One Sunday in Winter – Martin Sercombe – New Zealand

Animation, poetry and digital painting evoke a winter’s day by the ocean.

This film poem was inspired by a day trip to Karekare, a wild and beautiful expanse of untouched coastline in West Auckland. Expressionist in approach, it tells its story via hand written haikus, animated painting, ambient sound and treated flute. An abstract landscape of minimal brush work and kinetic gestures suggest the motion of waves, cloud and seagulls in flight. The imagery also responds to the sudden changes in weather typical of a winter’s day, as the film moves from sunlit calm, across a windswept ocean into rain drenched twilight.


Martin Sercombe has been making poetry inspired short films for many years. This is the first time he has combined animated painting with the written word, exploring a hybrid language of poetic, visual music.

The visual style is strongly influenced by the director’s landscape photography, which explores the formal and kinetic relationships between light, land, sky and ocean. Each sequence is composed of many layers of moving imagery, each with its own rhythmic pulse. They are intended as a dreamlike meditation on the endless flux of light and colour, punctuated by sudden, fleeting activities which intercept the frame. Sometimes the text was written in response to the evolving imagery, at others it prompted it. The sound design combines atmospheric textures with improvised flute, composed and performed by Richard Ingamells and Richard Reynolds.

Martin Sercombe began making artist’s films on 16mm in the 1980s, and has made a series of moving image art works supported by Arts Council England and other funders. His single screen works have been screened at many international festivals in the USA, UK, Holland, Spain, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong.

His video production company, Media Projects forms partnerships with community groups and institutions to produce educational resources exploring heritage, the arts and social issues.

Director Statement

My work has been strongly influenced by the pro-filmic structuralist work of other artist film makers from the 1970s to the present day. My early films utilise formal aspects of the medium (such as multiple exposure, animation, time exposure and stylised camera movements) to choreograph journeys into visionary landscapes that draw more from the worlds of poetry, metaphor and dreams than any narrative based cinematic genre.

In the 1990s I began working closely with other artists, such as the composer Sianed Jones. Singing the Horizon (1997) is built from a continuous pan across a flat expanse of reed beds, grazing marshes and windmills in the Norfolk Broads. As it progresses, natural phenomena and encountered forms are transformed into an animated mandala of evolving motifs which Sianed then uses as a visual score for her musical response.

Sianed Jones and performance poet Cris Cheek worked with me to develop a live performance and multi screen work entitled Tongues Undone (1999), commissioned by the World Wide Video Festival in Amsterdam. The central theme of the work is the voice, and an exploration of how pure vocal statements can be choreographed into performed and animated movement and gesture. Throughout the piece, graphic symbols and graffiti are translated into vocal sounds, concrete poetry and body movements. Spoken words mutate into animated text on the screen creating a cyclic dialogue between the different linguistic forms.

This exploration of hybrid forms and the meeting points between spoken, written and visual poetic languages is further developed in Maud (2000). Maud quotes a few short fragments from the Alfred Tennyson poem of the same name, which charts a lovelorn protagonist’s descent from joyful anticipation into abject misery at the loss of his heart’s desire. This transition becomes a journey through intense emotion, manifest in formalised visual and aural readings of woodland settings in Norfolk and New Zealand. In the live presentation of the piece in Amsterdam, Sianed Jones embodied Maud and stood within a somber animated landscape as she sang her response to her lovelorn suitor.

A concern for the spirit of place is revisited again in Delirium, made during an artist’s residency in Brisbane in Spring 2006. It’s a heat-crazed, densely woven vision of the city. Tropical vegetation and the natural world collide with its towering cityscape and life is observed via the humid pulse of a slow infrared shutter and flickering, grainy camera style. The film is a collaboration with Tasmanian sound artist Matt Warren, who composed the vocal and electronic underscore.

Since moving to New Zealand, I have focused on exploring relationships between landscape photography, poetry and the moving image. A trilogy of my short films, shot along the west coast of Auckland, were shown for a six month season on the outdoor screen run by Auckland Live in Aotea Square, Auckland.

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