Scottish Animation: Abstraction & Experimentation

Curated for Anim18 – a UK-wide celebration of British animation – by Ross Hogg, and marking the centenary of Orcadian filmmaker and poet Margaret Tait, this programme showcases Scottish animations that play with the form and structure of filmmaking. Story is not the driving force. Instead, we are treated to a series of visual delights where subtlety can be just as effective as the lushest of imagery. Dating from the 1970s, two works of Tait’s direct animation – in which she painted directly onto frames of celluloid – evoke traditional Highland dances. This focus on the more visceral aspects of filmmaking – movement, timing, colour and sound – is echoed in works by Donald Holwill, Lesley Keen, Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson, each handling an oblique and abstract approach to animation.

Lightswitch David Shrigley | 2009 | 1m28 | Edition of 6 + 1AP A cartoon hand with outstretched finger repeatedly switches a household lightswitch on and off, only when the lights go out the whole image disappears.
Painted Eightsome Margaret Tait | 1970 | 6m16 Eights of different things – figures, antlers, or sometimes just blobs in tartan colours – dance their way through the figure of the reel.
Etude Robert Duncan | 2016 | 4m10 A conversation between an animator and a composer, that maps line, colour and texture visually and sonically.
Nightwindows Anwyn Beier | 2002 | 3m14 An animated film that turns the viewer into a floating voyeur, snatching brief but compelling glimpses of peoples’ private worlds beyond the window frame.
Navigations Iain Gardner | 2015 | 3m34 Navigations is a project about the brain, cancer, and the approaches of medical science and art to how we understand the impact of terminal illness.
Taking a Line for a Walk Lesley Keen | 1983 | 10m40 A homage to the work of the Swiss painter Paul Klee. An exploration and an expansion of the ideas of Paul Klee on colour and movement.
Wire Patrick Jameson | 2006 | 2m03
Sleep David Shrigley | 2009 | 8m01 | Edition of 6 + 1AP A flat cartoon of a man asleep is synced with the soundtrack of someone sleeping, He fidgets, twitches, grimaces and paws at the cloth of his bedspread. Sleep, suggests Shrigley, and the world of dreams, of the unconscious – perhaps the only place where we do ‘transcend’ ourselves (although we cannot ever witness it) – is not so peaceful after all.
Fugitive Images Donald Holwill | 2014 | 1m07 A very brief animated dribble of consciousness, the product of an absent mind and a semi-autonomous drawing hand. Warning – there are knives.
Type Cameron Duguid | 2001 | 6m11 A kaleidoscopic journey through type and types, pointing this way and that, and forever unfolding through a variety of lenses and perspectives.
Sleep Vessel Ben Skea | 2013 | 2m43 Sleep Vessel attempts to explore and understand the three core processes of memory (encoding, storage and retrieval) by way of hand drawn animation. Abstracted constructs, reassembled from ‘automatic drawings’ created before and after sleep, take form as separate parts – evolving from one state to another.
Scribbledub Ross Hogg | 2014 | 3m A film conversation using 16mm film and a projector, with both the sound and image being created by painting and scratching directly on to 16mm film stock.  ‘Scribbledub’ explores the dependent relationship between image and sound – the ‘scribble’ creates the ‘dub’, the ‘dub’ informs the ‘scribble’.
Joaquin Phoenix & David Letterman Brendan Bennett | 2011 | 7m53 A typographic exploration of an awkward 2008 interview between Phoenix and Letterman, one of the most important turning points in the wider narrative of Phoenix’s hoax retirement from acting.
Headless Drummer David Shrigley | 2012 | 1m02 (continuous loop) | Edition of 6 + 1AP The headless drummer is bashing away at his high-hat – is he lost in music, mindless, a decapitated slave to the rhythm?
John MacFadyen Margaret Tait | 1970 | 3m30 Brightly coloured animated figures dance to the traditional tune ‘John MacFadyen’, as played by the Orkney Strathspey and Reel Society.
Digital/ANALOGUE Lu Sisi | 2010 | 2m36 Since the introduction of digital technology the relationship between camera and photographer has altered dramatically. Speed and accessibility have come at the expense of mystery, intimacy and tactility – qualities exclusive to analogue photography.
Timeless Ainslie Henderson | 2015 | 5m14 Through stop motion and in a masterly, almost poetic way, the director shows an immortal passage of time using a piece of the mechanism of a clock, a light table and a camera.

“Light Switch”, “Headless Drummer” and “Sleep” Copyright the artist Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; Anton Kern, New York; Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen and BQ, Berlin.

Part of Anim18: A Celebration of British Animation. Led by Film Hub Wales and Chapter (Cardiff) working with members of the BFI Film Audience Network, with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from The National Lottery.