‘r’, 2019, hand-drawn animated film still
Ana Pollak’s short animated film ‘r’ (2019), accompanied by Micheal Harding’s haunting musical score, is spectacularly simple and evocative. Two hands repeatedly cover and uncover a face in a common action summing up what it is to be human. It lasts just a little over seven minutes and took 1,000 drawings to animate.
As a film, as a work of art, it delivers a powerful emotional charge. In fact it has such graphic immediacy, that we viewers are instantly immersed in this momentary event.
How Ana Pollak made this film might seem simple enough—stringing a number of drawings sequentially together as in a flick book. It was however much more challenging, requiring many more drawings than in any flick book, each one painstakingly constructed and carefully considered to contribute convincingly to the movement of the whole, and many, of necessity, edited out.
r’s features are based on those of a fellow resident and friend on Dangar Island (on the Hawkesbury River where Ana Pollak lives) Royden Irvine, a naturally gifted educator, long retired, who once started his own experimental school in Melbourne. Basing her drawings for the film on a person she knows well and likes, has given them indisputable authenticity.
At the request of Bradley Hammond, Orange Regional Gallery’s director, Ana Pollak decided to paint five large heads on plywood sheets that reflect the imagery of the film. Using long-haired Chinese brushes, a wash of ink, clay and binder, each of the five is landscape-like in feel, or as if one is running one’s fingers over the surface of rockface.
Her film ‘r’ and accompanying five large heads which comprise the exhibition ‘Headlines’, might come as a surprise to those who only know Ana Pollak’s drawings of oyster beds or moving water, but she has been drawing her parents, siblings, other family members, partner David Collins and friends for as long as she can remember. This film and exhibition clearly demonstrates Ana Pollak’s belief that deeply felt emotions surface when drawing a human head or portrait.
‘r’ is not her first animated film based on drawings. That started decades earlier, culminating in a film entitled ‘Cathedral forms’ (1983). In 2011 she produced a film about moving water, ‘Flux’ which the Art Gallery of NSW purchased in 2012 and subsequently included in ‘Drawing out’ (the first Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial) at the AGNSW in 2014. I can think of no more imaginative or compelling graphic evocation of moving water.
Winning the Dobell Drawing Prize in 2007 first brought Ana Pollak’s sensitively realized work to wide public notice. Her drawing ‘Mullet Creek’, a refined and delicately orchestrated response to the movement of water around and between stakes protruding from oyster beds, was the unhesitating choice of that year’s judge, Colin Lanceley. Its restraint and simplicity set it apart from all other contenders and instantly established her as an Australian artist of originality and significance.
The drawings for ‘r’ were carried out in the Gingerbread Man suites. Editors Craig Deeker and Walter Radcliffe helped expand the layering for “r" in post production.