Monday, 25 January 2016

Stefan & Franciszka Themerson - The Eye and the Ear

Stefan and Franciszka Themerson shared a short-lived career working with experimental film from around 1935-45, before going back to their respective careers of publishing and illustration. The Eye and the Ear (1945) was their seminal work in which abstract forms cut with images of nature were used to accompany four songs by Karol Szymanowski. The Themersons explored how visual and auditory qualities could be directly translated, looking at the overlapping nature of auditory and visual experience. Geometric forms mix with clips of natural forms, leaves, stars and water. At the start of the work is a short statement, which opens:

"This short film is an experiment designed to use the medium of screen to create for the eye an impression comparable to that experienced by the ear.... “

It is true there is a linguistic overlap in our description of both auditory and visual qualities. By finding these overlaps and using them to integrate sound and visuals, harmony can be successfully achieved. At times, passages from this short film rise above all other attempts I have found to integrate image and sound, achieving a unity of sublimity.

"Rhythm is not the only sort of structural pattern common both to visual and to musical phenomena. It is perhaps significant that some notes are called high (which is a visual term) and some others low. We say light, clear, limid sound, and we say dark, thick, turgid. We often speak about melodic line, a gentle, undulating line, or a violent angular; it may be a line of simple design, or decorated with an arabesque of notes" Stefan Themerson

I am also encouraged by what I perceive as the successful fusion of abstract forms with film clips of water and sky. These clips, which appear in the second and third segments, stand out from the work as a whole. The water clips especially seem to break down into abstractions of movement, shape, and form. They seem to exist in a new mode like the purely abstract marks with which they share the screen. As I go on to develop work I will consider exploring how 'real' clips can be used in conjunction with my draw or painted imagery.

link to The Eye and the Ear

Below are screenshots from The Eye and the Ear

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