Lesley Ung Dénouement: A Subjective Reflection on Death, Loss and Grief through Animation Practice

  • Tauira / Student
    Lesley Ung
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Andrew Denton, Guy Collier
Judge's comments:

An impressive expression of hand crafted 2d animation to tackle very personal subject matter. The simple white on black line work managed to convey a huge amount of emotion through it’s movement and freedom. A beautiful piece of work.


Dénouement: A Subjective Reflection on Death, Loss and Grief through Animation Practice is a practice-based research project that engages with the emotionally fraught, complex and human experience of losing a loved one. The research harnesses (subjective) thinking-feeling processes to explore how 2D (hand-drawn) animation might be informed by autoethnographic inquiry and practice-based methods to grapple with loss through an animated film’s production. The project deploys animation practice as a mode of personally engaging with loss, exploring visual expressions of the internal, psychological, and abstract dialogue when grieving. Dénouement seeks to develop productive conversations about life, death and grief for the audience, framed in a humbling human experience.
Dénouement reflects the difficulty to engage with a complex (human) experience as its subject. As such, there has been a review of clinical and philosophical writing from thinkers such as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Eric Shouse, and Judith Butler. To support the creative choices throughout the production, artists that engaged with confronting subjects, such as Francisco Goya, Richard Mosse and Tabaimo, informed the project. To understand best practices in emotional storytelling, the project drew inspiration from Pixar Animations’ feature-length and short film narratives. The research positions the medium of 2D animation as a rich territory to explore visual expressions of grieving. Therefore, Paul Wells, John Canemaker and Glen Keane offered insights into the tactical, expressive medium. Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, Norman McLaren and Len Lye provided insights into the potential of surrealism and experimental animation as potent landscapes to explore the project’s research aims.
The production of Dénouement drew upon a range of methods discovered during reviews of established methodological approaches, supporting the making, thinking, and feeling processes (autoethnography) and visual and textual analysis (dramaturgy). Practical tools found in the discipline of 2D animation, such as ideation drawing and iterative drawing, shaped the making methods. These methods were further refined by developing a production pipeline and establishing creative constraints explicitly designed for this project.
The artefact and accompanying thesis are framed within the researcher’s subjective lens and draw from other practice-based, critical, historical, and narrative contexts to support the production of the final short film. The practice detailed in this thesis underpins the researcher’s passion to draw the world (as they see it), moving it in time and moving those who view the work, emotionally.