Lily Jenkins’ animated film Time Goes observes how we really spend our time

From sketches of people going about their daily lives, the London-based artist and animator has assembled a striking new film.

30 January 2024


Who knows where the time goes? None of us. Year on year, we wonder why January’s such a drag, while the summertime feels like a distant memory that made a sneaky escape. Or how time tends to stand still in moments of trepidation and fly by in moments of joy. It’s elusive, so much so that we want to have it on our side, turn back its hands and even kill it. Immersed in this same wonder, Lily Jenkins’ new animated film Time Goes traces how we spend it; from commuting and gazing at electronic devices to bench talk and enjoying a warm embrace. Created from over 1000 pages of observational drawings throughout her sketchbook, the artist-animator proves that time can also be a jester, as the drawings flash before us in two minutes and 15 seconds.

Lily first started drawing from observation at the end of her fine art degree. “I spent most of the time trying to make art by thinking really hard about what could be clever, and at the end I realised, I just wanted to draw,” she tells us. Soon after, she began attending the Royal Drawing School for a term, where she was able to “centre the process of drawing and making art rather than a conceptual approach,” for the very first time. Since then, she has taken a master’s in character animation at Central Saint Martins, merging the worlds of fine art and animation. “It’s been one big learning curve. The best way I could describe it is like translating your personality into a new language,” she adds.

Lily found the concept for Time Goes after struggling with stringing the works in her sketchbooks into a narrative. But, “the turning point was when I remembered a video piece I had seen called The Clock by the artist Christian Marclay,” she tells us. “There is no singular narrative, the film is a meditation on time and the similarities and differences in how we spend it. So, I decided I wanted to explore that on a smaller scale with my film,” she adds. And, the name for the film is inspired by Nina Simone’s rendition of Who Knows Where the Time Goes, where Lily was drawn to the singer’s exploration of the universal nature of time at the beginning of the live track.


Lily Jenkins: Time Goes (Copyright © Lily Jenkins, 2023)

The process included spending time in public spaces, drawing others and their interactions, while blending in with the background. “The busier the better. The beach, a rodeo, fast food places, outdoor swimming pools, anywhere chaotic.” And to our surprise, according to the artist, cafes are the absolute worst, because “everyone is on tiny tables and usually on edge because they think other people are listening in on their conversations”. Throughout the film you can see a mother feeding her baby, nurses standing by and feet-kicking, wondering and other displays of boredom.

The artist-animator displays a variety of scenarios, some showcasing the interconnected yet individualistic nature of city life, like the almost synchronised action of everyone looking down on their phones on the tube. Meanwhile others are a portrait view of one person’s feelings and actions in public. With this variety came a testy animation process though. Noting that she had a “lack of foresight on the challenges that animating on paper can bring,” the artist found it difficult to make the film without the ability to watch the whole thing through regularly, as you can with digital animation. But, there is a quality derived from keeping her process as analogue as possible – it’s as if we’re tracing her eyes’ perception of how we spend our time, with every second.

Going forward, Lily hopes to further develop her own personal practice, weaving together animation and art. And if her future works are anything like Time Goes we’re in for a sobering and playful look into the lives we lead.

GalleryLily Jenkins: Time Goes (Copyright © Lily Jenkins, 2023)

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Lily Jenkins: Time Goes (Copyright © Lily Jenkins, 2023)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) was previously a staff writer at It’s Nice That. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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