Trisha McCrae Owens

Trisha Owens, Winter Sky. Print.

Trisha Owens, Winter Sky. Print.

The term ‘art’ certainly has a big remit but it’s the underlying aspects that make good art stand out, whether it is a piece of music, a film, a poem, a performance or a painting.  For me, a work of art has to initially grab me with some sort of aesthetic emotion, a visceral reaction that says stay a bit longer and in these moments of waiting my imagination and understanding go off into free play. I‘m allowed into the piece. I like to think this happens when the intensity of the artist’s passion comes through and I appreciate work that is fresh, memorable and of its time.

I also suggest a work of art has to have a coherency, an overall sense of what it’s “about”, an inner logic in the Focillon sense, even if it is an abstract form, it must have underlying signs that link to a thematic content or harmony. Lastly I think a work of art has to have a reason to be, it has to have meaning.  I appreciate art as craft and art for art’s sake, but for me great art has underlying meaning.

I trained as a painter and sculptor and was happy getting to know those materials.  I loved mixing paint and discovering its properties.  When I look at my films they possess a painterly quality, which I suspect, stems from gaining an understating of colour combinations. I learned a lot from immersing myself in oil paint. I was greatly influenced by Frank Auerbach’s choice of palate and the Dutch 17th Century obsession with light.  They still inform my work today.   I also explored wood and metals particularly cold cast bronze and have been fortunate to have had commissioned sculptures for businesses and even a school.  I never really thought I would give up these mediums for film, but it just happened.

The experimental nature and exploration of materials and ideas that I learnt from fine art, continues in my films today.  Editing is like painting, you compose, attend to colour, work on lighting, shape and movement in space. Learning new digital techniques is the same as discovering a new paint or carving tool.  It moves your practice in a different direction. Also a huge influencing factor on my practice today, which I am very grateful for, was that I was taught by inspiring art historians. They introduced me to the wide-ranging approaches to understanding art. They taught me about the great artists, thinkers and movements, they showed me that I could present my work in my own way, I could step back from it and analyse and articulate my ideas.  They gave me an understanding of context.  They introduced me to theoretical concepts, visual theories and a world of different psychoanalytical, cultural and feminist readings of art.   They taught me how to research and formulate the language to criticize and gave me an authority and voice to say what I had to say.

Trisha Owens, Pink Tree. Print.

Trisha Owens, Pink Tree. Print.

For me colour is a language; it has meaning and a vocabulary that communicates feelings and emotions.  In What Do We See, there is an energy that is produced by the colour combinations. These colours are vivid and they talk to each other in emotive terms. I have encouraged this communication by using animation techniques, giving a flicker to the viewing experience similar to lights being turned on and off.  These gaps in the animation allow a tiny space to open up, a liminal space that allows the viewer in and encourages them to fill it with their own thoughts.  Therein the viewer becomes an active participant in the viewing experience.

I spent my childhood by the sea, so I’m greatly influenced by wave like movement and the effect the light has on the water. The different hues of the sea change according to its depths and current. I have harnessed this same quality of perpetual motion in the curtain blowing in What Do We See.   Although the curtain footage acts as a formal scaffolding this is to an extent subservient to the action of the color.  When the wind blows it creates a flow of colors twisting and turning against each other, this creates innumerable sequences each of which throws up a color sensation.  Each colour sensation touches the viewer in a particular way and is dependant on their path of seeing, and what the colors personally evoke.  At its best color goes deep and harnesses the raw emotional state of the viewer. It’s like as if the color is breathing energy and for some this will be a lyrical breathe, for others a corporeal stab. What Do We See is an open and abstract piece to be unlocked and felt and articulated by the viewer.

For me though, my intention was to create a memorial to the holocaust by using the subtle interjection of recognizable images of tunnels and the sounds of trains and the haunting black and white skeletal images of family members drifting into nothingness. The musical accompaniment by Serge Vergerov adds to the Jewish memorial and is a sincere moving piece.  His lamenting sounds are overwhelming but the color saturation of the flickering animations is its equal.

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Text exerpted from an interview featured in the video publication Stigmart

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