I completed The Bear Atrocities animation in my second year as an undergraduate. The piece itself was constructed during a particularly tumultuous political climate surrounding issues in Syria. This sparked my interest in the exploration of both current and past conflict in order to create an animation which would reflect a wide scope of themes such as hypocrisy, tyranny, irony, belief and reality. Much of the inspiration behind my animations has come from Czech animator Jan Švankmajer, whose surrealist work has become synonymous with political resistance and highly politicized and symbolic art. Having been raised in Czechoslovakia under Soviet rule, Švankmajer was not just imagining but fabricating wild and highly controversial films for over four decades under an oppressive, Stalinist orthodoxy. It was popular belief that he was using animation to challenge many of the insincerities and absurdities he experienced at the time.
Alongside a politically reflective agenda, symbolism became a focus for my work. I’ve explored ways in which animation uses symbolism to portray a message, more specifically the use of animal allegory. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is widely seen as a satirical jab at Stalin and his brutally oppressive rule but also acted as reference point for my own work. Orwell effectively explores the loyalty and naivety of the working classes and questions the effectiveness of communism and its policies. One animal particularly caught my attention throughout my research; bears have widely been used as a Russian symbol of power and communism since as early as the 16th century. With the pretence that my work would aim to reflect current political issues I began to investigate the history of Russian policies in order to grasp an understanding of communism, a theme at the heart of my work. I applied this wealth of research directly back to politically charged works of art which lead me to examine political propaganda, through the works of companies such as Walt Disney I was able to situate my research within an animation context and begin to formulate my own version of propaganda art.
In the early 1930s the Italian writer and art historian Mario Praz highlighted the dark side of Romanticism, thus naming a vast swathe of artistic creation. The premise of the visual style was to exploit the shadows, excesses and irrational elements that lurked behind the apparent triumph of enlightened appearance and reason. The aim of my Venice photography, in both post and pre-production was to exploit this interplay of dark and light. In doing so I was aiming to create a haunting sense of melancholy which juxtaposed the bustling streets of the city. Although Photography isn’t my typical medium of choice I decided to experiment in order to produce an alternative form of self-expression which visualised my interpretation of the world around me.
Dark Romanticism collection was specifically compiled with the intention of displaying the crumbling building facades and deserted streets in Venice which, in turn, represent the physical history of its being. In order to capture these mazelike towering buildings I immersed myself in the Venetian backstreets and alleyways, the true heart and soul of Venice. The images largely represent a narrative of neglect which speaks of a passage of time. Time moves forward but these places seem to stand aside from the flow, moving towards a destination of their own. Changing, decaying, often only present in part, but still with a powerful message of their origins. Aesthetically, the edifices of Venice have beautiful magnificent form and shape, yet I was attracted to their crookedness and decay. The fading wood, peeling paint and cobwebs provide each image with a character and personal history. By utilizing a consistent mood throughout the collection the photographs impart their own individual metaphors relating to time, society, man and nature.