August 23, 2009

Influences - Len Lye

Len Lye never worked in stained glass. Still, I consider his works an important influence on my stained glass work.

As a film animator, Len Lye drew, painted, scratched, and printed directly onto the motion picture film itself. This film is called Trade Tattoo, made in 1937, and it represents his most complex mix of style, image, music and message. It's my favorite of Lye's films.

So how does this influence a stained glass artist? For me, it made me think about working directly with the glass itself and not pre-designing on a piece of paper or in a computer - bashing away at the glass in an improvisational manner without a set idea where it would go. Sometimes it comes together, sometimes not, but I would never have come up with a design like this, or even this, without seeing these Len Lye films first.

Len Lye purists don't tend to mention Trade Tattoo, as the commercial 'message' is more fully integrated into the film. They prefer to show the ones that either just show the message as a throwaway at the end or the later films that are purely abstract.

If you're interested, there are more Len Lye films, plus a peek at his kinetic sculpture, embedded below the fold...

[update August 25, 2009 - just found out there is a big Len Lye Exhibition going on at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, in Melbourne, though October. Interesting coincidence...]

Colour Box is probably his most famous film, and is always included in screenings of Lye's works. Made in 1935, it was the first film of his using the direct film process that was screened to the public.

Swinging the Lambeth Walk, 1940 -

Usually these early works are shown only because they can be shown as precursors to the real artistic works of Len Lye.

This is Free Radicals, made in 1958, some 25 years after the earlier films. It's a pure, non-message abstract film. Personally I find it a bit too dour for my taste, but it is still a decidedly great abstract work. I especially like the almost 3D quality of the shapes spinning in space.

For all his fame as a pioneer animator, Len Lye is probably best known in his native New Zealand for his kinetic sculptures. There are a few YouTube videos that demonstrate the kinetic sculptures, including some like this, Kinetic Sculptures, with Lye himself talking about the work.

I like this one best though -

The cheekygirl10 Guide to Len Lye -

Posted by Tom at August 23, 2009 07:04 AM