Six years ago today, Tess Martin’s Ginerva, a short animated film, exhibited as a solo show at the Bellevue Arts Museum. The film, which utilizes the charming and infinitely impressive paper-cut out style of animation, is based on the poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Dirge,” which is one small part of a larger work Shelley never finished before his untimely death.
The three-minute film depicts the murder of Ginerva, its titular character, at the hands of her husband. However, Ginerva refuses to die, and instead undergoes a transformation. The delicate paper puppets showcase the fragility of the woman of the story, while also juxtaposing that fragility against the strength and resilience of her survival. The entire story is brought to life by Tess Martin, its director and animator, whose diligence and talent shines through in every project her fingers touch.
The entire story is brought to life by Tess Martin, its director and animator, whose diligence and talent shines through in every project her fingers touch.
Tess Martin, who was self-professedly “raised between cultures,” is currently based out of Rotterdam, Netherlands. In an interview with FF2 contributor Roza Melkumyan two years ago, Tess spoke about how she first entered into the world of animation. Already studying fine art at the University of Brighton, Tess’s life was changed when she attended a puppet show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Tess told FF2, “There is something very immediate about puppetry. You’re there in a theatre [watching the animation being created] but that’s not normally the case. It’s very direct.” Afterwards, Tess decided to secure her Master of Animation from the St. Joost School of Art and Design, and thus began her journey into the world of animation.
On her website, Tess provides information on and videos of ten of her projects from the last decade. The differences in medium and style between each piece highlight Tess’s diverse talents as an animator and director. The first project, The Whale Story, incorporates mural animation and live performance. Contrastingly, in 2014, she debuted two pieces which, like Ginerva, use paper and photo cut-out styles of animation. Tess’s other projects use everything from replacement animation (swapping out an object for another between takes) to painting on glass to create a visually stunning and distinctive style.
In 2021, FF2 met up with Tess Martin to discuss her work on the 2019 documentary Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles (a film which also features interviews of and story consulting by FF2’s Editor-in-Chief, Jan Lisa Huttner!). The film revisits the origin and legacy of the classic Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. Tess worked exhaustively on the animated sections of the documentary, telling FF2 the animation took around four months. “It’s really intensive,” Tess confessed. “You’re standing there under the camera for eight to ten hours a day.” The hard work Tess funneled into the project definitely paid off, as can be seen in the stunning final product which Tess achieved through her signature style of painting on glass. This medium infuses the work with a feeling of rustic, folk art, which pairs beautifully with the music and sentiment of Fiddler.
This medium infuses the work with a feeling of rustic, folk art, which pairs beautifully with the music and sentiment of Fiddler.
Currently, Tess accepts commissions as well as works on her own original projects. Between 2014 and 2021, she hosted Manifest: Animation Show & Tell, an online and in person monthly discussion of animation. Tess has been an artist-in-residence at Hawthornden Writer’s Retreat, the Camargo Foundation, and the Bogliasco Foundation. She has exhibited her work at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Ann Arbor Film Festival, and TOKAS Hongo, as well as lectured at universities across the United States and the Netherlands.
Though Tess’s projects vary in medium, they all carry with them her signature brand of storytelling, which incorporates memory, nostalgia, and reflection to tell heartfelt, human stories of identity. The stories she animates vary in subject from people to animals. Some are more plot driven, while others focus on expressing an emotion. It is abundantly clear to the audience that Tess Martin finds no story too small to deserve a spotlight—whether that spotlight be made from paper, paint, or glass.
© Reese Alexander (6/30/23) FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Read Roza Melkumyan’s interview with Tess Martin here.
Visit Tess Martin’s website here.
Visit Tess Martin’s Facebook page here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Photo Credits: All graphics provided courtesy of Tess Martin. © Tess Martin. All Rights Reserved.