Ophelia (art) - digital painting of a doll by Barbara Agreste

16 mm

 16 mm by Barbara Agreste

I remember I was in the laboratory, it was a bright day of March or April, maybe May, the weather was warm, and I was with my friend Alex working on those very large tables in a wonderful printing facility room in KIAD college of Art. I was unrolling a long 16mm transparent film strip, and close by on the table I had collected and placed down carefully so many petals, leaves, and flowers, from that lovely spring in the countryside in Maidstone, actually I remember there was a huge park which looked like it would fuse with the country side.

We were laughing, telling each other stories, making jokes, and while enjoying the serene atmosphere which surrounded us, we were attaching every possible amenity on the film strips we were given by professor Nicky to experiment with film animation. I liked my friend’s drawings, he had a terrific sketchbook, I learned a lot from him in terms of creating forms, shapes, and artworks without fear. We were trying to let go of our troubled past with our parents and whatever happened with them, identifying our place in the symbolic order with reconstructing the removed, traumatic experiences in our unconscious by reordering shapes and shadows: the same, or similar uneasiness made us relate to each other in a compassionate understanding.

I also kept a large number of tiny ink bottles that I had placed orderly on my table: pink, violet, red, blue, yellow… I would get every possible colour I could find, because I was fond of making nonsensical illustrations on my sketchbook: they were fragments of my past life with Gerry, my ex Irish boyfriend, I was representing him, and his friends. Every character on my little book was one of his acquaintances: I had created on it a weird place in the middle of a forest, populated by gnomes, elves, and poor little helpless creatures, desperate souls, lost, abandoned like I was, with no hope of consolation. I had created a world in which misery, and poverty were predominant, but at the same time it still revealed the playfulnesses of disregarded children who could remember very little, but still had some happiness from their past to show to others.

The abandoned children were remembering and offering something of their lost childhood to that faceted world. When you’ve had your childhood stolen, you will stay a child throughout your whole life in the attempt to recover what was taken from you, in my case I never enjoyed circus, theatre, safe interaction and entertainment, and true love and friendship, and I could only relate to people who, like me, were discarded.

Similarly of what I had done in my sketchbook, I liked attaching petals to the thin plastic, putting glue on it, sticking transferable letters, adding coloured ink with my nib, making scratches, making marks, sometimes throwing bleach on the the stains, performing an action of reflexive labour. I unleashed a creative process of constant adding and removing, until I cluttered every possible experimental form on my tiny canvas, which later became my 16 mm animation.

I couldn’t expect that such tiny space would became so great once it was projected on a screen. Those letters and forms became enormous successions of thick coloured magma, overwhelming my mind, and captivating the audience in the same way. My 16mm film had become true: it would play for longer than 10 minutes and people would never notice how long they had been hooked to the carousel. No sound other than that of a movie machine, creaking, sizzling, snapping, moving forward.

My imaginary world became true in the very way true is Art: Art as a lenitive, Art as an immersion into the unconscious livelihood of the suppressed, repressed and denied childhood. Art as the way of salvation from the sad reality that if you weren’t born a beast, but a fine human being full of love and wonderful stories to tell, you had to find a way of replying to the beasts that wanted you in their image. God is beast, he is a beast to those who only know beastly things.

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Dolls - Ophelia (art, paintings) series by Barbara Agreste