Cineinfinito #28: Joanna Margaret Paul

Martes 19  de Septiembre de 2017, 21:30h. Zumzeig Cinema.
Carrer de Béjar, 53 
08014 Barcelona 


Napkins (1975) 
Jillian Dressing (1976) 
Task (1982) 
Sisterhood (1975) 
Seacliff (1975)
Body/House (1975) 
Motorway (1971) 
Barrys Bay 2 (1975) 
Children Imogen (1975) 
Aberhart’s House (1976) 
Port Chalmers Cycle (1972) 
Thorndon (1975) 
Napkins (1975)

*Formato original: 8mm y 16mm
*Duración total del programa: 70 min.

Formato de proyección: HD (Actual formato de exhibición. Transferido de las películas 
originales por CIRCUIT Artist Film and Video Aotearoa New Zealand)

Agradecimiento especial a CIRCUIT, Peter Todd y Mark Williams.


"Todas mis películas, poemas, pinturas juegan más o menos entre acontecimientos internos y 
externos" –Joanna Margaret Paul

"Las películas experimentales de Joanna Margaret Paul son cine-poemas: estudios silenciosos 
de meditación de los entornos y / o personas dentro de ellos. Martin Rumsby ha descrito el 
trabajo cinematográfico de Paul como "retrato doméstico". "Su cámara - a menudo se 
mantiene, aunque con una mano de escalofrío, a veces en movimiento: graba imágenes en 
movimiento que otros consideran que no son importantes; grietas en un muro de hormigón, 
un edificio en ruinas, las manos de una mujer planchando. Las películas son un documento de 
la vida cotidiana a través del ojo de una artista." –Kathy Dudding.

Joanna Margaret Paul (1955-2003) fue una artista neozelandesa que fue pionera en la 
práctica interdisciplinaria, trabajando prolíficamente a través de los medios de cine, poesía y 
pintura. A menudo filmado y editado en cámara, su trabajo cinematográfico narra la 
maternidad y la vida doméstica (Task, Napkins), las huellas gastadas del asentamiento 
urbano (Port Chalmers Cycle) y la presencia persistente del mundo natural. Otras obras 
como Sisterhood retrataron la vida de otras artistas femeninas identificadas con el 
movimiento de mujeres de los años 70 en Nueva Zelanda.

Comisariado por Peter Todd, "Through a Different Lens/Film Work by Joanna Margaret 
Paul" es la primera colección del trabajo de la imagen en movimiento de Joanna Margaret 
Paul para poner el trabajo de Paul a disposición de una audiencia internacional. En el ensayo 
que acompaña de Todd, coloca su trabajo en el linaje de los cineastas Margaret Tait y Robert 
Bresson, y la pintora Frances Hodgkins.

"Through a Different Lens/Film Work by Joanna Margaret Paul" contiene 13 trabajos 
rodados en los años 70 que se han transferido de las películas de 8mm y de 16mm a vídeo HD.


Through a Different Lens / Film Work by Joanna Margaret Paul 
Peter Todd

They just start coming, images, one after the other, a film, with an inner rhythm.

A napkin on a washing line, blowing in the wind. Then two napkins. Then napkins on a line 
seen diagonally, then glanced from the house, always the wind, a couple of (dark) pauses then a 
pan, napkins floating in the wind, again the napkins on a line, and on. This simple description 
belies the wonder of the film. As often with works that are composed, edited in the camera; it 
has the specificity of recording the moment of creation as it was for the artist.

There is a play in Napkins (1975) between the window frames, architecture, and the white 
squares of washing. The movement of the washing on the line in the wind contrasts with 
movement of the rooted bushes and trees. Later, outside the time of the film, will come the 
gathering and tidying away, ready for use, and the cycle will continue. We do not see this, but it 
is in the image. The firm window frames and architecture, the soft squares of the cloth. A film 
pared down, that resonates. A washing line like this will be seen, as a part of family life, in 
Aberhart’s House (1976). The play between the edge of the film frame and the image in 
Napkins, likewise with the shipping containers in Port Chalmers Cycle (1972).

With works edited in camera, there is what film maker Helga Fanderl calls ‘capturing’. She 
writes, ‘In a way my films recreate the moments I have experienced and lived through. To film 
in a certain situation, in a certain place, in a certain time-space does not mean to simply collect 
material but to react immediately, ‘capturing’ what challenges and touches me and to transform 
it into film while there is an interchange between us.’ Helga, as Joanna did, works with 8mm 
film (film on 3 min reels), with no sound, a focus on the visual. Often Helga responds to 
movement in the picture frame. For Joanna Margaret Paul it is the image, square on, which 
seems the starting point; within the chosen place she wants to look at, ‘stalking images’, a 
phrase which she shares with film maker and poet Margaret Tait who spoke of ‘stalking the 

Things laid out to be seen, to be displayed, square on. There is a feeling of how places and 
objects can become a portrait of a place, a person, as seen in Joanna’s drawing Self 
Portrait/Still Life from 1999, picking up a dialogue with Frances Hodgkins painting Self-
Portrait: Still Life (1935) in Auckland City Art Gallery, just as other work of Hodgkins; like her 
Wings Over Water (1930) in the Tate London echoes the interest in interior and exterior 
around a window with objects displayed before it, also with that square on look. At the same 
time in Joanna’s film work there is an interest in what could be described as a poetic
of the urban and the manufactured. Something she shares with artist Prunella Clough and 
again Margaret Tait. The sharp distinction between images, sometimes filmed almost 
immediately after the other, sometimes with a longer wait, or at a tangent, is explored in film 
maker Luke Fowler’s series of two frame works in Two-Frame Films 2006-2012. In Thorndon 
in 1975 Joanna films herself reflected in a window, just as Margaret Tait incorporates herself 
reflected in a mirror in Tailpiece (while uniquely individual artists and of different generations, 
at opposite points of the globe, Tait and Paul were at this point almost working at the same 
time with the years 1975 and 1976 being Paul’ most productive time in terms of films completed 
and it being one of the periods of completion for Tait with Place of Work and Tailpiece 
completed in 1976). Like Tait, Paul explores the local and the films are often a record of family, 
friends, community, personally important landscapes, as well as works in themselves. Images 
often on the cusp of abstraction flow with those more closely figurative. There is also a 
collecting of images, like references for future thoughts, future work.

Napkins and Port Chalmers Cycle both go through a kind of introduction, an interlude, then a 
conclusion or return to the introduction, but with the experience now passed to the viewer. 
Echoing the description of Napkins earlier Port Chalmers Cycle also starts in the domestic 
environment of houses and gardens, but then descends into the town. Where Napkins has a 
pan, Port Chalmers Cycle has a dolly shot on a pavement along a slight bend.

Motifs return in her films or what she has filmed. They become motifs through accumulation. A 
way that is perhaps both a becoming familiar with, getting ones bearings, and just being. 
Resultant works a kind of gift to others for whom these are also local. But then for others it will 
be that her images captured through her intuition, her filming, will have a meaning they 

Windows, views over roofs, coast, farmland, industrial areas. Sarah Treadwell writes for Joanna 
“‘waste’ space offered positive qualities to a city driven by commercial imperatives.” And then 
there are the diagonal lines, of trees, fences, posts, washing lines, rusting and bending metal, 
concrete, which seem to mark but also break or give a focus. Perhaps giving a shift within the 
film of the kind she talked of moving between different media. As with the ‘sequences’ of 
Barry’s Bay 2 (1975) and Body/House (1975).

In her drawings of people, often in just a few dark lines on white paper she captures how a neck 
runs onto a shoulder into an arm; the outline of a torso. They feel like, and probably were, done 
in a short time. Things captured and explored. Lines that create the bodies forming them in the 
whiteness of the paper. Almost abstract. So very felt in Body/House which brings together 
these two named elements one after the other.

‘When my work is all laid out together the jigsaw puzzle of my life will show itself, I think... It’s 
oblique, but it’s all there’ Jill Trevelyan quotes. Joanna wrote poems and painted and drew, as 
well as making her films, probably more so. The dialogue between these medium and 
disciplines, she saw as positive ones; ‘constantly changing ones lens’ was important.

Sometimes Joanna’s camera seems to ‘flow’ over a place or within a time and her thoughts, at 
others to echo, or line up, mirroring or just looking, others picking out patterns in places. 
Sometimes the place seems to set the images, timing and movements and with others this 
seems to come from within, intuition. ‘All my films poems paintings play more or less between 
inner and outer events’ she wrote. She writes of Bresson ‘who integrates narrative and visual 
poetry’. The framing in the films of Bresson is particularly specific, formal, pared down. Geoff 
Andrew writing of Bresson, which could apply to Joanna, ‘..the camera avoids pictorial beauty 
to create an abstract timeless world....while the narrative is deprived of climaxes...’. Task (1982) 
seems like a sequence from a Bresson film, particularly in the first framing used. A number of 
her films end with a Fin, an acknowledgment of art house cinema perhaps. In her in camera 
editing, its intuitive montage, and inner rhythm there is perhaps acknowledgment of Eisenstein 
who she also references.

Mel Gooding writes, ‘It may be that in certain respects it seems quite unlike any other images 
you have seen, by Prunella Clough or anyone else, but that it is nevertheless in some definable 
way quite like some thing or other that you have seen.’ As with Clough’s paintings, it seems with 
Joanna’s films that there are moments when you feel I have seen this or experienced this, and 
then it moves on and they are hers. But afterwards, you do see things with an experience, that 
includes hers. We have all seen washing on a line in the wind and been a little mesmerised by it 
and the patterns it makes, Joanna made Napkins. We have all looked at a derelict building, at a 
friend lying in the sun, Joanna made Body/House. We have all visited friends, Joanna made 
Aberhart’s House. We have all explored a local neighbourhood, Joanna made Port Chalmers 
Cycle and Thorndon. The time Joanna had for her art was what she had after looking after the 
children, running a household. Moments grabbed for poetry, drawing and painting, films. So 
everything that got done was important. Time was precious.

Her drawings seem like photographic negative images for her films. The spaces of the white 
paper, with the moments of drawing, picking things out. While the films have their saturated 
filmic quality and flashes and shafts of light, and colour. Perhaps also working with film helped 
her focus on her poems and paintings and drawings, not having the white ground of the 
drawings, the films often have a dark of interior shadows, garden shadows, though which light 
comes in through windows, or in which light highlights specific patterns or objects.

‘All my films poems paintings play more or less between inner and outer events. (Port Chalmers 
on the one hand, to Napkins -) The attempt to work in several fields invokes criticism un-
spoken and spoken. One may dissipate energy. But by constantly changing one’s lens, one 
sharpens awareness of the given medium; medium becomes subject ’ she writes for the 
Cantrills. It is as if film making, painting and drawing, writing poetry all are lens based, about 

By its very nature, film was unseen, only realised, when projected. This has changed since the 
arrival of digital technology, as the moving image is everywhere, and many people in the ‘rich 
world’ have devices on which moving images can be accessed instantly, constantly, and 
repeatedly. So our relationship with film, the moving image, has changed and is changing; is 
more various. In the 1970s when the films were made, to see the films would have meant 
setting up a projector, putting up a screen or projecting on a wall, waiting for night or putting 
up a blackout. Often a communal experience, with friends, fellow artists, who can be both of 
course. And the projectors enveloping mechanical whirring, different, from the silence of the 
digital now (as I have experienced those of her films I have seen so far, likewise drawings only 
in reproduction). For Joanna, there would have been the delay in seeing material filmed as it 
went off to the lab, and returned as a film print, ready to be projected, and seen, realised. They 
just start coming, images, one after the other, a film, with an inner rhythm.