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Oskar Fischinger is a common name in the animation scene, best known for his work Motion Painting no.1 (1947), this German painter is considered to be one of the pioneer animators of his generation. He was featured in Fritz Lang’s, Woman in the Moon, where he worked on special effects. Independently he has worked on over 800 paintings in museums worldwide. His abstract animation, Motion Painting no.1, is what most consider being his final masterpiece because it sets the stage for this visual artist. In this classic, Fischinger uses the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, specifically, Concerto no. 3, BMW 1048. The images are in synch with Bach’s music were filmed in a single take (Collins, 44-60). The Library of Congress saw it fit to preserve the film in the United States National Film Registry with the description that it is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The up to 9-month work was done on plexiglass with the 11-minute film being painted frame by frame. The fact that Fischinger painted without seeing the result on film enabled him to be consistent in his work. He also stuck to similar and relatively simple shapes, hence was consistent in his style. The importance of this piece is that it is open to its own possibilities while recording the growth of a visual art form. It was attached to history but still remained groundbreaking (Milner, John, and El Lissitzky, 40-77).
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El Lissitzky was Russian artist whose artistry revolved around the designing of propaganda art for the Soviet Union. In addition Lissitzky was a key figure in the development of supermatism, a Russian art form that associates with the use of simple geometric figures to represent larger ideas, often spiritual or political. This was evident in his works one of which gained exceptional recognisance; Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge. Throughout his career Lissitzky believed that an artist could be a tool for change and greater good, something he displayed in his work. The use of geometric shapes is seen in Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge (Perloff, Nancy, Brian, and El Lissitzky, 19-56). It features a white circle which is symbolic for the old regime’s royalists. The red triangle represents the communists who were advocating for change. The moving in of the communists brought about change in thought and opinion. This piece portrays the communist’s victory over the royalists and it was viewed as an embodiment of Lissitzky’s beliefs of using art for greater good. This was the basis for constructivism art, which advocated for the use of an artistic approach for greater social good, and originated in Russia. The white background in the piece could be interpreted as depicting a brighter future after the period of war. On viewing the picture one understands that the red army, which were the communists advocating for change, had an upper hand in the war. Generally the picture could be viewed as an expression of Lissitzky’s opinion and where his allegiance lied as far as the war was concerned (Lissitzky, El and Arnold, 42-84).
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On looking at the two artists work, both the similarities and differences are clear. The use of simple geometric shapes is evident in both their works Fischinger’s abstract art as well as in El Lissitzky’s. In these works both artists are independent on real-world visualizations and rely on their own creations by using geometrical shapes effectively. However, while Lissitzky’s work dwells on constructivism and supermatism, Fischinger’s is simply a visual representation without invoking any deeper meaning to it. Beat the whites with the Red Wedge, is clearly a historical piece with allusions to the war whereas Motion Painting no. 1 is a form of optical poetry that cannot be tied down to a single straightforward interpretation. Also Lissitzky did his painting in a single frame while Fischinger painted frame by frame for 9 months. The abstraction in the works of these two draws them together but the motion in Fischinger’s sets him apart. In addition Lissitzky’s constructivism also differs from Fischinger’s visual poetic nature (Kapczynski, Jennifer, and Michael, 22-65).
The issue of video games being an art is debatable, what is obvious however is the fact that previous animators, film makers and painters like Fischinger and Lissitzky have influenced creators of video games even after their time. In 2001, Sega in Japan released Rez, a video game created by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 platform. The influence that abstract art had on Mizuguchi is displayed in his creation, Rez. Tetsuya admits to being influenced by abstract artist and Russian painter, Wassily Kandisky and Oskar Fischinger. Replacing the traditional sound effects and in-game dialogue with synchronized electronic music sets this video game apart. The music evolves in the background as the player moves through different stages of the game. A concept borrowed from some of Fischinger’s works such as Motion painting no. 1. The artistry could be credited to Kandinsky and the visual music to Fischinger. Indeed some critics describe Fischinger’s work as ‘motion Kandinsky’. The game uses simple geometrical shapes, mostly polygons to a detailed degree, which reveals Kandinsky’s and Fischinger’s influence.
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These three works of art are connected by their abstraction; they do not rely on reality but create their own visualizations. Rez takes this abstraction to a new level being more detailed while still maintaining the use of simple geometrical shapes. These similarities show how pioneer animators and artists have influenced their modern day counterparts. The differences show the advancement in abstract art and animation (Scroggins, 22-35).
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