Writing Topography, The Marion McCain Exhibition of Contemporary Atlantic Art


14. Philippa Jones, Animation sequence from 49 seconds installation, silence, New Romantics 2013

 For details click here

In their words: Conversations with Writing Topography artists—#12: Philippa Jones

November 24,


Over the next several weeks, we will be posting interviews with artists currently featured in the Gallery’s Writing Topography exhibition. These interviews were conducted by Rebecca Goodine, a university student participating in an internship at the Gallery. These interviews present artists talking about themselves and their work in their own words. Interviews were conducted with the artists by email, and have been lightly edited for grammar and flow (occasionally, questions and responses have been removed). At the end of interviews, we’ve included some links to provide a bit more information about a topic or theme from the interview; these links have been chosen by us, and were not provided by the artists.

Philippa Jones

Photo: Roger Smith


There are no films of dead birds coming to life that I could use as reference for the animation.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic practice.

Prior to moving to Canada I completed a BA in Fine Art and an MA in Interactive Art & Design at University College Falmouth. I like to always be making; my practice is diverse and has included and sometimes combines printmaking, painting, pen and ink, animation, art games*and interactive installations. I explore whatever medium feels most apt for my research interests, and I feel like I create the best work when I treat my art like serious play*.

Can you tell us about the process of creating the work in the exhibition?

There are no films of dead birds coming to life that I could use as reference for the animation. To ensure that the movements seemed realistic and flowed smoothly I first created a 3d model of a bird and then a computer animation of the sequence. This gave me the outline of the bird to follow in each hand drawn frame. This ensured that the size and position of the bird remained consistent in addition to the movements flowing from still to still. The details of the bird I had to ‘invent’. So each feather was imagined before I drew it in place. I then scanned in each drawing and compiled each still into the animation. Now that my drawings were digitized I could incorporate the animation with the coded program to make the projected animation responsive. A computer program was created through coding. The program needed to ensure that the Kinect picked up on the human form and ignored all the other information in the room. It also needed to respond to one still person directly in front of it and not moving people in the background.

How does your work connect with broader themes?

It plays with the themes of non linear time. There is an implied past: the death of the bird, the present: a dead bird, and you, as the participant, have power over time and death. You can awaken the bird and set it free of the present death state. Perhaps for you the participant it lives on somewhere out of view, or maybe you just revived it for it to die again and lie waiting for revival from someone else? This reflects our larger relationship to nature and the power we think we have but ultimately do not. I think this work is hopeful and filled with potential possibility, but in the real world dead is dead and this work in contrast to real, final death, reminds us of our immortality and our impact on nature.

As someone who is hugely passionate about video games and how we can explore the medium as artists, I really loved how cleverly you used the Kinect in this piece. Could you maybe talk about some of your work with user participation and interactivity?

There are two tools you can use in video games that can enhance interactive artwork. One is the game itself. Incorporating gaming allows for a more playful dynamic with your participants. People are also much more accepting of a shift in reality and more likely to participate if its’ a game than an art piece. In a gallery space we are often hesitant to play. Art is serious, games are fun.

Technology is just another tool you can utilise in your artwork. Advances in technology allow for more body responsive interaction. The technology I use responds to your intuitive movement whoever you are, however tech savvy you may or may not be. You don’t have to decide to take part, the art starts a dialogue with you; the work responds to your presence, you see the change in the projection, you experiment with your movement, there is a back and fourth between you and the work. Then as in video games, you are rewarded for your invested participation. In this piece ‘Silence,’ you get to see the bird awaken and fly away.

How and why do you explore the themes of “constructed realities”, “active myth making” and the “inquisitive mind” in this piece, and in your work in general?

In my art I aim to create a space into which the participant can project their imagination and to some extent determine their own experience. I am interested in exploring the new parameters in which art can operate, opened through advances in technology. I believe that reality is constantly evolving. We create and reinforce reality’s boundaries. It is my assertion that through art I can shape the sensory experience to distort reality, understand its constraints and potentially subvert it. By subverting reality I hope to foster a sense of the possible for participants and viewers of my work.

What does ‘creativity’ mean to you?

Actively being creative to me means making with imagination and intuition.

What kinds of things do you find helpful as sources of inspiration?

I curiously try to absorb all that interests me and then filter it down to what is most relevant to my current art project. I try to research outside of my area of knowledge. I find Quantum Physics, Natural History and Geology very inspiring. I like to feel like I have to stretch my mind to comprehend a new idea.

What advice do you have to give to new and aspiring artists?

Learn to draw, it allows you to visualize your thoughts and ideas and assists you in all other art practices. I can jump from medium to medium because I trust that my hand will work as a conduit for my ideas. Practice until it is second nature. Also make, let the making lead the ideas, let the art speak for you. Don’t bow to the pressure to constantly explain your art to others. This should be for art critics and writers. You are an artist, you communicate through your art. That is enough.

Learn more about…

Art Games (Artificial.dk)
Serious Play (Photopedagogy.com)

Artist bio

The diverse art practice of Philippa Jones varyingly combines printmaking, painting, pen and ink, animation, art games, and interactive installations. Central to her work is the exploration of constructed realities, active myth-making, and a celebration of wonder and the inquisitive mind. Jones completed a BFA (2006) and an MFA in Interactive Art & Design (2008) at University College Falmouth in the United Kingdom. Jones has been based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, since 2009.

About the Exhibition

Writing Topography runs September 26, 2015 through January 10, 2016. The exhibition is organized by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and made possible with the generous support of the McCain Family, the Harrison McCain Foundation, and the McCain Foundation. Admission is FREE for Beaverbrook Art Gallery members and for children age six and under. More information on memberships and benefits can be found on our website at http://beaverbrookartgallery.org/en/support/membership. Featured artists include: Robert Bean, Gerald Beaulieu, Jennifer Bélanger, Rémi Belliveau, Jordan Bennett, Kay Burns, Amanda Dawn Christie, Richard Davis, Leah Garnett, Pam Hall, Mark Igloliorte, Navarana Igloliorte, Ursula Johnson, Philippa Jones, Stephen Kelly, Eleanor King, Fenn Martin, Michael McCormack, Kim Morgan, Nigel Roe, Sara Roth, Anna Torma, Gerald Vaandering, and Kim Vose Jones.

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