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Some avant-garde film-makers choose to work in a way more associated with the art studio than the film studio.

Like painters they have literally put their marks onto the raw material of the celluloid, sometimes in paint or dye and sometimes scratched into the film surface like a drawing. This is an effective way of creating images without using a film camera, often when filming costs have been too prohibitive. It also freed filmmakers to explore the expressive and abstract possibilities of the moving image, closer to the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists, for example, rather than conventional narrative cinema.

Painting and scratching also enabled artists to investigate the rhythmic properties of the drawn line, when animated into movement. The scratched animations of experimental pioneer Len Lye provide fine examples of this technique, which can also be seen in Annabel Nicolson's Slides. Her film uses scratched and painted scraps of transluscent materials; both 35mm slide and 16mm film, and fragments from previous films, to choreograph a 'dance with the printer'. Margaret Tait's marks and scratches in Colour Poem create a counterpoint to other passages of the film, offering a different texture and mood to her live-action sequences.

Still from Slides


Attention to the transient, fragile or precarious is usually somewhere at the source.

Still from Colour poem

Colour Poems

"Well, yes, I do remember the young men going off to fight in Spain."

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