Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

05:57:11 pm , 937 words, 4582 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Animator

Maya Yonesho

Maya Yonesho's entry in Winter Days was probably most people's introduction to her work. It was certainly mine, and it made me want to see more. But her work is not easy to come by, and it took a long time to finally get the chance to do so. Now that I have, I can say that her Winter Days film does give a good introduction to her body of work over the last ten years of activity, which has all been devoted to creating animation made by photographing the art books on which her animation is drawn, flipbook-style.

Despite all being done in basically the same style, her films of the last decade represent a very unique body of work in animation that deserves to be seen. Maya Yonesho's animation is all abstract, but it's abstract animation that belies the usual conception of abstract animation as being all difficult and head-scratching stuff for academics. Maya strikes me as very much of a people person, whose work is all about connecting with others, both in the sense of its subject matter and its production. Her work is abstract, but it's always a translation of very basic human emotions and experiences, and that comes through surprisingly clearly to the viewer. And she has constantly traveled over the last decade, so that her various films were all made in different countries, with people of different nationalities, inspired by different environs. I think that's one of her defining traits as an artist - she's not merely an animator hacking away at a desk, her whole work ethos seems to be about the basic notion of people connecting with one another across the borders of language and nationality.

Her films reflect that international color. Introspection (1998), made while studying in the UK, features a soundtrack of different phrases of encouragement spoken by colleagues of different nationalities in their native tongues, which Maya interprets through her flipbook animation. It's a short and simple but powerful film that makes a very clear comment on the ability of art to connect people otherwise separated by language. Her animation, as always, is beautiful and inventive, effectively bringing alive the very different sounds of the different languages in animation.

One thing that characterizes Maya's work procedure, besides the fact that she work on art books, is that she usually bases her animation on a pre-recorded soundtrack of music or words, as in the case of Introspection. The sound gives rise to the images. That may be part of what makes her work immediately accessible - that it isn't really purely abstract; it's often an abstract interpretation of words with which we're all familiar.

Maya's first abstract film was Don't you wish you were here? (1997), which features slow animation of a blob-like object transforming into various shapes and growing more and more colorful as it progresses. The film comes across as a metaphor on the growth of the artist - the gray perhaps representing Maya before this film and the more colorful blob of later on the mature artist. It also seems a more general metaphor for life in general. While you're watching, that doesn't occur to you, as simply watching the animation is a joy, but like all of her work, there's a warm message about life and personal growth hidden in there.

Perhaps the most significant film she's made since then is also the longest, ?ks Uks or One Door (2003), which Maya made while studying in Estonia with the help of Estonian artists and studios. The flipbooks in this film are styled after doors, each of which were created by a different Estonian artist, and each of which represent a different aspect of one's life, such as the door of art, door of love, door of friendship, etc, so that the film plays out the different stages of a person's life as a journey through different doors. The combination with the music is particularly effective here, and the film is one of her most sophisticated and convincing.

Maya spends much of her time lecturing, having lectured and worked in various countries including the UK, Estonia and Austria. In fact, her most recent project since completing ?ks Uks has been a project in which she travels to different countries, where she holds an animation workshop in her technique and creates a film with the participants. The films are shot by holding up the animated drawings in front of you, and photographing them with a camera, so that you get the animation playing out in the environs of the local cities, acting as a mirror and interpretation not of sound this time but of the locality. So far she has completed seven films in the so-called Daumenreise series, which began with her own film Wiener Wuast (2006), shot in Vienna. You can see a list of the other films on her own home page, along with detailed biographical information.

A DVD collecting six of her films is available from Anido, which is where I saw them, but Anido's web form currently doesn't support foreign shipping. I asked them about this, and supposedly they're working on the English form as we speak. Maya actually produced quite a number of films in the decade preceding this, starting with her debut One Lonely Cactus (1985), completed one year before her graduation from the Kyoto Saga Art College in 1986, but her flipbook-style films from 1997 on are the only ones collected on the DVD. What's on there is great, but it's a bit of a shame, as I'd like to see her earlier films too, not to mention that makes the DVD only 30 minutes long.


1 comment

Cathy [Visitor]  

Thanks for the heads up on Anido’s DVD of Maya Yonesho’s work. I’m so glad that you are featuring her work on your blog! She’s an amazing artist - I love her mixed media approach to animation.

02/25/09 @ 00:55