This section includes films by artists who have pursued the idea that moving patterns of abstract shape and colour can be as satisfying to the eye as music is to the ear. 

Films showing in this section: 

11:22 - Duncan Grant Abstract Kinetic Collage Painting With Sound 1914
11:27 - Francis Bruguiere and Oswell Blakeston Light Rhythms 1930
11:33 - Len Lye Trade Tattoo 1937
11:39 - Franciszka and Stefan Themerson The Eye and the Ear 1945
11:50 - George Barber Tilt 1984
11:57 - Riccardo Iacono Cold Tape 2000

Duncan Grant Abstract Kinetic Collage Painting With Sound 1914

4 minutes. Collection: Tate 

Duncan Grant imitated the Chinese technique of scroll-painting in order to explore the changing relationship of a group of geometric shapes through seventeen permutations. The original was made to be viewed through a 11 x 14-inch (28 x 35.3cm) opening. It was moved by a motor and accompanied by music. The work was recorded on film in 1974 by Christopher Mason for the Tate, under Duncan Grant’s instruction. 


Duncan Grant was born in Scotland in 1885. A central figure in the Bloomsbury circle of artists and writers, Grant’s work mostly consists of portraits, interiors and landscapes. His work is at its most formal and abstract in the few years immediately preceding the First World War. He died in 1978. 

Francis Bruguiere and Oswell Blakeston Light Rhythms 1930

6 minutes. Collection: Anthology Film Archives - Unseen Cinema project 

In the late 1920s, Francis Bruguiere exhibited photographic works based on dramatically lit cut and folded paper shapes, some figurative, some abstract. Light Rhythms is a strictly abstract film which added new dimensions to these shapes: moving light-sources, a scheme of superimpositions, and the elements of time and music. 


Francis Bruguiere was born in San Francisco in 1879. He came to London from the USA already known as a photographer and with one completed film Danse Macabre 1922, made with Dudley Murphy, Fernand Leger’s collaborator on Ballet Mecanique 1924. He died in London in 1945.

Oswell Blakeston [Henry Joseph Hasslacher] was born in 1907. He was a painter, poet, novelist and prolific columnist on ‘advanced cinema’ for journals such as Close Up and Film Art . In later life he returned to painting and reviewing art exhibitions. Neither of Blakeston’s other known films appears to have survived. He died in 1985. 

Len Lye Trade Tattoo 1937

5 minutes. Collection: Consignia (GPO

Len Lye was one of the most consistently experimental of artists. He recognised that it was possible to intensify and change colours in early colour film. For Trade Tattoo he took imagery drawn from contemporary documentaries, and assembled a film-collage on the theme of ‘trade’, structured by the music of the Lecuona Band. 


Len Lye was born in Christchurch New Zealand in 1901. He studied at Wellington Technical Institute and Canterbury College of Art (NZ). In London, he exhibited with the Seven and Five Society and at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, and designed bookjackets for Robert Graves and Laura Riding. The success of A Colour Box 1936 led to commissions from the GPO and other advertisers. He moved to New York in 1944 to work for the March of Time. Post War, he self-funded films, and exhibited kinetic sculpture. He died in New York in 1980. 

Franciszka and Stefan Themerson The Eye and the Ear 1945

10 minutes. Collections: Lux; BFI National Film & Television Archive 

In films made in Poland in the 1930s, the Themersons had experimented with shadowplay and moving ‘rayograms’ (photographs taken without a camera, associated with Man Ray). The Eye and the Ear, made later in London, takes these ideas further, exploring patterns made by passing light through lenses. The film suggests analogies between the movement of light and the music of Karol Szymanowski. 


Franciszka Themerson was born in Warsaw in 1907 and died in London in 1988. Stefan Themerson was born in Plock in 1910 and died in London in 1988. After studying in Warsaw, the Themersons became leading members of the Polish avant-garde, making films and photographic works, founding the Polish Filmmakers Co-operative 1935-7, and a journal Art Film (‘f.a’) 1937. Visiting London in 1938, they met John Grierson, Len Lye and other filmmakers. The War brought them to London permanently. Following their two films funded by the Polish Government in exile, they concentrated on illustrated books and paintings (Franciszka) and writing and publishing (Stefan - Gaberbocchus Press). 

George Barber Tilt 1984

5 minutes. Collection: Lux 

George Barber is associated with Scratch Video, the no-budget political video-collage movement of the early 1980s. Barber was always the most polished of these artists, and Tilt shows his ability to make seductive, easy-viewing pieces, while maintaining a subversive undercurrent. 


George Barber was born in Guyana in 1958. He studied at St Martins and Slade Schools of Art, London. He was a founder member of ZG Magazine and a leading figure in the Scratch Video phenomenon of the 80s, which exploited newly available video-editing technologies and their potential for rhythmic-editing and moving-image collage. His current work is visually striking and sometimes disturbing, and often concerned with human behaviour in unusual situations. 

Riccardo Iacono Cold Tape 2000

1 minutes. Collection: Lux 

A short burst of rapidly changing digitally generated shapes - in the artist’s words ‘an interplay of opposites’, Cold Tape closely reflects Riccardo Iacono’s earlier films in which he painted abstract imagery directly onto the film’s surface. 


Riccardo Iacono was born in 1969. He studied at Glasgow School of Art and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee. Dense hand-painted films (some almost in low-relief) have been followed by performance to camera tapes and fast-moving computer-composed abstract animation.