Saturday, 3 May 2008

Mark Collington "West Pier"

As a student I once fished for mackerel from Brighton's West Pier. A shoal was directly underneath the Victorian construction and for half an hour my three friends and I were in ecstasy, hauling in fish after fish onto the cast iron, lattice work floor that gradually became covered with the tide even as we continued to fish. I scarcely noticed my surroundings. Time then to take stock. Mark Collington's 2001 West Pier is as laden with atmosphere as the grid work was with fish in those days. It is also exhilarating as, to a commentary from Ian Collington, the animation moves from fishing boats to Victorian characters transformed into the columns plunged into and below the ocean depths as supports for the pier. Before our eyes the construction takes form, in choreographed sequences as ladies and gentlemen in hats dance, metamorphosing into the struts and columns of the pier, the whole emerging in a gorgeous feast as the intricate buildings are revealed in architectural detail that would grace any artist's sketchbook. Throughout there is a complex soundtrack pieced together by Tim Barker embracing a snatch of a folk song by Bob Copper, fairground, children and seabirds; and, supremely, a score by Luke Whitlock that has a texture of often luscious melody that stitches the whole piece together. The five minute film was Mark's MA Animation graduation film at the Royal College of Art in 2001. It is grounded in first rate 2D drawing - click on the first of the images taken from Mark's website for confirmation of the quality - with sumptuous contrasts of light and form, evoking something of a Victorian lithograph at times though as one reaches the present the percussion player is animated in an entirely different fashion more in keeping with the new millennium. As the birds circle the damaged pier at the end of the movie in a sequence of 16mm film one realises its vulnerability and place in the natural landscape. 30 year old Mark was born in Brighton and clearly loves his town's international treasure. His movie provides an eloquent advocacy for the West Pier Trust and a quite masterful production.

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