Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sydney's Original Art House?

Damien Minton Gallery has made arguably the first example of an art film in Sydney and even Australia available for viewing online. David Perry's Walking (circa 1955) depicts a young flâneur wandering Sydney, giving attention to the the abstract shapes and the movements of the city, and the moments and poses of contemplation.

Walking from Damien Minton Gallery on Vimeo.

Perry's Walking will be featured in the group exhibition 'Five Bells - A Visual Ode to Sydney' that runs from 1-18 February, 2012. See previous post for more information on the 'Five Bells' exhibition. Below, Perry describes how he came to make Walking.

My career since the early 1950’s encompassed all the visual arts, painting, drawing, photography and video and film making. [Once ] someone gave me an 8 mm camera, I began randomly recording events and images in all these media and have never stopped.

In the early sixties I encountered Albie Thoms and together with him, John Clark and Aggie Reid we founded Ubu films.  I was on camera and also directed my own experimental films and videos as well as doing a large number of graphics for posters and flyers advertising not only our films but also the light shows/dances which we organised and which were so popular at the time.

During the early years I used to frequent the Roundhouse at the then East Sydney Technical College, Sydney’s only Art school at the time.  A man called Kaplan used to regularly show 1920’s and ‘30’s European art films.  I was deeply moved and entranced by these films, especially by the camera techniques used.  From then on my approach to filmmaking was strongly influenced by what I saw, and all my work comes from this artist’s perspective, rather than from the popular, narrative form of cinema.

Walking was the very first film I ever made on standard 8 mm film (there was no other way to make low budget films at the time).  I tried to capture the feel of the industrial landscape of Sydney of the ‘50’s particularly around the old Pyrmont Bridge, to express the working class grittiness of Sydney, the aspects of it that I knew and loved, and the art film techniques and sensibility were the best way I could see to do this.  

The original footage has been lost but when it was still available I made a copy on videotape.  That copy imported to my modern computer and edited to remove clunky transitions.  It remains the only record of Walking.

While Walking was my first exploration of these art film camera techniques, I continued to make films and subsequently videos, using these techniques and experimenting with them.   A number of my videos and films have been and continue to be shown at various exhibition s and festivals throughout the world.

David Perry