click on artwork to view videoListening To Rocket RemixListening to… Rocket (Grum Remix), IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM STILL, 2021

Since 2010 Covell has experimented with both iPhone and iPad drawing programs to create abstract compositions alongside his works on paper and canvas. As digital technology has continued to evolve, so to have the drawing tools on devices. Equipped with an iPencil that can mimic the physical sensation of painting, Covell has been able create abstract visual arrangements of colour and pattern on a new surface. These varied and unique compositions not only reflect the spontaneity of his painted artworks or their woven interpretations, but also have pushed his own artistic style forward. The technical innovations mirror Covell’s own creative evolution over the last decade, underpinned with research into the relationship between colour, mark making, music and synesthesia.

Recently, Covell’s digital paintings have begun to reflect and reference his sculptural experiments in plasticine. Whilst those forms are 3D physical interpretations of his 2D paintings, the iPad drawings are an attempt to combine both: 3D forms and colourful shapes, interacting and existing simultaneously on a 2D plane.

metal water woodmetal water wood, IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM still, 2021

Animated paintings form part of Covell’s current body of work, exploring video as a format to present work in new contexts and potential environments. What began as small experiments with moving image have developed into serious investigations into the physical act of painting and how an artwork can be viewed in an ever-growing digital context and changing art landscape.

Film has encouraged Covell to question the concept of ‘experience’ and how does an audience view a ‘painting’? Is it purely only a static composition, stretched on to canvas and rigid or can it be a digital performance – developing on a screen, the artwork evolving as you watch it?

click on artwork to view videoCloudslistening to… ‘bouncing off clouds’, IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM STILL, 2019

These abstract ideas have encouraged Covell to the question: what is a painting in the 21st century?

Can a painting be video composition that when plays, unfolds and emerges in real time, similar to when listening to a song or a symphony? The painting’s imagery and characteristics develops through the action of movement as does sound when different instruments play different sections and bars. Covell is also interested in the interpretation of the word ‘painting’, a noun which can both describe the action of painting as well as the finished painted artwork.

Referencing the ephemeral nature and audio effects of listening to music or playing an instrument, Covell’s digital painting animations also aim to visually show the act of ‘listening’ – within the context of both the viewer and the subject.

click on artwork to view videoListening to Music 1 2listening to… ‘music’, IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM STILL, 2021

Recent digital paintings and animations have shifted into a form of self portraiture, hinted at through the depiction of Covell’s own silhouette in the centre of the painting. These artworks, where the outline of the artist appears on either a black or white background, further explores the concept of ‘experience’. These paintings are visual reflections of the experience and sensations Covell feels when he listens to music, owing to his synaesthesic reactions to sound.

For Covell, music and sound appear to him as circles, squares or shards of colour, layers amongst complex shifting patterns and symbols, fill the space both physically and mentally around him, but also felt within. The introduction of a drawn figure has given the concept of listening to music a grounding: initially beginning outside of the body, these recurring tropes of Covell’s visual language help illustrate his synaesthesic sensations. As the experience of listening to the music increases so does the intensity of the mark making; building to a visual crescendo. Slowly the outline of the figure becomes fully absorbed and dissolves, fading into the colourful chaotic landscape.

Covell’s silhouette can be both considered lost, overcome and at one within the newly created abstract sonic landscape. The outline of the body becomes just another line, indistinguishable from the continuing shifting patterns, swirls of colours and geometric shapes the music has stimulated and inspired within him.

In other portraits, the music emanates from within the shape of the figure, symbolising something stirring inside; a thought, humming a familiar tune or the act of talking itself. Covell’s sensitive brush stokes eventually break through the defined fixed form, tentatively venturing into the blank space. First a soft line, then a series of dots until a strong square gives rise to a quiet confidence, causing the painting’s energy and tempo to shift. This series of works again references how audio sound, be it music, the human voice or the bark of a dog, can be represented as a colour first, a mark and a visible action, suddenly filling an empty room or occupying an environment as if it were a real tangible object.

Consumed (Self Portrait)consumed (self portrait), IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM STILL, 2021
1consumed (self portrait), IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM STILL, 2021
click on artwork to view videoArtwork 2
click on artwork to view videoTo The Beat_2
To The beat

To The Beat was one of Covell’s first experiments with full length video. In this series the artwork plays out in real time, running in unison with the music that inspired it, as opposed to earlier digital sketches that were more suggestive references to the sound or sections of a song – a verse, chorus or instrumental interlude. To The Beat shows a new confidence in Covell, creating a continuous painting with a run time over 3 minutes, and recently other films as long as 18 minutes. These compositions fully capture and illustrate Covell’s experience of listening to music and seeing sound because of his synaesthesia. Covell’s new and more complex animated films are the culmination of Covell’s research into translating music into a physical visual form on a surface.

To The Beat_4To The beat, IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM still, 2019

The film To The Beat was inspired by the song Back that up to the beat by Madonna, from her  2019 studio album Madame X. Starting and ending with a white screen, a visual interpretation of the silence that exists before and after a song, the painting slowly unfolds. Covell position’s this artwork within the same context he sees music, as an ephemeral ‘object’ which exists only when heard. Covell’s digital compositions and colourful arrangements exist only when being viewed via playback, echoing how sound can be turned on or off with a switch.

Like Covell’s other works, To The Beat plays out in real time and the digital painting slowly reveals itself to be an ever-changing abstract landscape, one that is in a constant state of creative flux and rhythmic tension. The composition is constructed of moving patterns and forms, varying in size and colour, overlaid or hidden.

Whilst most larger shapes and colours in the artwork remain fixed, becoming part of the painting’s permanent background architecture, serving as visual anchors or introductory shapes that prompt the next response, most brush strokes swirl, appearing or disappearing as soon as they arrive, creating fluid organic rhythms and characteristics.

to the beat 2To The beat, IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM still, 2019

Brush marks overlay in contrasting forms and colours, symbolising the musicality of the source material and illustrating the rhythmic movements found within the music. Covell’s developed visual language, heavily inspired and influenced by his synaesthesia, is a complex evolving code: each mark and stroke is a textured pattern, a visual footprint, interpreting the invisible sonic vibrations created by the instruments, vocals of the singer alongside the background instrumental beats and changing melodies.

When the song reaches the middle eight section the visuals frieze and there are flashes of black squares that fill the screen. The music pauses and as the beat kicks in again the shapes and patterns begin to play backwards. Like the music, the energy of the artwork has shifted and changed. What might have been missed by the viewer when the film was moving forward, are now presented as slightly different shapes and coloured brush marks as the painting is now presented in a different format. Layers reverting back rather than building towards something and with the reversed animated now playing back at different speeds it is creating a different visual narrative. Eventually the speed and rhythm slows, reverting back to the white space, a subtle climax of silence. When the film ends, the audience is left contemplating if the painting actually existed.

To the Beat_3To The beat, IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM still, 2019

In 2020 To The Beat was selected for the inaugural Hertfordshire Open 2020 exhibition at St Albans Museum & Art Gallery and in early 2021 was acquired by UH ARTS, becoming part of their permanent art collection, and their first video artwork on public display.

Je Disaparais dans tes braslistening to… ‘Je disparais dans tes bras’ , IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM STILL, 2021
Candy Shop_2021Candy Shop, IPAD ANIMATION PAINTING FILM still, 2021