MAstars 2011: Holly Antrum, MA Printmaking

MAstars 2011: Holly Antrum, MA Printmaking Holly Antrum, Asides, 2011. 16mm on DVD. 6 mins 19 secs. Credit: Holy Antrum

Shama Khanna selects Holly Antrum from the Royal College of Art for MAstars

Computer screens scattered with tabbed pages and windows, expertly expanded, collapsed and psychically ordered through layering and editing. Holly Antrum’s video and printwork echoes our tacit interaction with digital media. Unlike the simulation of liquid plasma, the work has an obvious physicality as an index of the editing process it has passed through. Antrum makes explicit her instinctual knowledge of printmaking in her approach to different formats including film and photography.

'Asides' (2011) is a film of Antrum’s parents chanting in Sanskrit. The camera seems tightly focused on the corner of her mother’s eye as she concentrates on the meditation. Her full face is always in view at the expense of her husband’s nose, forehead or chin, which in each shot are cropped outside the frame. His chant seems less assured as his wife’s voice appears to take the lead, even though the practice is of its very nature non-competitive. The scene changes to an outdoor shot of a bonfire and Antrum’s father walking towards the camera. The wind rakes across the flames sending colour flurries over the film as the fire crackles. Antrum set herself the difficult and fiddly task of filming on a Super-16 wind-up camera leaving her 8-10 second sections of 16mm film to overlay and impossibly synch to a separate, continuous soundtrack recording her parents’ daily ritual. The work results in a combination of edited synchronous and separately recorded sound, leaving evidence of the points where the couple stop and restart their chant after each change of reel. Unsurprisingly, a recognisable familial tension emerges as Antrum is heard off-frame saying 'I just want to get this done!'. In the finished film her edits are clearly visible, revealing a sense of the film’s surface, spliced together as a laboured reiteration of the original prayer.

'A Good Ear' (2011) is a digitally rendered image containing a copy of a drawing by Albrecht Dürer of his mother. Dürer scrutinises the quality of his mother’s dramatically wrinkled skin as plainly as Antrum studies her own mother’s complexion in 'Asides'. Centrally planned, each of the images in the installation follows a conventional symmetry, but is perhaps more concerned with questions of surface and intertextuality than narrative. Each of the works in the two-room installation borrow from one another and reference the durational process of image-making. Antrum describes the porous nature of her approach operating between the presence of an original drawing and printed reproduction removed from the hand of the artist: 'This copying from either a notional master or elder holds something reverential but also distancing. I had a photocopy of 'The Artist’s Mother' by Durer from an old book on his prints… my associations from that image and subjects I was filming, oscillate [within] my drawing - and the printed variations I made from it repeating and re-posing the aged sitter with different surfaces - into evermore tertiary reference to the original, whilst remembering its influence.'

'Hover Skin' (2011) is a photograph of boys playing basketball on a sun-drenched Parisian street. A central rectangle within the picture is obscured by visual interference, a skin, or a spectral vortex either sucking up or emitting mysterious waves from a point in the sky, perhaps in the place of the missing hoop. The intervention using Photoshop seems quick and effective: immediately the everyday street-scene is rendered abject and alive. Again Antrum exposes the construction of the composition: This effect of postponing the narrative invites viewers to question ideas of visual balance, surface and listening between layers.

Selected by Shama Khanna
Published September, 2011

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