Childhood Chalk as Art
In the one of the latest Coldplay music videos, a group of three (originally four) (sarcastically dubbed “Shynola”) artists set out to create a magical fairytale land using the medium of chalk as their art tool (2009 is when the music video was released). Coldplay’s song, Strawberry Swing, is from their newest album, Viva la Vida, and exudes a whimsical and somewhat nostalgic emotion. During the beginning of my freshman year here at Westmont, this song eclipsed the new independent person I was beginning to discover, so I can personally relate to these emotions in the song.
Shynola consists of Gideon Baws, Chris Harding, Richard Kenworthy and Jason Groves who met in 1994 and collaborated their artistic talents while studying at the Kent Institute of Art and Design. While based in London, their aim was to create paintings, illustrations, comics, books, music and poetry. To say they missed an art form would be a slight misunderstanding. Before their collaboration became their main job, each artist was working in the art world with little influence and because of their success in creating music videos, they have succeeded in stabilizing themselves and their group financially. It is an art collaboration that is still effectively at work. With lofty goals and creative minds, Shynola began creating short films called “blipverts” which are digital micro-movies. With this invention, they created many famous music videos for many infamous musical artists and bands such as Beck and Radiohead.
Though they are known for their talent in animation (micro-movies), they have dabbled in the world of advertisements, film and even television throughout their years together. As listed on their own website, Shynola has received numerous awards for their outstanding and creative artwork. Strawberry Swing alone has received four awards; the D&DA Music Video award for Animation (2010), UK Music Video Awards for Video of the Year (2009), UK MV Award for Best Rock Video (2009) and UK MVA Award for Best Animation in a Music Video (2009).
In this particular music video, Strawberry Swing, was created in Los Angeles as Coldplay decided they wanted the group to come up with something for their music video. Shynola talks about the process in an interview found on Coldplay’s website. In explaining the motivation and decisions for the music video, they state how “we wanted it to be almost nonsensical and dream-like.” And certainly, they did. Shooting numerous still shots of the different drawn chalk scenes created the film, Shynola succeeded in capturing this dream-like narrative and the dream-like feel of the song. The music follows a simple short narrative in which the good little boy superhero (Chris Martin) saves the good girl, “Baddy.” Shynola states how they wanted a simple narrative in order to simply, but profoundly, support the atmosphere of the song.
As one watches the video, one is taken aback by the beautiful “more-than-just-cartoon caricatures” drawings in chalk that seem to literally move as Chris Martin moves through the narrative (although the creativity is that he doesn’t actually move, it just appears that way). This amazing and delightful illusion doesn’t fail to make the viewer smile even before the beautiful leaf scene enthralls your amazement. Throughout the video the different sequences of the story unfold before your eyes to seem as if it is one solid moving picture. Although, small nuances (such as seeing Chris Martin’s shadow and remembering his three-dimensional body juxtaposed with the two-dimensional chalk drawings) remind the viewer that these are complete still shots that took a lot of time and energy to create each artistic drawing. These still shots allow for the video to be enjoyable with the music and the narrative—one definitely remembers the video more clearly due to Shynola’s fantastic artwork.
The collaboration our generation has slowly started to rely more heavily between art and music, which reveals a culture that profoundly takes pride and joy in these two art forms. Both forms are blended through the new mediums of new media and technology. Through the use of this new media art form, the blend of art and music becomes more possible in new and exciting ways. The narratives of music and art can combine to create a new kind of narrative and genre in the contemporary art world—one that we have seen being taken thorough advantage of throughout this class with all the different video artists. This new genre redefines what might be able to be seen as “high art” versus “low art” and stimulates conversation between contemporary art as attached (or not attached) to the movements of past “high art.” What will be our response as the viewers?