery grey sky where the stencils created in Paris move and weave an explosion of colour and imagery before cutting back to the drawing.
I created a new series of sketches of images over maps to activate over the ocean painting in the studio. The drawings were to emphasis global images and reinforce the idea of travel and migration. The images flash like strobe lighting over the image of the ocean zooming in and out until a cut to the actual studio where the images keep flickering onto a canvas.
Another cut back to the image on the ocean painting against a studio wall. Watery ink drawings of a figure waving a shirt (created at the Louvre) moving frantically in conjunction with other bodies back and forth. Cut back to the large drawing where suddenly the artist stands up from his desk and spins the globe with his hand moving out into the dark area. Cut to the beach where the artist constructs and assembles an iron image on the beach. The iron image has an opening, a portal that can be entered both ways, from the sea or the land. (Studio diary, 2013) Stephen Copland