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Palmerston North Film Society: Len Lye: Art that Moves


Wed 9 Jun 2010, 5:30pm
Wed 9 Jun 2010, 8:00pm

Where: Downtown Cinemas, 70 Broadway Ave, Palmerston North

Restrictions: All Ages

Related Artists:

Listed by: Ross Stevenson

Len Lye: Art that Moves
New Zealand 1934-2009 80mins
June 9th

"One of my art teachers put me onto trying to find my own art theory. After many morning idea hit me that seemed like a complete revelation. It was to compose motion, just as musicians compose sound. (The idea) was to lead me far, far away from wanting to excel in...traditional art."

Len Lye had this revelation, while still a young man. It was to endure as the central theme of his life and art for the next sixty years generating an extraordinary body of works including films, paintings, drawings, writings and sculpture.

Lye was the pioneer of many film-making techniques, including 'direct animation', the process of drawing and scratching designs directly onto film. He made his first animated film in 1929 and continued experimenting with new film-making techniques to the end of his life in 1980. Throughout his 50 year career as a film-maker, Lye saw animated film as a perfect medium for experiment. He wanted animators to be ‘free radicals’. He once wrote: "There has never been a great film unless it was created in the spirit of the experimental film-maker. All great films contribute something original in manner or treatment".

In Rainbow Dance and Trade Tattoo Lye experimented with the new colour separation processes such as Technicolor, taking black and white footage and re-colouring it in a dazzling way so that it looked like a cubist painting or a collage by Matisse.

In 1944 he moved to New York and contributed to an upsurge in experimental film-making in the USA. In the 1940s and 50s he came to know many of the abstract expressionist artists, screened his films at their parties, and felt an affinity between their paintings and his films. Despite his failure to find sponsorship he continued to make films. In Colour Cry he extended the 'rayogramme' method in new directions, using everything from strips of film to patterned fabric to accompany a spine-tingling blues song by Sonny Terry. In Free Radicals and Particles in Space he gave up colour to concentrate on the most basic elements of the film medium - light and movement. He developed new symbols of "energy" scratched onto black film with a variety of tools ranging from ancient Indian arrowheads to modern dental tools.

Our programme opens with a film directed by Roger Horrocks, Art that Moves, about Lye as a teenager in New Zealand, having his Eureka discovery of ‘the art that moves.’ Then there are 14 of Lye's best films to illustrate his rich visual imagination, sense of humour, and love of music. They include films recently restored such as Prime Time and Life's Musical Minute. A surprise extra is Atomic Power, one of the famous March of Time programmes Lye directed as his ‘day job’.

Did you know?
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (corner of Queen and King Streets, New Plymouth) is home to the archives and studio collection of the Len Lye Foundation.

Screenings are at 5.30pm and 8pm at Downtown Cinemas
Members only. Palmerston North Film Society Membership is available at the door before each screening and lasts for one full year.

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