Australian Fine Artist

Chris Knowles

Visiting Artist at TAFE Wednesday 8th August

Topic: Experimental Film and Sound

Chris started off in the 1970s and attended Preston Institute in an era where you got to school and the teachers basically said, well you have already passed so you may as well do as you please! I was at Caulfield in 1978 and I am sure it was a lot stricter than that as I recall having to hand in papers and attend lectures as well as having a folio ready. Maybe I was luckier. Anyway for Chris it meant a lot of time to teach himself and become a very self motivated person rather than being driven by someone else.

Around this time he started experimenting with sound and video and how they could be used for various applications. His year after school playing the piano further embedded this interest in music and sound and with the cooperation from James Claydon he learned more about film as well.

At this stage before computers and digital cameras etc most things were done using film and a lot of work was required as well as a fair bit of money. To produce even standard 8 was expensive but dedication won out and he spent much time learning and producing his first films.

We were shown a couple of his first efforts which have now been digitised, so were played using Quicktime on a Mac laptop. There was a mix of moving and still pictures, overlaid pictures along with sounds and music he had composed and done himself. One of these was “Without Movement” done in 1983 which was ten minutes long. I am sorry to say that it was about six minutes too long for me. I tried to find some continuity in the images but couldn’t and the sound was so repetitious that it really did annoy the crap out of me after a while.

We looked at samples from a couple of other films, “Geometry” and “Excerpts” which were both done in a similar manner. We then looked at a sampling of his work for indigenous galleries and tourist cultural centres produced  more recently. These were done in cooperation with the locals and showed their preparation for ceremonies etc. I found these far easier to watch and the creative way they were presented at the centres was I thought, very pleasing. I could imagine average tourists being able to watch all the way through and enjoy them.

Chris came across as a genuinely enthusiastic guy. It was very encouraging to see someone who had been working at his business for at least a few decades, still having eagerness to try new things and not afraid of technology or change, but rather embracing them. He was also a good talker and made his story very interesting. I could have easily listened to him chat about his career with only one of the early videos and sound. He did admit that every decade or so he has a mini meltdown and goes off to do something else for a while, but really since I am still recovering from a huge one of my own from Graphic Design, I don’t think that is anything to be ashamed of. A break every now and then may actually be a good thing to help refresh the mind and spirit.

Chris is still planning new projects and new ways to take his ideas. He has plans to get an iPhone which, since I LOVE Apple products, I think is a great idea. He did say though that the tools are not the main thing, be it a computer, camera, iPhone, digital camera or whatever, you still have to have the idea, the creativity and the plan – then you get your gear together and get to work on it. These are the positives that I took away from his chat today.

David asked us afterwards what we made of the presentation. These are a few points I jotted down from the group.

  • It is not uncommon to be scrounging for materials etc to get effects or your project done as artists
  • Many artists have had to at least start off making do with what they had
  • Some thought that if they had been chained to the seat the videos would have been good torture tools
  • Some found that the video and audio together were a bit of a sensory overload
  • David added that art should make sense of the world and should be presented by the artist with integrity
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