Dénouement is a practice-based research project that engages with the emotionally fraught and complex experience of losing a loved one. The research positions the medium of hand-drawn animation as rich territory for exploring visual expressions of the internal, psychological, and abstract dialogue when grieving. As a personal reflection of inarticulable feelings, the aim is not to show the world as it is but as it is travelled through psychologically. The final short film underpins the practitioner’s passion for drawing the world (as they see it), moving it in time and moving those who view the work, emotionally.

My Masters project, Dénouement, navigates the communication of turbulent, complex and emotional experience(s) of death, loss and grief through animation practice. The artefact (short film) aims to develop an emotional connection with the audience through tactile, visualdevices articulated through illustration and hand-drawn animation. The communication (within the film) draws on symbolic representations of death as visual connection points for the audience to identify their own experiences.The act of animating (drawing frame-by-frame) is a layered iterative process that involves the animator touching the material in the making – metaphorically leaving traces of the artist as fingerprints in my work. Dénouement‘s position is that there is a potent connection between the artefact and the audience established through this making process. The drawing is mediated through digital technology to finalise the animation, being rendered and processed digitally. However, the process is still at its foundation, an analogue medium (starting with physical illustration in workbooks and storyboards). This way of working has informed a digital production pipeline as a hybrid method in realising my artefact.

The pipeline structurally told the story and application of research methods from pre-production to post-production. In addition, understanding affect (as it transmits as grief) was necessary because it reframed and impacted decision-making when drawing out sensations. Reflecting on other practitioners, such as Francisco Goya, Richard Mosse, and Tabaimo (who work with difficult subjects), has also informed choices during the artefact’s production. Practitioners who pushed the boundaries of language and storytelling (both for our eyes and ears) included Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, Tabaimo, Norman McLaren and Len Lye. These filmmakers and their films were helpful touchstones to engage with concerning the potential of surrealism, animation as a tool (to convey experiences) and experimental animation as aesthetic references. 

Despite my comfort in making animation, it was not easy to proceed with and working on it affected me emotionally, mentally and physically. In ways, the act of the practice became a method to cope with my inner monologue during confrontational contemplations, such as nightmares of loved one’s dying. At the core, lived autoethnographic experiences, emotions, aesthetic discoveries, and heightened anxieties are all embedded in the discussion of Dénouement.

Check out Lesley's Masters exegesis here: http://hdl.handle.net/10292/15296

Here's what Lesley had to say about the Masters' experience:
"Engaging in the Masters has shaped, shifted, and transformed me as a practitioner, person, and researcher. Though the project has wrapped up as its own dénouement, I will continue to draw stories I want to tell, full of emotion, passion and empathy. I currently work as a Lecturer at AUT in the Animation, Visual Effects and Game Design department (formally known as Digital Design). The Masters helped refine my skills and challenged my perspective on learning the medium and subsequently teaching it. Both are highly impactful aspects of my journey, allowing me to redirect some of the knowledge I have gained over to my students. At the same time, I also learn from others (whether it be from mentors, colleagues, supervisors, or other students), creating this beautiful loop of learning, experimenting and sharing knowledge. In terms of teaching, my colleagues and students have contributed to my growth, and I am thankful to be surrounded by talented peers who happily encourage and cheer me on."

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