Friday, 13 April 2012

Animator Profile : The Brothers Quay

Fig. 1
Timothy Quay and Stephen Quay (1947-present) are identical twin brothers from America, best known as the Brothers Quay, they are stop-motion animators – and very influential within the industry. The pair work in England, since having moved there in the 1960’s to study at the Royal College of Art in London. Both studying illustration progressed where they made their first short film. In the 70’s, after traveling to the Netherlands, the pair collaborated with Keith Griffiths to form Koninck Studios in 1980. The majority if the films made by the twins feature puppets made from various objects from doll parts to other organic and nonorganic materials. The uncanny creations assisted in creating a dark, gloomy atmosphere. Their work style is distinctively gothic and the creations darkly and intriguingly unique.

Their work has most definitely been inspired by Svankmajer's dark, expressionistic animations. The feel of their pieces is bold and feels refreshingly eerie. Nathan Southern states, "Inspired by Eastern European literature and art (especially the animation of Jan Svankmajer), the work of the Quay Brothers is unique, unsettling, and absolutely fascinating. Their animation consists of unsettling symphonies of oddly designed puppets and mechanistic objects that act out enigmatic, often inexplicable narratives." (Southern 1998) Southern expresses his admiration for the Quay's style and mesmerising, enigmatic set and puppet design. His passion when discussing their work reads true amongst other admirers and Southern embellishes it in two sentences perfectly.
Fig. 2
The Quay Brothers' creations portray obscure and estranged vast influences within their work, including the works of Walerian Borowczyk, who happens to be their major influence, despite Svankmajer being better known. The Brother’s work was discovered not until they had already progressed with a bold and characteristic style. James Rose implies, "When reading through the many critiques, articles and interviews concerning the Quays one fact becomes readily apparent: like all of their artistic output – filmic or otherwise – these identical twins are an enigma. The persona projected within these texts can be read as one that is as complex and nearly as mythical as their animated films. Emphasis is equally balanced between absurdities (such as the brothers often finishing each other’s sentences and that they sign their correspondence simply with a ‘Q’) and the master craftsmanship of their imagery. Like their response to McClatchy’s request, the Quays present to the viewer a highly personal world that is simultaneously believable but so obviously a myth." (Rose 1947) Rose picks up on the reason why these two are pioneers within the creative industry and how, why they achieve this desired impact. The absurd and unexplainable stylisations through the stop-motion animations are pure genius.
Fig. 3
Brothers Quay’s best work has to be Street of Crocodiles, for its memorable imagery. Its success gave them artistic freedom to explore other themes and set poetry, literature in motion, varying stop-motion technique and experimenting with various materials for set and prop design. The Quay’s prospered in set design and proved that their style was pure dark enigma. European Graduate School observes, "As a piece of perhaps unsurpassed filmmaking, in fact their most famous work to date, Street of Crocodiles is a twenty-one minute animation film which evokes pre-war Poland, provincial and mystical, connected to the traditions of history before the destruction of the German war machine rolled across it. Shot in both a blue and sepia tint, Street of Crocodiles, is a step backwards into a mind seemingly locked in a frozen half-made world, something nearly mad yet instantly recognizable. Like the scene of a car accident (or film footage of the Warsaw Ghetto), it is impossible to turn away, yet horrifying to remain present. In this half-made world, ordinary items are enlarged and distorted, dolls' eyes peer out at the spectator, and screws, twisting and turning as though in a mad ballet, remove and insert themselves from pieces of wood." (European Graduate School 1997) The quote analyses the observations made about the feature in detail. Expressed admiration is apparent and the fact that a horrifying street portrayed through the feature can make its audience feel as engaged as it does is breath-taking. The best three phrases to sum up the Quay Brother’s work is stunningly eerie, uncanny within every sense and deliciously dark.
List of illustrations

Figure 1. Stephen Quay and Timothy Quay. At: on:2/4/12)

Figure 2. Quay, Stephen and Timothy (1986) Street of Crocodiles. At: (Accessed on:2/4/12)

Figure 3. Quay, Stephen and Timothy (1986) Street of Crocodiles At: (Accessed on:2/4/12)

Nathan Southern (1998) The Quay Brothers Biography. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)

James Rose (1947) Stephen and Timothy Quay. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)
European Graduate School (1997) Stephen Quay and Timothy Quay - Biography. At: (Accessed on:3/4/12)

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