Joanna Priestley has been animating for more than three decades at this point, and over that span, she’s gone in far too many directions to summarize in a quick blog post. A glance at her Wikipedia page and a wade through her Vimeo stream are good places to start, but even then you’re only getting a fraction. Most recently, she’s been working on North of Blue, an abstract animated feature that looks absolutely stunning (especially if her other recent abstract works are anything to go on). Abstract features are exceedingly rare, and if I manage to make my way near Annecy or MIAF this year, North of Blue will be near the top of my list.
Fittingly for someone with as varied of a career as Priestley, Voices doesn’t look much like the artist’s current work. It even takes what seems like gentle shot at the type of animation she’s making now—films that are “deep and symbolic,” that “let you guess what I’m trying to say.” Voices doesn’t make you guess. It’s direct, but no less deep for that, discussing fears and anxieties that haven’t changed much in the intervening decades. That could come across as dark, but the consistently playful visuals undercut the gloom, without undercutting the message.
One of the marvels of animated shorts is the way they capture a single artist’s vision; there’s no more direct way to see what’s inside someone’s head than in a medium where the artist has control over every frame. Priestley takes perfect advantage of that fact in Voices, combining her monologue and visuals into a piece that still resonates with anyone who worries about the world and their place in it.
*Note: Apologies for the poor quality video. If you want to see it properly, consider picking up an official copy through Priestley’s web store*