Saturday, March 03, 2012

Aesthetics in the Classroom - The Power of Animation

Sunrise by the Ocean, Vladimir Kush, 21" x 25"

I just discovered Vladimir Kush, Russian surrealist painter.  The artist explains this painting's meaning on his website:
The egg symbolizes the rising Sun and the beginning of life. In many myths about the creation of the world, a cosmic egg is laid by a giant bird in a formless, ancient ocean. The egg splits into two and the sky and the earth appear from the halves of it, while the sun is seen in the yolk. You can see in the picture that the newborn Sun still hasn't taken its final shape yet. Shreds of primary matter continue to stream from the burning sphere rising over the ocean. According to Polynesian myth, the Hawaiian Islands were born from such an egg.
His work is evocative and interesting - to my thinking, he crosses the mental games and optical illusions of Magritte, with the virtuosity of Dali.  His website says his works are oil on canvas, watercolors, etchings and drawings - he is very skillful.  I am delighted to have stumbled upon him - which is exactly how I found him - through StumbleUpon.  There are many videos of his work on YouTube, so I sorted through and found one I wanted to show my art students for Artist of the Day.  I thought they would enjoy his clever work, and it would give me an opportunity to talk to them about divergent thinking.  Kush takes simple ideas and blends them together into intriguing paintings.

Fauna in La Mancha, Vladimir Kush, 30.5" X 43"

The first video of his work that I showed my students was great - they were engaged and interested in seeing his art.  When I went back to the search page, I noticed another video:  Vladimir Kush Metaphorical Voyage Trailer.  Hmmmm....let's check it out (can't get too much of a good thing!).  Wow!  This video was super cool - his static paintings were transformed into moving images through animation!  (This 30 minute DVD is available through Amazon - I ordered one today!)  I thought this would be interesting to show my students as well, so I showed this video the next day, making sure to point out to them that these were many of the same paintings they had seen in the first video, but now they were shown as animations.  The handout I gave to them went like this:

How Does Animation Change an Artwork?

We saw 2 videos about Vladimir Kush's surrealistic painting.  One video showed his paintings as a static (or still) images - the other video showed his paintings as animated images.  His own art studio produced the animation video (it's not someone else's work).
  • Which do you like best - the static images or the animated images?  Why?
  • Why do you think he made this video animating his own paintings?
  • Do you have any ideas about how he did this - what kind of software he might have used?
I was curious to see how many of the students preferred the animated version, and it was an overwhelming majority!  80% of the responses I got preferred the animated video!  I wasn't too surprised about that preference, but I was surprised at the percentage.  What were their reasons?  Here are a few of their responses:

Which do you like best & why?  Animated (80%) - it had more drama, made the images look more real, brings life to the painting, is more interesting and gives movement to the art, video gave more expression, it was more like a movie, it draws my attention, it looks like a recorded dream, it's magical, it felt like we were actually going deep inside the artwork, more imagination, the animated video gives more insight into what the artwork means.
Static (20% overall) (Note:  39% of my Honors Art 2 students preferred the static images.  I consider this class to have a higher percentage of serious art students.  What might that statistic imply?) - the animated video trivialized the art work, you have a better chance seeing the artwork in the static image video, it had a more calming effect, the movement distracted me from the art work, you could take your time looking and them and understanding them. 
Why do you think he made this video as an animation? - to bring his ideas to life, so people could understand his work better, to show people how realistic his paintings are, to entertain the viewer, to add more excitement to his work, so his work would appeal to a broader audience (video set up like a movie trailer), to see what goes on in his (the artist's) mind, so he can bring his surrealism to life like a movie, his paintings could be used in a video game.
Interesting!  I am beginning to understand the power of animation!  As the quality of animation becomes more realistic (think about all of the 3D movies that have come out lately!), it appears that the large majority of the general public, at least in this informal sampling of 14-16 yr. olds, prefer more dynamic imagery.  I know when I select something for Artist of the Day, it HAS to be a video, not a static website!  As I started playing around with my class opening Artist of the Day activity last year, I would sometimes include a website because I couldn't find a video, but I thought the art was cool so I'd show them the website.  Ho hum, went my students!  It was a dramatic difference when I showed a video - 90% or more of the class would be engaged in the video, so I moved into video only selections.

The last question I threw in because I wanted to get them thinking about technology and see what they would come up with as far as the tools he used to animate his paintings.  I, myself, am clueless, but am very interested in finding out more about how he did that to his art.  Here are their guesses:

Do you have any ideas about how he did this - what kind of software he might have used? - some kind of "flash" application, Adobe Flash, IDK (for those not with current truncation of the English language, that means I don't know ;-), Photoshop, Autodesk the engineering design software, Sony Vegas, iPad software, Windows 7, Adobe Premier 10.

The surrealists began an interesting investigation of what reality is to our conscious and subconscious minds.  It's exciting to see contemporary artists continuing the dialogue.  And, as we move into realms of hyper-reality and virtual reality, the conversation becomes even more interesting.  Why are we more interested in the animation versus the static?  What is your opinion of the question?  Where do you think this is leading us?  

Descent to the Mediterranean, Vladimir Kush, 39" x 23.5"


J.H.Lange said...

I liked your post about Metaphorical Voyage. I found your poll very interesting about the animation vs static. I am the actual animator that Worked with Vladimir on the project (he is a painter obviously and good at it, animation is not his personal thing). My production company worked with him to make the film and is listed on the DVD. I have answers to your questions about software etc. I promise no flash was used at all, and the project took several years. Regardless interesting read and thank you. Jan Lange.

JuliFluorescent said...

I like the style of the images have talent