The Oregonian, USA
'Flight' into surreality Dryden Goodwin's video installation is a highlight of the Platform animation festival
Monday, June 25, 2007
He may not compare in popularity to cartoon superslugger Batman, but Dryden Goodwin is quickly making his name in the art world. Goodwin, a 35-year-old Londoner whose resume already includes exhibits at Tate Britain museum in 2002 and the Venice Biennale in 2003, also has a show in Portland, at Pacific Northwest College of Art's Feldman Gallery.
It's part of the Platform International Animation Festival, which begins in earnest today and continues through Sunday with screenings in many locations, but principally at the Whitsell Auditorium of the Portland Art Museum and at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. (That's PNCA, PAM and PCPA, just to make things confusing.)
Even in Portland, which has been a notable center of animation art and business for decades, the new Platform festival is a big deal. Billed as the United States' only major animation festival, it's sponsored by cable-TV powerhouse Cartoon Network (on which the Caped Crusader is a regular). The Pearl District art school's involvement -- via numerous lectures, workshops, juried student work and a walking tour -- balances the commercial presence with avant-garde flair while stitching the fabric of the city into the experience.
For example, during Thursday's tour of 17 studios in a building at Northwest 12th Avenue and Hoyt Street, Rose Bond, artist and PNCA assistant professor, will project images onto a series of second-floor windows, turning the building into a kind of multipart cinematic screen. Goodwin's video installation and display of drawings, titled "Flight," forms the heart of the art college's Platform offerings.
No doubt Goodwin was attracted to the double definition of the word "flight" as airborne motion and any kind of escape. His work feels otherworldly, even though viewers are really only seeing familiar territory and people from atypical perspectives. Yet, particularly in the video portion of his installation, the sometimes voyeuristic images in "Flight" subtly imply his subjects' unwitting need to flee the camera's (or the watcher's) intrusive eye.
In the video work, Goodwin blends a series of urban and natural settings that evolve from darkness to light. One shot features a slow zoom-out from London's skyline into a parklike foreground framed by trees. Other portions of the video observe highway traffic going by from a distance, the headlight patterns easily given to abstraction.
All the while, though, the artist injects into the frame every few moments a series of his hand-animated drawings, tracing various landscapes and people both to obscure and to celebrate them. One such moment, in which the face of a woman eating in a diner at night is suddenly covered in scribbles, recalls not only Edward Hopper's iconic "Night Hawks" but also the music video for A-ha's 1985 song "Take on Me." The latter prefigures Goodwin's imagining in "Flight" of an alternate world of hand-drawn environments paralleling, and occasionally creeping into, our own. (No sweaty Norwegian pop singers here, though.)
In other moments from the "Flight" video, Goodwin's pen traces frantically over a skyline. A similar treatment is applied to shots of a rock formation and a sunset. It's as if he's coming to understand his video images by moving his pen over their lines and contours.
Goodwin incorporates hundreds of individual pen-and-ink-on-paper drawings to create the sense of an invisible hand drawing onto the video screen. Be it a skyline, individual faces or a sunset, at random moments each image becomes a hybrid of video and animation amid the sound and sight of the artist's sudden scribbling. The effect is surreal, intentionally so.
"I like that idea of slippage," Goodwin, taking time out from a seminar with students, said in a recent interview at the art college. "That element of hallucination: starting with something familiar and then kind of messing with it."
Goodwin's drawings produced in accompaniment to the "Flight" video are displayed in large cases and stacked in patterns, not unlike the ones a card game of Solitaire might generate. This emphasizes their randomness but also fuses their connection with the video, in which they appear by resembling individual moving-image frames.
As with his 2003 video "Reveal," in which he invites random passers-by to pose for drawn portraits (the camera remaining zoomed in on the in-progress drawing), Goodwin fuses the handmade and the digital in a way that feels inherently personal -- and more engrossing with each successive view.
"There can never be a definitive reading of something," Goodwin says. "Instead I'm trying to ask how you hold an idea or experience, grabbing it from the flux of time."