Interview with Edwin Rostron

Edwin Rostron talks about the processes behind his Animate OPEN film, Visions of the Invertebrate, and his APEngine commission, Of Unknown Origin.


Your work encompasses drawings, photographs, writing and comics - and you present much of it online - do you think of that as a specific ‘site’ - and does that context shape your work?

My website was initially just a convenient way of showing my work, and of giving it all a bit of unity and order. I have recently begun to experiment more with the possibilities of online presentation with my comics, which are the first things I’ve made specifically for my website. I have also been involved with some other online projects - the short stories on my site were written for a long-running performance work by the artist Barbara Campbell, and my last film Of Unknown Origin was commissioned by Animate Projects for the APEngine website.

Whilst my films are hand-drawn, they are put together on a computer and outputted on to digital files, so there is maybe a natural affinity to their being viewed digitally. The graphic quality and fragmentary nature of much of my work also makes it quite well suited to the online world and to a computer screen. I feel I am just at the beginning of exploring ways of presenting and developing my work online.

How did you get into making animated work?

When I was studying Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University I was making collages, which would change a great deal during the process of creating them. I began to photograph the different stages they went through before the final image, and this evolved into my first animated film. I think the idea of capturing something of the creative process in action has remained important to me ever since, and is something I think animation can do in a particularly effective way.

You’ve worked with Supreme Vagabond Craftsman, who did the soundtrack for Of Unknown Origin - how does that work - do you take existing tracks or is it a collaboration?

Will (Supreme Vagabond Craftsman) first did the music for my film Palmersville in 2008. We talked a little bit about my ideas and then he made a group of tracks which really captured what I wanted perfectly. With Of Unknown Origin I used music he had already given me for no specific project, but which fit my ideas well. I made a very quick, spontaneous sound design using his tracks along with the Raymond Cass recordings and worked the whole film around that.

Visions of the Invertebrate is significantly more collaborative, in that we had the idea of my animation accompanying his spoken text and music from the beginning. Will gave me some recordings that drove the animation, though I didn’t refer to them obsessively. It all seemed to come together very naturally. The film is the first in a series of connected pieces, each of which will exist as a work in its own right, but which will all add up to something bigger.

How do you intend the relationship of image to sound work?

We approached this film as an experiment, and so we were quite open to how the image and sound might work with each other. I was interested in a constantly shifting relationship between the two elements, something that you couldn’t pin down and yet would build up so you were nonetheless quite involved in it. At times the sound correlates closely with the image and at other times the relationship is more unclear. I think the fluid movement of the animation goes well with the music and provides an underlying unity, whereas the imagery sometimes has a less obvious connection, allowing the viewer to make their own connections and meanings.

Who are your influences or heroes/heroines – films, art, people?

Formative influences on my work would include Jim Woodring, David Lynch, the RAW comic anthologies (which featured the work of many great comic artists like Gary Panter, Mark Beyer and Charles Burns). There are individuals whose obsessive, heartfelt devotion to their art is a source of constant inspiration, such as Stan Brakhage, Werner Herzog, Giorgio Morandi and Jandek. More recently I have been particularly inspired by the work of Piotr Kamler, Lindsay Seers, Al Jarnow, Paul Nash and a book called Thought Forms by Annie Besant and CW Leadbeater.