After witnessing the 'overwhelmingly female power' of nature during her lockdown walks in London, artist, designer and filmmaker Susanne Deeken felt compelled to make a film evoking the strength and beauty of the natural world. Combining gothic elements with cutting-edge transmorphic digital effects, The Hairy Notion Of A Green Afternoon sees people shapeshifting into animals while giant pearls, a cartoon moon, a real-life horse carousel and digital roses drift on by. Imaginative and haunting in equal measure, Deeken's award-winning art film turns notions of escapism, conventional beauty and the grotesque on their head.
Over email, Deeken speaks about her initial path into filmmaking, art as 'food for the soul', and the trials and tribulations of combining painting, drawing, collage and stop-motion animation into a single, seamless visual world. Check out her Instagram for a heady dose of old-fashioned, bewitching artwork from the likes of Edvard Munch, Leonora Carrington, Ana Mendieta, Hieronymus Bosch and more.
Violet Conroy: How did you first arrive at filmmaking?
Susanne Deeken: Having been painting again for quite a few years now, it was a natural progression from that. In the first lockdown I found it hard to go to the painting studio and just started playing around with first attempts at moving images. Filmmaking has fascinated me for a long time and I just went for it. I loved the fact that you can create these really intense environments that are a trigger to a lot of senses at the same time. So I went on my journey, first having to overcome and tackle the technical hurdles, feeling dictated by my technical limitations. But at some point I started ‘mastering’ some film programs and now I feel able to express what I want in this medium, even though there is still so much I do not know. I love that I am able to combine all the things that I have worked with all my life, be it painting, drawing, collaging, design, music etc. Making films feels like a good place to be at right now.
VC: How did the concept of The Hairy Notion Of A Green Afternoon come about?
SD: I spent a lot of time walking around London in lockdown. I was quite isolated and noticed more and more how nature was having this huge impact on me. I was so touched by its beauty and strength and felt this overwhelmingly female power in it, so I tried to put this into some sort of visual form. In The Hairy Notion of a Green Afternoon, the protagonist emerges from elemental energies, leading us on her sensational journey. She (the ‘Ur-Frau’) is a mysterious force, ever-changing, responding to, and even becoming her encounters with nature. Her story is that of emotion – felt, rather than told – a tale where the original score pulsates expressively with the visuals’ rhythm. It is a tale of enrichment and empowerment, breathing and oozing nature’s forms and wonders.
VC: How did you make the film, technically speaking?
SD: I approach each film in quite an unorthodox way. For each new film I make I push myself to try out new things, new techniques, different approaches and am always wanting to learn more. I just throw everything in the mix, multi-disciplinary with a combination of digital and analogue techniques. I use painting, drawing, collage, stop-motion animation, film bits of my own body and create digital protagonists, where everything is made from scratch. All content, including the music is written and performed by me.
VC: Surrealism seems to play a big part in your work. How has this artistic movement influenced you?
SD: I love that there are no boundaries and you can drift between dreams and reality, create your own anti-realistic world of escape, magic and metamorphosis.
VC: Your Instagram is littered with art by Edvard Munch, Leonora Carrington, Ana Mendieta, Hieronymus Bosch and many more. What makes you drawn to an image, and how do these images influence your work?
SD: As you can probably tell, I do a lot of research and look at a lot of art. It is like food for the soul and keeps me inspired and balanced. I guess everything we see/hear/experience gets digested by our subconscious and then we spit out our own version of something we are trying to say.
VC: What are your filmmaking ambitions for the future?
SD: All of this work is just part of one big thing. I do not really differentiate between painting, drawing, making collages or making films, or making music for that matter. All these categories are just different mediums or outlets to express what I am trying to say or convey, each with their different charms and challenges. A painting you might have hanging on a wall for years becomes part of your life, whereas a film is a lot more intense in the moment and then the moment is gone – both are beautiful and relevant in their own way. Regarding film, I would love to continue to explore. How much further can I take it? What else can I learn? Let’s see where this journey will take me.