JULES ENGEL

EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION ... ART IN MOTION



I have concentrated, with particular emphasis, upon the development of a visually inspired, dynamic language, demonstrating that pure graphic choreography is capable of non-verbal truth. I have chosen to convey ideas and feelings through movements, visually formed by lines, squares, spots, circles and varieties of colors.

My overture to the art of movement emanated from watching the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. During their classical performances I discovered the artistry of movement found in the dance. Through the choreography of George Balanchine and the magnificent fluidity of their great dancers including Tamara Toumanova, Danilova, David Lichine and Leonide Massine, my own vision began to emerge. Viewing the spectacular unity of body, choreography and music, all with perfect precision, displayed infinite possibilities of gesture.

With the modern dance of Martha Graham, I perceived how contemporary art could lead the way for new visions in movement, where emotional flow and counterpoint would prove equally stunning.

I have been inspired by painters Kandinsky and Mondrian, sculptors like David Smith, Chillida and Calder’s perpetually moving mobiles - fluidity in design, color and abstraction WITH structure. A theatrical production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya might stimulate reflective creativity about Time and Structure infused with Conversational Rhythms.


On the other end of the gamut, I may become deeply inspired by watching the great athletes compete. Florence Joyner (Flo Jo) running track, edging around a curve, takes on a poetic framework of all-consuming motion and grace, visually displaying gentle strength and all the paradoxes of endurance and joy. Her movement in itself is the expression which gives us both an aesthetic and an emotional experience.

Movement is the content. Don’t merely look at a movement, FEEL it.
Movement is the feeling.
Movement should include ‘pause and silence’ , And
Movement emerges, only then to disappear.
Movement implies advance - and reinforces with retreat.
Movement is contrast that features agreement - and disagreement.
Movement is its own dialogue as lines ‘converse’.
Movement offers ‘after image’, as in my film RUMBLE, where the picture is imprinted in our vision which retains the penetrating impact after we’ve turned away.
Movement is revolutions.... sequential abstract shapes ‘speeding’ through a peripherally sensed landscape, as in film TRAIN LANDSCAPE.
Movement is action; our responses to it may be affected by our own state of mind as well as by the purely kinetic qualities of that motion.

My work is abstract, but it contains an organic element that brings people close to their inner feelings. It doesn’t ‘explain’; within feeling, one can discover answers.

Conductors, composers and musicians have described my work as musical through the composition, timing and direction that they sense. They are moved by the rhythm and by the ‘complete, fulfilling process’. This is so interesting to me, as I do not rely on music as a starting point. Since 1969, I have animated more than thirty abstract films, adding the scores to my films at their completion; I prefer to do the graphic choreography from my own sense of timing instead of a predetermined sound or musical score. In my films, ‘sound score’ is often far more appropriate, since a formal musical composition is not always necessary to provide enhancement, nor is it the basis of stimulus.

I have, however, done ‘film to music’. In 1938 the Disney Studio asked me to storyboard the Chinese and Russian Dances for the movie FANTASIA. After consideration, I chose to approach the characters as abstract shapes; giving them proper movement in a small, specific space was not a problem. Actually, the only problem was to have the Disney Studio accept a black background without any texture in it! Rhythm and motion are greatly enhanced by the black background;.shapes appear to move as if they are in infinite space. Black becomes a force, a certain energy, specific to itself.

By the use of color, lines could be in an active or passive state, near or distant. The industry was timid about using color in the same fashion as the contemporary painters. But, as an original member of the UPA Studio, we created a place that could be innovative with the use of color and expand the medium artistically.


Color can create space, it can project the coming scene / situation; it can be dramatic or expressive for any form or implication.
Color is energy.
Color can be the subject, thread or issue.
Color can be decorative, enhancing.
Color can be graceful, fluid.
Color can be serene or aggressive.
Color can be heard.
Whether discussing color or sound or any of the components, it is necessary to test, to heighten what is known, and to move forward.

Experimental film has a magnificent opportunity to investigate Space and Time choreography, to compose in Space for Infinite Space, to expand diminishing forms, and even cause the disintegration of forms. Composing in Space also encompasses the flow of movement, simultaneous rhythms, instant presence, and forms that interpenetrate. Successive, transformable and ephemeral forms may disappear and then ‘re’form in an unending progression. You may arrest motion, slow motion, fragment images, change the surface of the screen, and employ cubist composition. The potential is infinite. I am presented with the avenues to move forward, to control, to evolve, to finalize.

My work is not realized through mathematical formulas or theories. It is gained through visual ‘trial and error’. It is a process of perception, a process of creative discovery.

--Jules Engel


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