Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Planning for the National Gallery Project

Our greatest and last assignment for this year is to create an animation inspired by one of the paintings from the permanent collection at the National Gallery. You can browse their collection at this address: http://nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/
It might appear that their are too many options, but knowing already that I would not choose an aristocrat's portrait, a medieval Madonna and Child, or the classical depiction of Greco-Roman myth narrowed down the choices considerably!

Although I tried to enter the gallery with an open mind, I was interested at the time in different ways of visualising landscape, so my inspiration radar was biased. The first painting that appeared full of possibilities for me was 'Lake Keitele' (1905) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. This is a very sensual painting, where you can feel the cool, smooth fluidity of the lake simply by looking, i.e. haptic visuality. The tranquility represents the purity of the unspoilt Finnish landscape to me and reflects the whispered mystery of its cultural history.
The choice of framing and composition is unconventional; it would be interesting to know if this is because Gallen-Kallela is making a deliberate statement about the conventions of landscape painting or because the artist comes from a tradition of landscape visualisation where this kind of imagery is not altogether unusual.
The ripples in the foreground were supposedly formed by the passing of a Norse god on his boat; this opens up a great deal of thematic and narrative potential for an animation. It certainly highlights the specificity of a particular moment in time and therefore the transience of reality in visualising landscape, akin to Turner's experiments with painting the same subject at different times of day.
The choice to represent an epic tale with such a gentle stroke makes classical paintings of mythology appear crude in comparison and overly illustrative. I know very little of Finnish culture, but this subtlety seems to exemplify this country's general personality in the global community today. Perhaps it is a statement about how these ancient cultural traditions are slipping into the past, as they are only a whisper next to the blaring rabble of globalised media entertainment.

I have been interested in exploring Norse culture for while and this painting would offer the perfect opportunity. However, as this may be the only personal animation of any substantial length I will have the opportunity to create for a while, it is important that it bears some meaning to me on another level. As I have no personal connection to Finland and could only hope to gain a superficial understanding of the significance of Lake Keitele to the artist, I would neither be able to do the painting justice, nor to tap into any deeper understanding of life.

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