Untitled, Contemporary Art
Issue Number 37, Spring 2006

‘The Animators’
Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham, UK
3 Dec 2005 to 4 Feb 2006

Reviewed by Megan O’Shea

Stepping off the pavement into the foyer of Angel Row Gallery in Nottingham I momentarily lost myself.  The loud cheers of an over excited football crowd filled the space making it seem more like a pub on a Sunday afternoon than a gallery.  These cheers emanated from a television screen placed on the staircase up to the main space showing England and Poland (2005) by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier; a football match from which the football has been removed.  Without the ball the game does become beautiful with the players moving in a choreographed ballet across the pitch.  It also becomes strangely futile.  The grown men chase nothing but air and the crowds overreact to empty goals.

The emptiness at the centre of this game is echoed by the surprising stillness in the galleries upstairs, the first of which is dominated by Paul Morrison’s series of twelve black and white screen prints, Black Dahlias (2004).  The strange shifts in scale in these prints and the way in which the artist has selected and edited the images of nature – from sources as different as cartoons and old master prints – links with his film work.  His animation Acrospire (2005)plays in a boxed off corner of this same room and edits together footage of woods and water from a diverse selection of film.  The empty soundtrack of howling wind and swelling water is the only seamless element of the animation, in which the images move speedily and jerkily, leaving the viewer disoriented and afraid in the little black cubicle.

The animation of Dryden Goodwin’s Two Thousand and Three  (2003) is similarly jerky.  The 16mm film is made up of snap shots of two thousand and three faces taken during a protest march in 2003.  The film is shown on a light box with magnifying glasses – enabling the viewer to pick out specific frames and specific faces – and also on a clunking projector that flicks through it and brings the faces to life.  Suddenly the bustle and noise of the protest become evident and fleeting relationships seem to form between the previously still individuals.

This flick book style animation is consistent with the work of Ann Course, whose hastily and crudely drawn black and white images are set to motion and shown in a sequences that are by turns sped up and repeated, or slowed down and lingered over, so that the viewer struggles to follow the tangential train of thought.  Course’s explicit imagery is dark but also comic.  Sex, violence and childhood games are all jumbled together in a frequently disconcerting visualisation of the artist’s unconscious.  Images taken from Course’s animations are objectified in ceramic and bronze and displayed alongside the films.  The comfortingly domestic appearance of a group of pale pink ceramic pies entitled You, Me, Them (2004) takes on a Freudian hint of the ‘unheimlich’ when referenced to the group of three coffins similarly labelled ‘you, me, them’ in the short animation Recruitment Video (2000). The positioning of these objects next to a table of children’s toys (an intervention by staff at the gallery) disturbs things further.

Katy Dove’s animations, which are looped with those of Ann Course, are gentler but similarly captivating.  Her instinctive drawing responds to the varied soundtrack of the films, and her brightly coloured shapes dance – dividing, multiplying and then disappearing.  The quick changes of the animation seem to explore the idea of experiencing different emotions at the same time, as the forms collide and merge.

Despite their gentleness, Dove’s films have a real sense of movement that the other work in the show, despite the thematic, does not necessarily have. Certainly, Simon Faithfull’s Dog Breathing (2004) is an astonishing animation.  The outline of the dog, drawn on a palm pilot, is projected curled in a corner of the gallery and brings the exhibition to a close with a peaceful full stop.  The sketched line of the dog’s rib cage barely moves as the dog breathes in and out, yet the mechanical drawing seems lifelike. The stillness is animate.