Beach Studies (Kerala) 2020 installation view Looping video with sound 5.50mins
These short beach studies are from time spent in India (Kovalam), a seaside resort on the southern coast of Kerala) Jan 2019 and Jan 2020. It was intriguing to see how differently Indian people behaved in and around the sea. Going in fully clothed, chatting groups lark about, having fun in a way that we don’t seem to in the UK. The women unconcerned about their Saris, none caring about shoes getting wet, these groups jostle each other, boys splashing, dunking shrieking elders having fun. Until it’s time for the photos. For the photos everything changes. These arranged, curated moments are serious and intentional. Laughter stops for the moment when gazing at the camera is all, then resumes once the image is done. Each person has a strong idea of their ideal image, arranging themselves, giving orders to those around them, a curated idea of self.
It wasn’t until March 2020 when we into the coronavirus pandemic lockdown that the work began to take shape. It gave me somewhere to escape and dream of when we were barely allowed to leave our houses except for food and exercise. The child playing so freely in the surf takes us back to a freer time when we didn’t have to think about the future.
Those who seem to be having the most fun, don’t have their cameras out. The surfing boys, the child covering himself in sand, they are in the moment, feeling and enjoying. I made this work in the isolated lockdown, central London in March -June 2020 and it gave me comfort.
After a month-long residency at the Mothership Dorset, June 2016, I re engaged with the landscape and area that I grew up in. It took about a year to get the technology right, to learn how to program random opacity changes, and get a smooth motorised pan for my camera. The problem of the landscape of west Dorset, is that not only is it incredibly beautiful, and I have such a personal relationship with it, that it seems impossible to film. It’s too easy to make landscape appear romantic, to make it seperate and apart from us. It wasn’t enough. It almost seemed more honest to obliterate it from view, so a tiny bit could be looked at a time. We have such strange cultural relationship to the landscape, and I feel so strongly attached to this one that I’m almost jealously protecting it from a viewer’s gaze, whilst being unable to stop looking at it myself. The various strategies of occlusion are intended to focus the eye on tiny parts, as I don’t believe we can really look at anything bigger than a thumbnail at any one time.
I made many many of these different tests. None have been exhibited so far.
At Betty’s House (short extract) 5 mins looping 16:9 HD with sound to see complete video please contact the artist.
A flythough animation made from still images of interiors of stately homes, and the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. Made as a continuous loop, so a viewer remains inside the space. It can be viewed from any point in the loop.
Rooms lead on from and to other implausible spaces. Objects appear and disappear, we change scale in relation to the objects as we move through them and the rooms and all the while we are accompanied by the sound of our own footsteps. There are other sounds that punctuate the space, implying that we are not the only occupants in this house.
This piece refers to the interior spaces of computer games and their first person point of view. Made initially as a response to theoretical reading around what is currently being called neo-baroque, it soon became clear that this piece was in fact a response to memories of visiting Betty Pinny.
This image, 50 x 50 cms framed was made for the exhibition Ghosts of Gone Birds, Each artist was given a bird that is now extinct to make into a work.
Amazona martinicana was described from Martinique (to France) by Labat in 1742, and by Buffon in 1779, and named by Clark based on these descriptions. Labat wrote that “the parrot is too common a bird for me to stop to give a description of it”, and so the species must have declined very rapidly to extinction in the latter half of the 18th century. info from Birdlife International
The minute I saw the upstairs room at Pitzhanger Manor Ealing, I wanted to make an image as if the room was being menaced by vegetation, that a romantic vision of nature slowly creeping into a ruined house might go wrong. Trees might burst through windows to claim back their own. The extinct bird, a trophy from colonial wandering has comeback to life and is going to return home via this river of vegetation and abundance.
Pitzhaner Manor was built by the architect Sir John Soane as a rural family retreat. A man who saw ruins as an expression of his own creativity un shackelded, built in the grounds of his house a series of pillers and claimed that they were uncovered when the foundations were dug.
A digital inkjet print that has been cut into 3 layers.
There was a scenic approach to architecture and decoration before Soane. A battered roman ruin was built as a room within a monastery in Rome, by Clérisseau, illustrated below from Roy Harbisons book Reflections on Baroque 2000 (page 45).
1 min 20 seconds, looping 4:3 PAL with sound, to be projected as large as possible in portrait format
A 4:3 ratio animation turned through 90º to be projected on a wall.
This work is about flight and as such the verticality of the content needs to be emphasised by the form of the work. The work begins and ends on black, this is so it can loop repeatedly. The looping gives the work greater presence; it’s more of an extended picture than an animation. It has a structure but no story.
It plays over and over. A fragment of film, alluding to something much longer, the whole life of a bird spent inside a box at the behest of the scientists observing it. Although the bird is small it takes up the entire area, and can move in any direction.
Nothing else can or will use this enclosure
Rodeo, a series of projected video pieces and large scale screen prints.
Made as a collaboration with Rory Hamilton.
3 short repeating animations
Yellow Rodeo 2 minutes 37 seconds looped
Blue Rodeo I minute 47 seconds looped
Red Rodeo 2 minutes 44 seconds looped
Rodeo features the rider of bull or horse in vibrant colour. The animations are red, yellow and blue, primary colours to show a primal sport. The power and emotion of the struggle between man and beast is heightened by the strong bold visuals. Also, in keeping with filmic depictions of rodeo, the animation either takes place in powerful, elegant slow motion or frantic real time. 8 seconds is the amount of time a bull rider must stay on to achieve a score. Each animation is projected and repeats endlessly, the seemingly monotonous actions interspersed by the buzzer marking the beginning and end of a ride.
Rodeo is a fast and intense competition between rider and animal. Bulls compete with their aspiring riders over and over in different venues, with bulls having equal star billing. These characters can be seen as an extension of celebrity culture creating equality between man and animal.
In both the video and printed work only the central characters of rider and bull are depicted all other characters and forms are removed; they define the world around them. The animations are meticulously hand drawn frame by frame then re assembled to make moving video. The riders merge with the animals to briefly become creatures of legend before separating into pools of colour on the ground. The sparse animation style gives little clue as to scale and perspective, at times disorientating the viewer in the visual space.
33 short movies in total without sound,
6 are shown below:
A commission for the main reception area of UCLH NHS London. Made from images taken from the archive of the Middlesex, UCH, St Peters, The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, The Eastman and the National Institute for Neurology hospitals, the hospitals that have now been amalgamated into the new UCLH, to show the history of the institusions. Each image used has been reinterpreted using animation, to change and bring each image to life in a short film. These films, begin and end on black and have been programmed to play in a random manner.
Stone Voices is a collection of 21 texts cut into stone from real and imagined stories and events that have taken place in the Devils Glen, Ashford, Co. Wicklow. The textual inspiration for the collection was sourced mainly onsite from people who use the glen on a regular basis. Advertisments were placed in local papers, and post boxes were placed in and around the area to gather personal accounts of events from the glen. A weekend of story telling events were arranged after an interview on Radio RTE.
Written in the present tense the stories are intended to be always happening. They are like ghosts, living and relating to their own time however, also accompanying you as you walk through and around the glen. The texts are deliberately ambiguous to suggest several interpretations.
The stones have been placed as near as possible to the sites they relate to, emphasising the experience of the stories origin. Like the stories behind them, the locations of the stones is such that some are easily happened upon whilst others are more challenging to find. This retains the element of surprise that is integral to the experience of the work.
The stories that inspired the stones are a mix of personal and observational tales as well as that of darker events that have taken place in and around the Glen over its history. In the coming years it is hoped that the work will become increasingly part of the Glen’s seasonal cycle as the surrounding plants and foliage grow to conceal the stones during the spring and summer, temporarily reclaiming the stories that inspired them, only to be revealed again as winter approaches.
Artists, Suky Best and Rory Hamilton have been collaborating on works exploring cowboy myths for the past twelve months within western films. They have been investigating themes of heroism, romance, loneliness, drama and excitement. The work that has come out of this collaboration has a strong aesthetic flavour; it is hand worked, yet graphically clean. It uses strong stereotypes; while exposing their banality and frailty. Flat clear silhouettes replace the dusty blur of the wild west.
In these works only the hero or his companion (be they horse, tracker or love interest) are transcribed onto the finished image. All extraneous detail is removed. When a cowboy ties up a horse and walks into a building, the horse and rider are boldly drawn; any building only exists in negative when the rider walks behind a column. He defines the world around him.
In 2005 Film and Video Umbrella commissioned Suky Best to make ‘The Return of the Native’ as part of the project ‘Silicon Fen’, which was a series of commissions of digital art. The work itself and the wider project are both accompanied by publications. This was later extended to include species that were once common to the south east.
Selected animations, please contact the artist to see the whole series
Large Copper Butterfly, Lycaena Dispar Dispar. Near Ramsey 2005
Extinct in the UK in 1864. IUCN globally threatened species. Last seen fens 1851. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly, Aeshna Isosceles. Tydd St Giles Fen 2005
RDB Endangered. Last seen fens 1980’s. Restricted to Norfolk & Suffolk. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Bearded Tit, Panurus Biarmicus. Whittelsey 2005
RDB UK Amber List. Previously widespread on fens. Hope for breeding pairs to return to Wicken, Woodwalton and Needingworth Quarry. Original specimen image courtesy of RSPB
Wildlife sound: British Library
Black Redstart, Phoenicurus Ochruros. Battersea Park 2005
RDB UK Amber List. Under threat from development of Thames Corridor. With less than 100 pairs nesting in Britain the black redstart is a rarer British breeding bird than the osprey or golden eagle Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum.
Wildlife sound: British Library
Privet Hawk Moth, Sphinx Ligustri. Bermondsey 2005
Previously common, London population now in decline. Depletion due mainly to loss of garden hedges. Original images courtesy of Paul Chesterfield and Jayne Herbert, Cornwall Wildlife
The Fens have always been a managed and constructed landscape; however, contemporary use of the land has exacerbated the loss of the range of flora and fauna. Over the last fifty years in particular, the volume and variety of birds and insects in this part of the country has declined dramatically. In The Return of the Native, Suky Best highlights a small number of wildlife species that were once commonplace in the East Anglian Fenland anThe Fens have always been a managed and constructed landscape; however, contemporary use of the land has exacerbated the loss of the range of flora and fauna. Over the last fifty years in particular, the volume and variety of birds and insects in this part of the country has declined dramatically. In The Return of the Native, Suky Best highlights a small number of wildlife species that were once commonplace in the East Anglian Fenland and whose numbers have diminished. They are now deemed rare, endangered or extinct in the region.
The Return of the Native is a series of six striking digital animations of insects and birds, including a Bearded Tit, a Large Copper Butterfly and two Soldier Flies. Using specimens taken mainly from the natural history collections at Bedford Museum, Best brings the creatures back to life and reintegrates them digitally in a contemporary Fenland location. The animations are presented on miniature screens, which play simultaneously and work to emphasise each specimen’s unique and rare status.
In addition to the animation series there are a number of equally evocative printed works also featuring rare and extinct flora and fauna that have been temporarily returned to their original Fenland home. The scenes depicted in The Return of the Native appear constructed, a deliberate attempt by Best to remind us that the images do not represent reality, but allude to a sad sense of loss.
London species, commissioned for the Pumphouse Gallery London
Fen Species, commissioned for BCA gallery Bedford
Hedgehog, Erinaceus Europaeus. Maida Vale 2005
Species of conservation concern, 40-50% decline in London in last 10 years. Partially protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Red Squirrel, Sciurus Vulgaris. Westbourne Park 2005
Extinct in London, last seen Hainault Forest 1950’s. Catastrophic decline and threatened in UK. IUCN RDB3. Specimen courtesy of Horniman Museum
House Sparrow, Passer Domesticus. North Kensington 2005
RDB UK Red List. Over 70% decline in London in last 20 years. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Common frog, Rana Temporaria. Battersea Park 2005
70% decline since WW2. Protected in Britain under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), with respect to sale only. Listed under Annex III of the Bern Convention. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Small lysonic inkjet prints 16 x12 cms
Marsh Fritillary, Eurodryas Aurinia. Tydd St Giles Fen 2005
Priority species protected under Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive; lost from fens pre-war. Restricted to west UK. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum
Marsh Moth, Athetis Pallustris. Near Sutton Bridge 2005
RDB3 Rare. Last seen fens 1970’s. Specimen courtesy of Bedford Museum.
Greater Horseshoe Bat, Rhinolophus Ferrumequinum. Albert Bridge 2005
Endangered in UK, extinct in London. Last Greater London record, 1953. Specimen courtesy of Horniman Museum
Crucifix Ground Beetle, Panagaeus Cruxmajor. Tydd St Giles Fen 2005
RDB2 Vulnerable. Last seen fens 1970’s. Restricted to Yorkshire. Original specimen image courtesy of Roger Key
The Aims of this project were to make animations that would alleviate stress levels in patients waiting to see doctors or to have treatment. This was achieved in 25% of patient viewers.
A series of 6 three minute, 20 second animations derived from movements of groups of insects, abstracted and simplified against non-representational backgrounds derived from natural environments, placed within healthcare waiting areas to alleviate stress. The animations were made specifically for waiting areas of hospitals; and were made with source material and help from the zoology department of the Natural history museum, and developed with collaborative input from Maggie Chapman a clinical hypnotherapist, and with Dr Cordelia Feuchtwang acting as a consultant during their development. Once completed, the animations played in a forced random order, to prevent anticipation and expectation in the viewer. The project was evaluated via interview and questionnaire at each location.
They were sited in three locations:
Clinic G (phlebotomy) in Outpatients, St Mary’s NHS, London playing during clinic hours for two weeks.
Women’s Outpatients Barts NHS, London, playing during clinics for two weeks
Yatton NHS Family Practice, Yatton Somerset, playing continuously for three weeks.
The staging in each location had to differ due to the constraints of working within a busy hospital or healthcare setting.
Yatton approx 2250 patients (over 3 week period including busy half-term week)
Barts 600 (over 2 weeks)
St Marys 2100 (250 patients attending outpatient appointments per week and 800 patients for blood tests)
Total number of people (excluding staff) who saw project 4950
Background and interests of team members in addition to artist Suky Best.
Maggie Chapman is a lecturer and clinical hypnotherapist. She has worked closely with the British Medical Association and The London Heart Hospital to develop the use of hypnotherapy within conventional medical practice, and is also is a senior lecturer at the London College of Clinical Hypnosis. She helped develop the animations to engage with certain parts of the brain that would help alleviate stress in the viewer. She has had an interest in this for many years. She also developed the evaluation process, designing the questionnaires, collating and analysing their data and setting guidelines for any interviews during evaluation. She is also director of City Minds and is currently running a longditudinal research study in the education sector on the effects of relaxation.
Mandy Holloway of the Zoology Department at the Natural History Museum identified suitable insects, fish and organisms that would make an appropriate starting point for animations of group behaviour. She also explained their behaviour, which informed the conceptual base for abstraction. Mandy Holloway was able to draw on the knowledge and expertise of colleagues in the museum suggesting and arranging fro algae other microbes to be filmed.
Dr Cordelia Feuchtwang a General Practitioner based in North Somerset acted as a consultant during the development stage of the project seeing the work every month or so for an informal discussion. With a broad range of interests she was willing to facilitate the installation of the finished work in her practice.
Suky Best writes:
This was a very successful project for me. I got to work with and develop a way of working with moving images that I hadn’t experienced before, expanding my skills and practice. I also worked with a variety of people from different disciplines, never having worked collaboratively before I found the experience interesting, enriching and on that I want to develop further and in corporate more within my practice as an artist. I also learnt a lot about insect behaviour. This has had a beneficial effect on my practice, whilst researching the insect movements I met with many etymologists and ecologists who gave me time and showed me wasps nests etc. I had a lot of help from the wildfowl and Wetlands trust, at Barnes and at Slimbridge, and from the team at Camley Street Nature Park, London. I am currently working on a series of animations and prints about the depletion of species and dwindling biodiversity in the Fens which will be exhibited at BCA Gallery Bedford April 2005 and the Pumphouse gallery October 2005, with possibilities of other venues.
This project originally came out of my own experience in hospital waiting areas and a personal desire to put something back into a context that had benefited me. I had never put work into a non-gallery setting before or had non-art audiences experience my work.
I am also working on a production grant proposal to the Wellcome Trust, as I want to take this project further. I think that the project needs much more collaboration with the nurses during its development and so I am proposing to make a permanent piece (by permanent I mean for 1-2 years, this is constrained by the limits of the life of the screen used) for the women’s outpatient waiting areas in at Barts hospital which has seasonal changes and incorporates sound. Made specifically with collaboration from the women’s outpatients’ nurses using data gathered initially from them and the patients of that area.
Maggie Chapman writes:
The study consisted of a random sample of 219 individuals over three locations. St Mary’s was a very crowded busy blood clinic, the screen was badly positioned and not able to be seen easily; there was an overall perceived relaxing effect of 20%. St Barts was a larger clinic, less busy than St Mary’s the screen was well positioned there was no increase however in perceived relaxation which remained at 20%. In Yatton a NHS GP’s surgery in Somerset where the DVD was presented on a TV as opposed to a plasma screen as at the other two locations, 51% stated that they experienced an overall relaxing effect.
The favourite screen in all locations was the butterfly screen; the most preferred colour was green in all locations. Suggestions from the feedback were that sound would be helpful and more natural representations would be more relaxing, however many found the screens interesting and were curious as to what they actually were and more generally people felt that the screens were favourable to nothing, though several mentioned the return of the fish tank would be welcome!
Elizabeth Boleyns Embroidery c.1530 On loan from a private collection.
Catalogue notes by Suky Best
Linen embroidered in silk with metallic thread detail. Back (Holbein) stitch. Contemporary restoration worked in unbleached cotton.
This remarkable fragment of embroidery probably the central part of a cupboard cloth (1) has been attributed to Elizabeth Boleyn. Thought to have been made in the winter of 1529/30, in the heady days proceeding her daughter Anne Bolyen being married to King Henry VIII and crowned queen of England. It satirically depicts a falcon with Tudor roses (the badge of Anne Boleyn) pecking at a pomegranate (the badge of Katherine of Aragon Henry VIII first wife)(2). The French, ainsi sera, groinge qui groinge (that’s the way its going to be however much people grumble) written around the central design, was said to be Anne’s motto during this period.
Elizabeth and her daughter didn’t have a particularly close relationship and perhaps this embroidery was an attempt on the mother’s part to ingratiate herself with her daughter to whom she owed the families newly exhaulted wealth and position in society. Elizabeth although of royal decent from Edward I (3) was relatively impoverished.
When Anne Boleyn and her brother George Boleyn Viscount of Rochford were arrested on (most probably false) charges of treason May 2 1536 it seemed very clear to everyone involved that they were going to be found guilty. Anyone close to the family was thrown into fear for their own safety and survival. One of the main prosecution witnesses at their trial was George’s wife, Jane Rochford. It was not unheard of for associated family members to be arrested and imprisoned. A design such as this would have been evidence of treason as it would have been a reminder of Henry VIII’s bewitchment by Anne.
George and Anne Boleyn were tried and executed within three weeks of their arrest. During these weeks one imagines that Elizabeth decides to destroy objects that could be classed as treasonable, in panic and shock at the probable fate of two of her three children. Already all evidence of the queen is being obliterated from the royal places. Elizabeth cuts out the central part of the cupboard cloth into many pieces and hides them behind panelling at Greenwich Place, where she was living; sadly none of the rest of the cloth survives. There the embroidery remained until the extensive restoration of Greenwich palace undertaken by Charles II in the mid-seventeenth century. It was found by a craftsman working in the building and sold to someone newly indulging in monastic memorabilia after the English civil war.
Incredibly this fragment survived although sadly not in one piece. It has been part of a private collection ever since.
(1) A cupboard cloth was used to create a stage on which precious vessels could be displayed; they could also be used in bedchambers and often showed scenes of an intimate nature.
(2) Embroidery technique is characteristic of amateur blackwork, this technique was used on both furnishings and dress. The design may have been drawn for Elizabeth directly onto the cloth my a court artisan, The illustration copies one found in a music book held in the British library.
(3)Elizabeth Boleyne was also the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth I.
The real story of this piece:
Elizabeth Bolynes Emboridery is totally fictitious and was made for an art exhibition Exhumed at the Museum of Garden History 2003. The museum occupies a former church, St Marys-at- Lambeth, on the river thames very close to Lambeth Palace. In former times the church was important, and many people of note were buried in the churchyard. As one of the selected artists for this exhibition, I was invited to make a piece of work about someone who was buried in the churchyard and I chose Elizabeth Bolyne, Ann Bolynes mother. I researched the stitches and style at the Victoria and Albert Museum London (V&A ) and copied designs and drawings of the time and sewed it over about 6 weeks. The accompanying text to the embroidery is totally fictional with a few historical facts thrown in. Once the embroidery was complete, I cut it up, and aged it, then I sewed it back together to make evidence of a convincing story about its loss, and rediscovery. The textile restoration team at the V&A museum advised me on ways that they would display a real piece of fabric of that date.
I presented the work as if it was a real piece, the context of it being in a contemporary art show ought to have given enough clues as to it authenticity. Over the years I have been asked to lend it to real museums, and have refused, after telling people that it isn’t real.
Wildlife Documentary #7
40 seconds with sound,looping
Wildlife Documentary #15
40 seconds with sound,looping
These films examine the technology of representative documentation. #7, Flipbooks of seagulls derived from video footage have been through a digital editing process, are constructed, and choreographed reconstructed and then re-filmed. #15 is of flowers opening and closing. Time is played with and what appear to be visible events are usually invivble to the eye.
The flipbooks remind us that film/video technology still relies on an illusion of movement. The cinematic device of a film within a film, often to imply a past event, is mirrored in the two points of view in the video. Using a pre cinematic device within a video completes a cycle of technology. The images are video stills, and their re-presentation on video both allows us to see the images ‘come to life’, while denying any direct encounter with the physical form of the books, much less their living subjects. Accompanying sound is released when the flipbooks are operated increasing the sense of magic at the illusion encountered.
Offering a counterpoint to the drama and spectacle of conventional wildlife documentaries, this work elicits the same tendency to focus on those aspects of animal behaviour, which suggest human frailties and emotions. Offering a counterpoint to the drama and spectacle of conventional wildlife documentaries, this work elicits the same tendency to focus on those aspects of animal behaviour, which suggest human frailties and emotions.
A short loop of a starling, the same action repeated over and over.
As you watched it, the repetition began to seem like a nervous twitch of neurotic behaviour. The monitor was placed in the window to make the birds containment and isolation from nature more poignant
This work refers to the artifice of representation and blatantly shows the printing dot of mass produced photographic imagery. The printing dots (the visual filter of the twentieth century) are made so huge they almost make the work at close quarters unreadable.
Man imposes artificial systems on the planet in order to control and dominate. Man has a primeval fear of nature, the smallest plant will eventually crack concrete. We have had to devise systems for controlling the planet. The map grid define the earth as bisected by invisible lines, each identifiable by co-ordinates.
Surveillance systems observe to control. Developed from the military, observational tracking systems are used in target locating, for missiles. The grids show stills from video footage of the landscape and extend a moment of looking, a milli-second made visible.
55 prints hung in a giant grid made over the course of a year. Each print shows a few seconds from a walk made in the area. The work was made in and around Cleeve Abbey, a ruined Thirteenth Century Cistercian monastery and was made specifically for the huge upstairs refectory room where all the monks would ea together watched over by wooden carved angels. The monastery is sparsely decorated with carved details of nature. The intention of the work was to look at the details of nature in a similar way to that already existing in the abbey; and to try to make work that was timeless and reflected the cyclical nature of prayer and repetition that life within the monastery would have been like.