Sunday, 22 November 2009

Nicola Probert

Article originally in The Pictures zine #2

Watching Nicola’s music videos, films and animations is like watching an expressive and engrossing argument. Thoughts and idea tracks fight for attention, different mediums struggle for dominance, images fight images. People emerge triumphant from abstract shapes only to be smothered by ink and paint and new ideas, ideas in turn superseded by the new patterns and images that grow organically from them. See the monochrome Ipso Facto multiplying and marching geometrically in constant momentum in her video for Six and Three Quarters, the Skip Theatre troupe swimming in a sketched lake and eaten by an animated crocodile in Lunch, or the paper hearts-tears in The Charlatan’s Mis-takes video that fly away with minds of their own. Working in numerous mediums from super-8 to paper cuttings, video to paint, live action and animation, Nicola imbues every element of her work with its own energy and its own consciousness. Every image is a new idea or opinion growing out of, complimenting or obliterating the one that came before, restless, multiplying, changing direction. Nothing is still.

These arguments, conflicts and variations in Nicola’s work bring to mind the music that her work often illustrates, like synaesthetic compositions on the screen. Her restive tone poems are born from her thoughts and then given the space to evolve of their own accord, to find their own way from beginning to end so that their narratives are unpredictable and their characters (both human and otherwise) intrigue. While their elements feel as familiar as a pop song, the films themselves set out to surprise and to explore. If the films portray arguments, then their outcome is ever undecided.

THE PICTURES: Of all the different mediums you use, do you have a particular favourite to work in?

NICOLA: i like working across mediums. for example transferring an idea from a sketch into something 3 dimensional and back again. i use words, sound and sketching as immediate formats to record and visualise ideas. these initial ideas develop and may end up in some form as part of an animation or a painting or a film.

THE PICTURES: Logistically, how do you go about making a video? Like the Charlatan's Mis-takes video, how did that one come together?

NICOLA: the process is organic and different every time. obviously for a music video, i start by listening to the track and the lyrics, the way they're delivered, the feeling/emotion, rhythm and approach of the song, visual responses to these elements form in my head, images or image sequences, characters or situations...

i sketch out these images, and experiment with different materials; ink; pencil; 3d; paint; photography...

this process defines the aesthetic, I find the colours and approach on paper which i have in my head. it's quite instinctive and not too deliberate.
for the Charlatans Mis-takes video i used some dancers who helped visualise some of the shapes and ideas physically and then a lot of time on this one was spent after the shoot, drawing and animating elements that layered over the bodies

THE PICTURES: What things inspire you? Is there anything that heavily influences you?

NICOLA: so many things - stories. atmospheres. characters. spaces. literature is a big source of inspiration - currently I'm reading Angela Carter and recently read Roald Dahl's Kiss Kiss collection, both of which had a big resonance. i get a lot of images / situations from dreams that make it into things in one way or another. myths, history, animals, the way painting can be used to create an impression of an atmosphere/energy.

i love jan svankmejer, he works with film and animation in a very physical way. - i think materials and the physicality of things are important. I like the approach of Billy Childish - trying not to try to do anything in particular.

THE PICTURES: Do you like working for yourself, as opposed to working for an ad agency or that kind of thing? What do you like about it?

NICOLA: very much. having the space and time to work on ideas, and create something which develops like a conversation as a body of work. i find it impossible to get excited about something whose beginning/goal is commerce. art for me is not about this, although obviously there are cross overs, and pop culture is a big part of this, but it doesn't begin there.

THE PICTURES: What’s next?

NICOLA: At the moment i'm directing some short films for the Tate on art and music. the series is set to be released in September through Tate Shots. This has been a really interesting project to work on.

i've got a couple of short films in development at the moment, one is a character study through a live action narrative, the other is animation based - that i'm planning to produce over the next few months. I am working on painting and drawings also which i hope to collect together in an exhibition later in the year.

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