A welcome addition to Shahrokh Nael’s Scribble Screens’ digital sketchbook, Tin Bath immortalises the recollections of veteran engineer, John Goodfellow, as he shares memories of a working class life resigned to the past, and soon to be lost to living memory.
Swabbed with a monochromatic watercolour wash, it’s ashen frames reflect both the subject’s advancing age and the culture of mechanisation that has riveted his experiences together. Meanwhile, the clarion calls of foghorns and seagulls announce an animated armada of chugging boats – doffing a cap to Britain’s imperial past; a delicate floral underlay hinting at the blossoming of the industrial age.
It’s the subtle touches that stand out within this affectionate composition. The flash of yellow blonde hair that picks out our narrator’s infant self amongst his drab surroundings, the understated score that buoys the words of our octogenarian envoy as he guides us through a vignette of huffing smoke-stacks, toiling miners and humble, two-up-two-down terraced houses.
“That was the good old days” Goodfellow assures us – offering the tech-toting children of later epochs a heady reminder that life’s beauty lies not in its luxuries or conveniences – but in its simplicity. Those of us bound to the present day would do well to heed his message – and mine the gold accumulated by our predecessors whilst these invaluable resources remain available to us.
Contemplating the ravages of age, Nael’s latest work, Obsolescence, examines the perfunctory roll ascribed to the elderly in a culture enthralled by the allure of youth and incessant, rapid change. Whether propped up in bed or confined to a wheelchair, the subject of this disquieting portrait is forced to accept his position as a passive observer within his own life. Following the subject as he observes the retiring of an ailing yacht – the confinement and cumbersome transportation of a vessel once able to travel swiftly and freely without restraint – we are forced to appreciate his uncomfortable predicament.
Bleached of colour and seemingly unravelling by the frame, this absorbing short challenges the viewer not only to imagine the circumstances faced by our society’s existing senior citizens; but to consider a likely personal future that each of us would rather not have to confront.
41 years after revolution took root in his native Iran, Shahrokh Nael reflects on the experiences of his countrymen with this searing short. Featuring a rousing soundtrack an jarring black and white visuals – a dark veneer which mirrors the dappled ‘halftone’ newspaper print that characterised domestic publications of the time – Hiver is immediately arresting. Footage of the filmmaker and snatches of a violent and turbulent epoch are stamped with
three dates etched in the mind of the artist: 1978 – the beginning of the revolution, 1980 – the commencement of the new regime’s campaign of murder and its march to war, and 1984 – the year in which he was forced from his homeland. Accompanying this mottled scene is the rallying cry of Ayatolla Mullah Khomeini – his militant calls for change ushering in a long, bleak winter for the Iranian nation and its beleaguered population.
Another transcendental vignette from Shahrokh Nael’s Scribble Screens digital sketchbook, Fugue encapsulates the sense of disorientation and dislocation experienced by those catapulted into a state of temporary psychological anonymity. Documenting the impressions of an unspecified observer as they passively assimilate sensory information from a moving train, this searing short confounds the very fundamentals of storytelling; dispensing with the narrative structure that imbues a conventional account with meaning.
Contrasting images that are simultaneously painfully bright and darkly opaque, Fugue harnesses a sublimely haunting soundtrack to successfully convey both the fear and freedom man experiences when liberated from the constraints of integrative identity. Stirring feelings of loss, confusion and dissociation, this brief cinematic experiment also reflects the zeitgeist of our contemporary political culture; highlighting our collective failure to adequately understand the past or effectively anticipate the future.
Scribble Screens Series – Joy A ringing bell, a symbol of hope. When this clamorous salute resounds throughout the corridors of the world’s cancer wards, it heralds a new beginning. Marking the end of a patient’s gruelling chemotherapy treatment, this ritualistic celebration of the endurance of the human spirit gives strength to those yet to overcome.
Encapsulating this uncertain journey, Joy leads the viewer from darkness into a tremulous field of light and colour – and back again – deftly expressing the ecstasy and fragility of life.
Each and every day, as most of us preoccupy ourselves with the idiosyncrasies and banality of contemporary Western life, people much like ourselves are confronted with a terrifying prognosis. The Symphony of IV Machines – a gripping addition to Shahrokh Nael’s experimental digital sketchbook, Scribble Screens – represents an abstract illustration of the physical trials and emotional turmoil faced by these individuals as they embark upon a course of chemotherapy. Emblazoned with grungy, bleak – and, at times, frightening – overlapping imagery viewed through a prism of uncertainty, this grating short challenges its audience to surrender to the aching disquiet experienced by its unfortunate subjects.
Flitting between foreboding projections of observer and the observed, the organic and the electronic – light and texture ebb and wane; revealing the transitory nature of consciousness, experience – and even life itself. Set against the backdrop of a cold cacophony of medical machinery – at once a minimalist orchestra sounding out a shrill, doleful tune, and a clinical conversation staged between emotionless automated actors – this concise work is a truly arresting experience.
Another leaf from Shahrokh Nael’s Scribble Screens virtual sketchbook – a series of animated shorts scrutinising prevailing cultural trends by exposing them to Nael’s uncompromising digital palette. This disjointed self-portrait seeks to highlight the continuing entrenchment of ‘compression culture’ within global communities; whereby formally rich and diverse societal motifs are planed away to conform to a dominant culture regimented by modern technology.
In this short, the artist’s individual characteristics remain recognisable, but have been leached of all colour and depth – limiting the audience’s capacity to identify with its subject. A juddering vibrato soundtrack and scratchy overlay complete the impression – suggesting that his identity has been almost completely scoured of distinctiveness by its technological transmission.
This second study – another page torn from Nael’s Scribble Screen’s digital jotter – builds upon the themes examined in Nael’s first salient critique of compression culture within contemporary society. In this portrait the artist’s image has been so voraciously distorted that little of his individuality remains.
Heavily pixilated, with all idiosyncrasy bluntly purged from its frames; this piece highlights the metaphysical violence inflicted upon citizens by unfettered globalisation – eviscerating their essential humanity by means of endless technological categorisation and reproduction.
A visceral semiotic short based on the personal diary of Shahrokh Nael, Whistling of the Wind is a symbolic illustration of the progressive film-maker’s exodus from his Native Iran. Shot in just a single hour in South Manchester, this experimental work describes the auteur’s first attempt to cross the Iranian border into Turkey, in 1984.
Finding himself stranded in the midst of a war zone for five days, Whistling of the Wind is a bleak, hypnotic experience that employs disjointed visual and auditory stimulus to examine the nature of fear, oppression and hope, when pushed to the very limits of our tolerance.