The Animate exhibition series in the Darkroom at the Turku Art Museum will get off to a flying start with work by the Estonian animation director Priit Pärn (b. 1946), one of the foremost animation artists in the world. Drawing has always been an integral part of Priit Pärn’s life. In his home country, he was known from the 1960s onwards for his cartoons, which led to an invitation to direct animations in the Tallinnfilm studios in 1976. Before that, he had earned a degree in biology from the University of Tartu and had worked in the Tallinn Botanic Garden. Work in the animation studio launched Pärn on an international career as animation director, and especially since the 1980s he has also worked as a visual artist. Pärn’s drawings and prints have featured in many exhibitions, and he is also known as an illustrator. Although Priit Pärn has taught animation in many schools and institutions all over the world, he considers Turku his second home, having taught animation here from 1994 up to 2007. Pärn played a crucial role in establishing the international reputation of animation training in the Turku Arts Academy.
The Darkroom gallery at the Turku Art Museum presents a selection of Priit Pärn’s work from across the decades. The earliest piece in the three-hour show is ...and Plays Tricks (...ja teeb trikke, 1978, 9 min), the first work by Pärn to win a prize at an animation festival. His later works place a greater emphasis on social issues. The passions and troubles of human relations are a recurring theme in Pärn’s animations, as in the The Triangle (Kolmnurk, 1982, 15 min). Pärn also finds inspiration in fine art. In Breakfast on the Grass (Eine Murul, 1987, 24 min), Pärn has transferred the characters in Edouard Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass (1863) into Soviet Estonia, whereas the imagery in Hotel E (1992, 29 min) clearly references Pop Art. Karl Marx and Marilyn Monroe meet in the animation Karl and Marilyn (2003, 23 min). In the particularly sensual piece Life without Gabriella Ferri (Elu ilma Gabriella Ferrita, 2008, 44 min), coincidences lead to new situations. The selection ends with Pärn’s latest piece, Divers in the Rain (Tuukrid vihmas, 2010, 24 min).
Priit Pärn’s animations are based on his own scripts. He draws the characters and the storyboard, but the actual animation is done by professional animators at the studio. Pärn’s animations are endowed with the classic properties of the genre. At the core are the rhythms of the moving image and sound. No spoken lines are needed, for the expressive power of the drawn animation is impressive. Animation allows things to be altered endlessly. Metaphor is also an important element of the grammar of animation. While Pärn’s works are based on narrativity, they can at times feel perplexing. Pärn does not serve his stories on a plate, leaving instead room for interpretation. The engaging visuality of Pärn’s animations lingers on long after the viewing experience.
The Animate exhibition series is part of the Turku 2011 European Capital of Culture Program. It explores the role of animation as an independent contemporary art form and as a part of the visual arts. Animate is a collaboration project between the Turku Art Museum, the Pori Art Museum and the Turku University of Applied Sciences / Animation programme.
ARTIST TALK: Thursday, 27 January 2011, starting at 2pm, Priit Pärn will give a talk in Finnish about his artistic practice in the Kuvateatteri of the Turku Arts Academy (Linnankatu 54–60). Admission is free and the meeting is open to the public.
1. Could you tell how you usually start planning new art works and how the work proceeds?
For me the start with a new film has been always different. Sometimes it is just a single visual image, sometimes a reflection from real life, sometimes a tension between something… This is the starting point. Next step is the story. I start at the same time developing the story and the drawing. I make sketches for the characters and I draw a rough storyboard. In certain moment you have to feel the rhythm of the film.
If you are working with studio team – as I almost always did – the preparation for production has to be really proper. It is ideal to have the ready film in your head. The production will be just to make it visible.
2. With which themes have you worked on for the works showed in the Darkroom?
I have 7 animated films in Darkroom. They are from years 1978 to 2010. It is hard to say anything about themes. They are all different and there is development from one film to another. I do believe all of them are connected in context of time and place where they had been made. And they are connected to me in this time and place.
3. Why are these subjects important to you?
I like to tell stories and to do this with using possibilities that animation is giving. I never thought of importance of these subjects to me. What is important is how the film was made.
4. Have you worked for a long time with these subjects?
From 1976 to 2010.
5. Could you tell about the technique you have used for the art works in these works?
From 1976 to 1998 it was classical cell animation. After 1998 it has been drawing animation in combination with 2D computer.
6. Is this technique typical for your working?
Yes it is.
7. What does animation mean to you?
I tried several times to finish with animation. And I always came back. It seems that animation is important to me.
8. What does this exhibition at Turku Art Museum mean to you?
I used to teach in Turku from 1994 to 2007. So, Turku is a bit my home town. This exhibition at Turku Art Museum is very important to me – I am back, I am still alive!
9. Which other art fields are close to you and why?
Illustration and print making.
10. Could you tell about your future plans?
After working quite long time on my last animated film I would like to take a brake with animation and concentrate to print making.
Priit Pärn also on YouTube!