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Katy Dove

‘In tasting shapes, hearing colours or smelling sounds, perceptual logic is riven with ambiguity. Yet, as the gliding ballet and sonic geometry of Katy Dove’s animations show, these confusions can sometimes render oblique relations curiously transparent.’ (Dan Fox)

Katy Dove 'You' 2003, Photo: Katy Dove Katy Dove’s mesmerising kaleidoscopic compositions - a combination of the handmade and the digital - are a contemporary echo of the early 20th-century abstract films of Viking Eggeling, Oskar Fischinger and Len Lye.

A common interest that runs through the work of these pioneering filmmakers is that of constructing visual languages analogous to those of music, or combining sound and image into a kind of synaesthesia.

Much of Dove’s work too takes the form of a visual and audio representation of an idea, emotion or perception using animation to reduce experience to its basic state. In a film screening to accompany the Ladies Rock group show in Stirling, Dove included works by Fischinger and computer-art pioneer John Whitney, and more recently she has exhibited alongside Len Lye, a major innovator in abstract film.

Education and Exhibitions

Katy Dove was born in Oxford in 1970 and studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. She has exhibited internationally including Venice Biennale (2003) and Prague Biennale (2003) and has been selected to be part of the 'Artist Statements' with Hales Gallery, London in Art Basel 2005. She has exhibited at Tate Britain as part of their Lightbox, Art Now series (2003) and has had solo exhibitions at Transmission, Glasgow (2002) and Collective Gallery, Edinburgh (2000). She lives and works in Glasgow.

Free Association: recent works

Dove’s films at first appear to be more akin to a merging of drawing and experimental film rather than ‘animation’ per se. However, as Simon Yuill writes, ‘with the exception of the background landscape in ‘Melodia’ (2002) – which in any case is a found image, a watercolour by her Grandfather – there are no singular images in Dove’s animations, no definitive compositions.

Instead she works with series of mobile components, visual 'phonemes', assembling and disassembling them. Similar components and assemblies recur across different works, not as quotations or repetitions, but rather as rediscoveries, as though there is some underlying syntax shaping each unique utterance’. (1)  

Katy Dove 'Cruel when complete' 2004, Photo: Katy Dove

Solo Show

The Pump House Gallery in Wandsworth recently commissioned new work for Dove’s first solo show in England (February – April 2005). New works included two commissioned animations - her most ambitious to date - as well as silkscreen prints, drawings and paintings, in a continuation of the theme of repetition and pattern generation. The animations incorporate watercolour paintings made on paper and direct filmmaking techniques using clear 16mm film. Soundtracks explore the tonal qualities of the human voice with recorded vocals sampled, mixed, layered and combined with other sounds such as bird song.

Writing in the exhibition catalogue, artist Simon Yuill writes: ‘Animators often speak of a ‘comfort zone’, the point of balance between the different components of an animation at which they all seem to gel and the viewer falls into the flow of the narrative. Katy Dove prefers to work slightly out of the ‘comfort zone’, where coherence and congruity are not the governing principles.

Dove's animations often begin in a process of free associative drawing, produced ‘without forethought’ (2). An 'automatic drawing', as she calls it, like the automatic, stream-of-consciousness writing practiced by the Surrealists. Images discovered in this process are then scanned into a computer where they are edited alongside sound.’ (3) 

Katy Dove 'Melodia' 2002, Photo: Katy Dove  Describing the choreography of abstract form, colour and sound in ‘Motorhead’ (2002), Dan Fox writes, ‘There is little the eye can see to suggest any forms we may recognise. Brightly coloured anamorphic shapes hover across the picture plane, arranging themselves into larger groups, like primitive cell organisms dividing and multiplying. 
Yet their activities seem to be inextricably linked to the digital sounds we’re hearing. A pulse, like a submarine sonar, marks out a tempo at which the shapes perform their dance. … Dove’s film encourages an anthropomorphism of line, form and chromatic development, rather than projects character onto pre-existent objects or creatures. Why do these shapes group, disperse and regroup? Why do some only exist when a sound is heard? Are they parts calculating a whole? Rather than fly, swoop and soar according to some internal logic or reason, they seem to meander instinctively.’ (4)


Dove has written the soundtracks to all her films, with the exception of ‘Motorhead’, which was scored by Glaswegian band Devotone. Referencing Dove’s interest in representing the affinities between image and sound, Dan Fox writes, ‘her music attempts to shift the synthetic noise of digitally generated sounds into an altogether warmer, fuzzier register, one that is closer to her visual vocabulary of the hand drawn and computer animated. … Like John Cage or Cornelius Cardew’s graphic scores, the films describe and give corporeal form to disembodied sound waves.’ (5)

Yuill recognizes Dove’s interest in how film and animation foreground a temporal rather than solely visual relationship with the viewer, and in doing so, ‘embrace the increasing temporalisation of the image which has shaped modern visual practice from the invention of cinema to the spread of the Internet’.   

Katy Dove 'The Rush', Photo: Katy Dove

He continues: ‘As part of an exhibition in 2002, Dove released a downloadable screensaver piece. In using the computer as the medium within which her animations are constructed, Dove is not so much juxtaposing extremes of high and low technologies, but rather, more straightforwardly, 'joining the dots' of visual arts recent evolution.

Katy Dove on computers

Dove has commented that she has a ‘sustained interest’ in working with the computer, and so, even though the aesthetics of her work may seem at first far removed from those we normally associate with the stereotypically hard-edged and geometric feel of ‘computer art’, the choice of the computer as a medium seems profoundly significant.

She attributes this interest to her ‘curiosity in comparisons with the way the human mind operates’.  Understood in this way, her combination of the computer with paper, the traditional 'mirror' of the artist's imagination, seems entirely appropriate.  More importantly it complements her use of automatic drawing, with its strong affinities to free association in psychoanalytic practice. In explaining this, she has said: ‘I am not so interested in analysing what these images might mean, but in using them as a starting point to explore a state of mind that is beyond language.’ (6)


(1) Simon Yuill, Instabilities: animation and utterance in the works of Katy Dove, Pumphouse Gallery, 2005
(2) From an interview with Katy Dove, conducted by Simon Yuill in Summer 2004, Yuill, 2005
(3) Yuill, 2005
(4) Dan Fox, I do not want to paint music. Freize, March 2004, pp. 92-3
(5) Fox, 2004
(6) Interview with Katy Dove, Yuill, 2005 

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Related links
* Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art
* Venice Biennale
* Prague Biennale
* Art Basel
* Transmission
* Collective Gallery
* Pump House Gallery
* Open Frequency
* Axis
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