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Paintings and Inbetweens

What do the paintings of Charline von Heyl have to do with animation inbetweens?

I recently read a 2014 interview with Charline von Heyl in Border Crossings magazine (Canada) and I was struck by her work. First off I want to say that I enjoy her work and find it meaningful and aesthetically satisfying. I also find the paintings rigorous and intriguing.

As an aside I also appreciate how candid and thoughtful her comments were in the Border Crossings interview. It's a pleasure to read artist's comments that are without pretense.

But back to the main point, the intersection between painting and inbetweens. Working in both still imagery and animation I find myself wondering about that fine line between representation and abstraction -- where what we see stimulates a strong sense of recognition as though "aha, I know what that is" -- like the duck in von Heyl’s Interventionist Demonstration (Why-A-Duck?) -- only to have that recognition of something in the real world suddenly dissolve as I look around at the rest of the painting.

I wrote a short essay -- Motion Made Visible -- several years ago, thinking about how representation/abstraction plays into my best animated sequences. The satisfaction that I get from imagery that hints at representation, I think, comes from experiencing the in-between space in the real world. I like animations, for example those by Caroline Leaf, where I experience that again as the unrecognizable frames, the ones that hint to reality rather than being overly determined. 

Live action video doesn't seem to catch these frames maybe because the camera isn't moving in the same way that our eyes do, or perhaps because our minds are both scanning and interpreting at the same time. Moments of unrecognizability suddenly get replaced by the feeling of things falling into logical sense. Or vice-versa -- moments of assumption when I think I know what I’m looking at are suddenly replaced by "oops, that isn't what I thought at all." 

The thing with paintings like von Heyl’s and the suggestive imagery of Leaf is that they keep us in that searching moment where we can stay with the pleasure of being in a space of not quite knowing for a moment.

(Images courtesy of