Autumn Week 4: Pt. 2 – “To Fall Asleep”

So, the animation for this week’s piece was complete. With the deadline approaching, I had just a few days to create the accompanying painting and a soundtrack.

With the painting, I was using phosphorescent paint, which I had never used before. I was keen for the painting to be as brightly coloured as possible, because of the nature of the piece – it would be in a dark room, which somewhat restricts the visibility of the painting.

In the spirit of being environmentally friendly, I decided to re-use the canvas I had for my week 3 piece – “The Lake.” (You can read about my environmental attitude towards art in last year’s work.) To make it as light as possible before applying the phosphorescent paint, I painted it pure white.

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This was my first experience of painting with this kind of paint, and I was intrigued to see what it would be like. As you can see below, it’s not overly thick and is (ironically) quite hard to see when you’re painting with it (it’s the blue smudge in the middle).

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Normally when painting with acrylics, I dilute them a fair bit to increase coverage and blendability, but I felt this paint was thin enough already. Continuing with the theme of abstraction, I was not trying to depict anything in particular, rather to respond to the feeling of the paint, the canvas, and the physical anatomy of my hand and how that affects my brushwork. You can see below that I attempted a wide variety of mark-making in order to get used to the materials. In some ways, I viewed this work as not necessarily an outcome; a polished piece of art, but more as a technical exercise. The process was fun, it enabled me to learn, and it gave me inspiration for my painting practice.

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In many ways, creating the soundtrack was a similar process. As you can read about in Part 1 of this post, I envisaged the outcome of this piece to be a process where the canvas is lit by the animation for half the time, and for the other half glows with its own phosphorescence. I wanted the soundtrack to reflect this. I wanted there to be two soundtracks – one for the animation, and one for the phosphorescence.

The animation for me conveyed a sense of drama, and yet an odd sense of calm. When watching it, it seemed to suggest music. It seemed otherworldly and called for power and emotion.

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I experimented with some synth sounds on the program GarageBand, and quickly found some that I felt reflected what I was feeling. With this I made a short musical composition, the same length as the animation, and added modulation effects to give it a spacey feel.

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The other part of the installation, where the painting glows by itself, called for something a bit more eerie; a bit more abstract. I discovered quite by accident that GarageBand has a function where you can record sounds and add effects to it. I tried doing so using a delay effect (which causes any recorded sound to repeat, like an echo) and found that recording myself clapping and letting the delay ring out for some time creates a very interesting sound. It sounded to me like some kind of alien radio signal. I recorded a clip of this noise and used it for the phosphorescent part of the installation.

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As you can see above, the delay sound (in orange) is queued just before the musical section comes in, so it syncs up with the animation.

The result of the combined soundtrack, painting, and animation is a cyclical installation where two separate phases repeat continually. The first phase featured the phosphorescent painting, gently glowing in a darkened room, accompanied by the abstract, ‘alien signal’ sound piece. In the second phase, a burst of purplish light washed over the canvas, radiating from the centre, and the soundtrack changed to an ambient, synth-driven musical composition.

In that the resulting piece was structured exactly how I had intended, and the animation looked extremely effective against the painting, I judged the piece a success. I felt it was an effective representation of falling asleep, and when watching it it turned out that the first phase could be seen as sleep itself, with the second phase representing phosphenes.

It was a disappointment that the phosphorescent paint didn’t glow very well. In fact in the video above, you can barely see the paint glowing. This was reflected in the feedback I received. I was told that although the phosphorescent paint was an interesting experiment, it was not as effective as anticipated and although it is maybe something to be re-visited, for now there are other elements that need more attention:

  • The soundtrack – my tutor felt that the abstract, delay sound was much more effective than the musical composition. The music evidently came across as ambient and akin to elevator music, which is too familiar and does not sit well with the other elements of the piece.
  • The scale – I had been creating these pieces for three weeks now, and so far they’d all been a similar size. It was now the time to up the scale for more impact.
  • The animation – my tutor and I agreed that the first piece, “Motions,” had been the most successful piece so far because of the animation’s simplicity. The three dots slowly moving around was mysterious and intriguing, whereas this week’s animation, although impactful, was perhaps a little predictable.

This feedback, along with my own research, inspired the creation of the following piece, which would feature in the first exhibition of the year.

 

 

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