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Animated short explores loss and belonging in Welsh border landscape

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Polly March Polly March | 09:45 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

As a boy, Sean Vicary used to look west from his Shropshire borders home to where the sun was setting, just beyond his reach, behind the stunning Welsh hills. The sense of teetering on the cusp between two countries became a strong motif throughout his boyhood.

Now as an artist living in Cardigan and looking back east at the landscape of his youthful imagination, he has chosen to re-evaluate his place within it via a short film, Lament, which blends and interweaves animation, poetry, folk music and found objects.

The trigger for the piece, which has been funded by Arts Council Wales and features a soundtrack by acclaimed folk artist Ceri Rhys Matthews, came with the death of Sean's father, himself an artist, in 2006.

Sean said: "My mother and father have always lived in the same house north of Shrewsbury and his death prompted me to re-evaluate my roots and where I came from.

"I came home and spent a lot of time at their cottage and my father's print studio which is crumbling and needs a lot of attention. While this was distressing, it also enabled me to look at things from a very different perspective."

Thus the idea for Lament was born, with Sean using his skill in animation and macro photography to examine objects he has found in the natural environment which he believes are part of the DNA of a specific area.

Using items like lichen, animal remains, berries and twigs, he took them back to his studio and animated them so they could be reintroduced into the landscape on a larger scale or floating, disembodied in the area they originally belonged to.

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

Part of the project uses a technique which will delight all fans of "augmented reality", where spectators can access an app via their smart phones and go out into the countryside, using GPS, and see these objects, such as a giant spinning leaf, suspended in specific locations.

This site-specific approach of 're-compositing' the objects back into the landscape allows the viewer to physically interact with the artwork.

The five objects are currently on display outside the Oriel Davies gallery in Newtown, but will be taken out into the landscape in April. For more details visit the gallery website.

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

Because Sean was keen to make a moving image piece, he started discussions with Ceri Rhys Matthews about producing some music that would convey the narrative of loss, longing and belonging he was so eager to capture.

"It was very strange how it all came together, but he introduced me to the seventh century Welsh poem cycle Canu Heledd," says Sean.

"These poems deal with the fall of the Brythonic Kingdom of Pengwern, or eastern Powys, in what is now Shropshire. This particular lament originates from the border area describing the silence and ruin of Prince Cynddylan's home after his death.

"Coincidentally there are 15 verses relating to the village of Baschurch where I went to school and there was this lament for Cynddylan's crumbling empire which had particular resonance for what I was going through with losing my father and having to work out what to do with his art studio.

"Ceri put a band together and recorded a soundtrack which uses fragments of the poetic cycle in both Welsh and English to help further portray that sense of border space and questions of belonging."

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

Still taken from Sean Vicary's Lament. Image courtesy of the artist

The project's partners are Arts Council of Wales, Animate Projects and Small World Theatre, which is hosting a screening and music performance event on Friday 24 February to showcase Lament.

Sean and musicians Ceri Rhys Matthews, Christine Cooper and Ceri Jones will take part in an innovative performance with live projection of Lament's footage and improvised music.

At the end of this performance there will be an opportunity to explore the ideas and making of the work in a discussion chaired by cultural activist, Osi Rhys Osmond. The project will go online at the beginning of March via the Animate Projects website.

For more information about Sean Vicary and Lament visit seanvicary.com.

For more details on the performance at Small World Theatre on 24 February at 8pm visit the Small World Theatre website.

Tickets are £6/£4 and can be bought through whatevertheweatherwales.co.uk and by calling Small World Theatre on 01239 615 952.

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