A Girl Who’s Afraid of Touching People is Liang-Hsin Huang’s beautifully expressive new animation
In her first funded animation project, the London-based Liang’s latest film draws on personal experience detailing a girl who’s afraid of touching people.
- 28 July 2021
- Jyni Ong
Liang-Hsin Huang’s animations are distinctly tactile, achieved through her warm blend of painterly stop motion brush strokes and chalky textures. Since we last wrote about the animator and director last year, the Royal College of Art graduate has gone from strength to strength, developing her signature hand crafted style with muted colours in her latest film A Girl Who’s Afraid of Touching People. The London-based animator tells us about the near five-minute-long short, about a girl who’s afraid of touching people and being touched, but trying to overcome that fear.
The short is separated into four chapters, each one based on a certain emotion or memory of how she deals with her fear. Liang tells us, “We don’t see her, but we can feel her from her touch, the trace of living and her breath.” To complement this delicate and nuanced point of view, Liang’s sensitive style amplifies the sentiment through heightened sound accompaniments and descriptive brush strokes. “I love the texture of hand drawings,” adds Liang, “When I work on real materials, there are some mistakes or flaws that I can’t control. But sometimes they turn out to be magical surprises.”
Embracing the freedom and flowing nature of painted animation, Liang looked to Italian painter Giorgio Morandi for inspiration; drawing from his dusky still lives. She was particularly interested in the way he places objects. For Liang, the spaces in between each household object offered a mysterious feeling full of metaphor. Using such subtle suggestions to infer the experiences of the protagonist, the film explores Liang’s personal feelings through the depiction of only surroundings. Initially, Liang’s idea was to make a film without any characters but over time, the idea transpired into “whether we could see feelings from the still life or if surroundings can reflect human emotions.”
In this way, Liang cleverly switches up the density of brush strokes and colour to communicate the change in mood. “I love the flow of oil paint,” she says on the aesthetic choice of why she opted to use labour-intensive paint as the main technique for the short. Creating slow moving paint brush lines to portray calmness, in contrast, to evoke chaos Liang opted for fast moving, messy strokes which effect the changing colours of our emotions.
A highly creative way of expressing her own emotions, A Girl Who’s Afraid of Touching People delves into the maker’s struggle with mental and physical distance in a relationship. Once she had come up with the concept of the short and initial references for how the film would look, Liang started making tests for how she could move from one scene to another. “Those tests and ideas of transitions helped me build up the final composition,” she adds on the meticulous process. Then, she went on to work on the sound. As sound plays an integral part in this emotive film, it was key to get it right.
Tacking it chapter by chapter, she wrote down all the actions that happen in that chapter by making a comprehensive timeline then found a sound effect to suitably match, collaborating with composter Sarah along the way. The sound became a script for how Liang would imagine the look of each scene, in turn, providing Liang with copious creatives freedom on how she wanted the visuals to enhance or detract from the sounds at play.
A Girl Who’s Afraid of Touching People marks Liang’s first funded animated project, and surely won’t be the last. Currently working on her new personal film Lethe about a father with Alzheimer’s going on a voyage down the river Lethe, Liang is also working on a music video that will be released later this summer. For this project, we’ll see some more character design from Liang including a Kung Fu master, a girl with braids and a bosozoku boy.
GalleryLiang-Hsin Huang: A Girl Who's Afraid of Touching People (Copyright © Liang-Hsin Huang, 2019)
Liang-Hsin Huang: A Girl Who's Afraid of Touching People (Copyright © Liang-Hsin Huang, 2019)