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Govett-Brewster presents Malcolm Le Grice

Media release

7 October 2010

The Govett-Brewster presents leading experimental filmmaker Malcolm Le Grice this October

Malcolm Le Grice, still from Horror Film, 1971, 5 minutes, performance with 16mm film. Photo courtesy the artist and the New Zealand Film Archive

In association with The New Zealand Film Archive, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery presents The Image of Time, a one-night-only film and video performance by British artist Malcolm Le Grice on Saturday 30 October at 6.00pm at the Govett-Brewster. The work spans almost 50 years of moving image practice.

In his first visit to New Zealand, Le Grice will screen a collection of material from 1967-2006, including his 1970 collaboration with Brian Eno Berlin Horse, a recent video made using software from a packet of cereal, and work generated on 16mm film, computer and digital video.

Le Grice initially studied as a painter in early 1960s and shifted to film, re-using cast-offs from London production companies. ‘I started pulling 16mm film out of the dust bins in Soho. I built up all this kind of ‘found footage’ he said.

Building a 16mm processing system in his own home, Le Grice began copying fragments of newsreels and feature films which he mixed with his own material. The film Berlin Horse was rendered complete after musician Brian Eno recognised a kindred spirit and offered the filmmaker a soundtrack.

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So what brings Le Grice to New Zealand? ‘I have never been south of the equator and I am now 70 so it’s almost now or never. Also all my friends who have been to New Zealand have said what a beautiful and friendly country it is. Bonuses will be to meet film and video artists from NZ and OZ and to see the Len Lye Archive in New Plymouth’ says Le Grice.

Director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Rhana Devenport says: ‘Malcolm Le Grice’s experimental approach to film processing and developing techniques is very similar to Len Lye’s. It is a real privilege to have Le Grice present his groundbreaking works at the home of Lye’s work in New Plymouth.’

One of his most recent works is Digital Aberration (2004), a short video with a pulsing techno soundtrack generated with a music programme he found in a box of cereal. The images were based on a rapid-fire series of scene transitions from a digital editing programme.

Throughout his career Le Grice has been fearless adopter of new technology. His 1971 work Your Lips (1971) is often described as Britain’s first artwork generated on computer. Remarkably, Your Lips took Le Grice eight-nine months of computer punch card programming but generated just 10 seconds of video.

Your Lips resembled a series of expanding circles, which Le Grice incorporated into Threshold (1970), a film made as a pointed reaction to the Cold War and the use of armed force.

In the early 1980s Le Grice made three feature-length films for British television that were radical explorations of narrative. He subsequently returned to making shorter pieces that referenced nature and family and drew on the influence of Cubism and post-impressionist painters such as Seurat and Cezanne.

Le Grice’s tour of New Zealand has been organised by New Zealand Film Archive Exhibitions Manager Mark Williams who spent three months in London last year working on Le Grice’s collection at the film agency Lux.

He says ‘Malcolm has an incredible drive to produce new work, so it was good to track down his older material before it gets lost or beyond repair. There was lots of memorabilia, slide pieces that hadn’t been seen for 40 years and several cans of film sitting in Malcolm’s closet, very near a tap. It was great to sort it all out and put the film in a vault.’

The Image of Time includes several works that Le Grice performs for up to three screens, moving, adjusting and combining the images. The artist retains a keen sense of his film work as a live event designed to involve the viewer.

‘It’s about spectacle and scale ... I want the experience to have a conceptual/intellectual element to it, but it’s not a demonstration of a concept, it’s about an experience’ says Le Grice.

Filmmaker Malcolm Le Grice
Saturday 30 October, 6.00pm at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
Tickets $20, Friends of the Gallery $15


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