Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Abstract Video from Still Images

I want to look at my own attempts to be abstract in the medium of video. Many of the techniques that I use have a close relationship with abstract painting: collage, masking, blending etc. It makes me wonder why abstract painters don't venture into this medium more often.

Many abstract artists have been influenced by music and see a close relationship between music and painting. Music is the most abstract of the arts, in that it makes no attempt at representation. Abstract painting, on the other hand, is often seen to be representational. So it is with Abstract Video. What it means to be abstract has been endlessly discussed, so I don't intend to join that discussion here.

There is also a close relationship between video and music, both being time-based media. This is particularly apparent when editing video or audio on a computer. Both media use sequential composition in their construction. The difference between abstract video and abstract painting is primarily just this additional dimension of time. At its lowest level a video is just a sequence of images.

Let's look at how we can make videos from paintings or from other still images.

Obviously you can make a video that was just an image of a painting, perhaps with a bit of pan and zoom to show details. This is what an observer would do for themselves in a gallery, look at the painting as a whole and then concentrate on various details. Nothing wrong with that, but it isn't using the video medium to its best advantage, which is to make abstraction in the time dimension as well as the space dimension.

All the examples used here are built from still images (photographs or computer generated graphics) that could be thought of as the video equivalent of still life. Let's look at some examples.

This first example of abstraction in video uses a collage technique. The images collaged together are mainly photographs, although some of them are photographs of paintings. The sequence of image changes has been synchronised to the soundtrack. There are not as many different images as one might expect. There are around thirty different images and at any point in time there will be three of them on the screen. One of the three is used as a mask. The other two are printed through the mask. The changes (on each beat) are either to the foreground image, the background image or to the mask. There are altogether around one thousand distinct images.

This second example is even more elementary. It is simply a slide show with a spoken track. The voice on the track has been edited to have precise time changes and the slideshow has been synchronised to those changes. Synchronised slideshows have endless possibilities.

Finally, this third example combines the techniques of collage, masking and synchronisation. This time all the images used are photographs of the same painting. This is a technique that can be used of many paintings and does, I think, show an artist's work in a different light. Used as an adjunct to an actual image of the original painting, this can be a great way of showing an image in a gallery.