The man who made Durham Cathedral his “canvas” for three successive Lumiere festivals is returning with a spectacular new attraction on Easter Monday.
Ross Ashton is collaborating with Russian artist Maria Rud, who has a home in Teesdale, and musicians including percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie to demonstrate Maria’s “new artistic genre” – AniMotion.
The AniMotion show will take place in front of an audience in the Durham Cathedral cloisters, and it will be a blend of art, music and animation.
Maria will paint live, in her characteristic flamboyant style, as the musicians perform. Her creations, with the aid of Ross and his cutting-edge video mapping technology, will be projected instantly on to the cathedral’s ornate architecture.
To the audience, which could be 600-strong, it will appear as if Maria is painting directly onto the stonework as she performs with Dame Evelyn, jazz flautist Dave Heath and DJ Dolphin Boy.
Ross, whose Crown of Light has been seen by many thousands of people at the winter Lumiere festivals, says: “This is something quite new.
“Maria came to me and said she was doing this on to a screen, but was interested in the possibility of doing it directly on to the architecture.
“I thought this was something that could work really well.”
Maria was born in Moscow but moved to Edinburgh 20 years ago and set up a cultural project called DOM in both Edinburgh and York. She acquired a home in Teesdale two years ago, seduced by the countryside.
She says: “AniMotion is a new genre which started as an experiment by myself and fellow artists.
“We thought that music and art had become terribly divided, largely because of art galleries and concert halls. Essentially, music and painting are the same thing.
“It’s well-known that you can ‘see’ sounds as colour but we have lost touch with that so we tend to experience things in a very fragmented way. Our experiment was just a matter of a moment’s inspiration over a coffee.”
The involvement of Dame Evelyn Glennie is interesting. She is a musician, profoundly deaf since childhood, who experiences the sounds she creates in ways that hearing people might find difficult to understand.
She is living proof that concepts such as “seeing” sounds as colours are not outlandish.
Maria recalls growing up “back stage” in Moscow where her mother was “an incredible composer”. Music was always part of her life but so was animation. Even as a young child she would visualise things as sequences of pictures and she duly studied fine art and film.
“That’s really how this project started,” says Maria, who also paints conventional pictures and sells to buyers around the world.
It was when she saw Ross Ashton’s projections in York and Durham that she started toying with the idea of having her images thrown not on to a large white screen, but on to a building itself.
“I just love his work,” she says. “It made me think that, really, a screen has no life compared with a building.”
Backed by funding body Creative Scotland, the first AniMotion show took place in 2012 before a large invited audience at the National Museum of Scotland.
Among those attending were Scotland’s Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, and Vladimir Tolstoy, cultural advisor to Russia’s President Putin, who flew in from Moscow.
A Russian TV crew also arrived to make a film about the event and about Maria’s AniMotion concept.
Following this success, the first public performance took place at a packed St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh last September.
Maria recalls: “It was an incredible, wonderfully supported event. We never expected there would be so much enthusiasm. People even flew in from Stockholm to see it.”
She describes her AniMotion creations as “like a storyboard, a sequence of images that come to life and are constantly changing.
“You might see a blue sky that suddenly turns into a bird and flies away or a knight who becomes a town.”
Clearly, she revels in her role as performer, her sweeping gestures as she manoeuvres the paint on her transparent “canvas” echoing those of Dame Evelyn as she plays her drums and keyboards.
Ross, whose previous projections have involved prepared and static images, believes the AniMotion performances are unique. Both hope they will prove popular south of the border. Maria has high hopes of further engagements and talks of AniMotion concerts at King’s College, Cambridge, and Somerset House, in London.
“The Durham Cathedral performance is very important to us because it’s the first time we will have integrated a performance into this style of architecture,” she says.
“But what I really love about something like this is that it belongs to everybody. When you put something up on the side of a big building everyone can see it.”
The Durham Cathedral AniMotion Show takes place on April 21 at 8.30pm. For tickets contact the Gala Theatre on 03000 266600.