London-based German animator Magda Kreps has only recently graduated from the Royal College of Art, but is already mesmerising us with her profound and engrossing artistic style. Her new release, the animated short The Things Around Us takes us on a hand-drawn journey through memory and space. “The film was made during my first year at the Royal College of Art,” she tells It’s Nice That, offering up a surprising revelation. Something so refined seems like the work of a final graduate thesis, not something to be expected from a first year. “I unexpectedly fell in love with animation during an introduction course,” Magda says. “Back then I was studying communication design in Hamburg, with a strong focus on editorial design but it just didn’t click.” Pursuing a path that strays from the instinctual creative capabilities of a budding artist is a tale as old as time – and we’re relieved Magda course-corrected herself to the medium she was destined for. “I was missing drawing with my hands, so I signed up for an animation beginners course just for fun and it completely amazed me,” she says. It was, ultimately, the creation of an audiovisual experience, “portraying complex and surreal scenarios” that drew Magda in and kept her there.
“I have a signature way to tell stories,” she says, now honing her craft. “I'm mostly interested in personal stories or ordinary sensations that everybody could have experienced.” For Magda, crafting films as a form of documentary is the key to her creative vision. It’s all about “combining abstract and narrative storylines to bring them closer to the audience,” aiming for an engrossing and enjoyable viewing experience. “Most of my films tend to give room for interpretation and leave the viewer with some questions or thoughts,” Magda says. “Usually, with every new project, I like to ‘discover’ the right style that carries the story the best way.” The Things Around Us incorporates elements of live video material, whereas her graduate film I Want To Be Bored worked completely on paper. “I wanted to try working completely on paper. I’ve never done a complete analogue film before, but it fitted the concept,” she explains. Always maintaining a sense of craft born from beautifully illustrated animation, Magda is an animator who switches up her style to focus more acutely on the heart of her story.
The Things Around Us was born from a trip to the Wellcome Collection in London, where Magda found herself in the Medicine Man permanent exhibition. “Somehow it reminded me of my parents’ home and looking at my mothers’ belongings,” she explains. “My mother isn’t a ‘traditional’ collector as Henry Wellcome was, but I also wonder sometimes why she chooses to keep certain things at home.” Shedding her preconceived judgments on the nature of collecting, Magda reorientated her view of her mother’s belongings as a collection of memories. “This perspective shift enabled me to start a new, non-judgemental conversation with my mother,” she explains. “We talked about her experience and the stories behind certain objects.” Following this channel, Magda began to understand that most objects contain strong emotional connections to memories, which her mother was attempting to preserve. Consequently, the film is Magda’s way of cherishing her mother’s own collections.
It took experimenting with old family videos for Magda to find out how the film would work stylistically. “After a lot of trial and error, I eventually found the style for this film,” she says. “The live footage is slightly visible under the blurred shapes, just like distant memories, and it gives an insight into a personal story.” What started as an intention to channel her mother’s perspective soon became a conduit for Magda’s own existence growing up around such a collection. “It became about the conflict I had with her collection and the final acceptance,” the animator tells us. “After a lot of reflection, remembering and rethinking, I recorded my thoughts and used them for the voice-over of the film.” With the help of Max Gausepohl, an eerie and unnerving sound design was created, and with it came the film’s uncanny atmosphere.
“This project was very personal and almost a form of therapy,” Magda concludes. “So as much as I like to create personal work, I’m also looking forward to diving into other topics and stories and creating new animated projects as a freelance animator.”
GalleryMagda Kreps: The Things Around Us (Copyright © Magda Kreps, 2020)
Magda Kreps: The Things Around Us (Copyright © Magda Kreps, 2020)