Natalia Stuyk: Gif Us What You’ve Got

Natalia Stuyk is the type of artist that never stops experimenting. When others hone and perfect their style, Natalia’s visuals seem to zigzag never endingly between minimal and maximal. That’s not to say Natalia isn’t incredibly talented at what she does, her work has seen recognition from the likes of Vimeo and Instagram, as well as making Dazed Digitals ‘100’ list of cool, talented and hot people last year (Natalia, by the way, is a triple threat). Her hard-to-pin-down aesthetic is a result of her field, animation, and its lack of limitations.

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Aged 28, Natalia has a career that can boast creating visuals for musicians and brands from Annie Mac and Kylie Minogue to House of Holland, Topman and Adidas. So it comes as a surprise that her career in animation began only three years ago. “I went to university to study visual communication at the Edinburgh College of Art, I specialised in animation but we also did illustration, photography and graphic design. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I then studied a Masters degree in Entrepreneurship and Interactive Media. Afterwards, I thought I wanted to work in the public sector so I moved to New York and began an internship at the United Nations.” Despite not following a conventional route to where she is now, she began to recognise her artistic ambitions after her stint at the UN. “I was doing their social media and I’d set up the webcasts for their conferences and stream it on their website. I also set out a proposal for a rebrand and made them an animated ident, telling them if they updated their image it could be a better way to get more young people involved. But they didn’t like that and then I just realised that it wasn’t for me.” Like many young people specialising in a creative subject at school or university, a career in art doesn’t always seem feasible. “It was always at the back of my mind, I have animations that I did when I was 15-16 but I had never really considered it as a job. Things only really began when my friend who runs the independent record label No Pain In Pop asked me to do a music video so I did it.”

Shortly after one of her first music videos, for singer, Roses Gabor: collage artist and designer Mat Maitland approached Natalia for collaboration. Mat’s work is instantly recognisable to anyone who works in the fashion or music industries. His imagery for albums such as Michael Jackson’s Xscape or Prince’s FALLINLOVE2NITE, has made Maitland a household name. “He was interested in the technique I’d used in the Roses Gabor video and he’d never done video before. I collaborated with him for about a year. Together we did imagery for Kenzo, Basement Jaxx, For Festival and Jean Paul Gaultier X Kylie Minogue.” Natalia’s impact on Mat’s work is that it heightens its surrealism. “It was really nice to look at his collages and think about how I could make them come to life. I love to collaborate with people who design for still, because making stuff like that move is always really fascinating for me. Ever since I was a kid I would look at a still image and wish it moved.” Natalia endearingly thinks this makes her sound stupid, but in fact, it makes perfect sense.

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“I own so many gif pun websites, there are so many more to come. My bill for owning all those domains is about £150 a year.”

Her obsession with movement becomes ever more prevalent when you look at her gifs. Take 5 minutes out of your day today and visit one of her gif websites such as Gif Me A Chance or Gif Me Space, and you’ll see that her fascination with gif is important. Developing a new genre, Natalia creates interactive gifs that question the medium and tests it’s limitations. “I find stuff that loops seamlessly really, really satisfying so they are kind of like a study. With a gif it’s such as shit format, it’s like the most rubbish medium ever because there are so many limitations but those limitations are also the part that keeps it interesting. In a video I can do whatever I want whereas in a gif I know I can’t push it too far with colour or size.” Although she considers her gif-making “just procrastination”, Natalia admits, “I own so many gif pun websites, there are so many more to come. My bill for owning all those domains is about £150 a year.” 2015 will see her launch another website, Gif and Receive, which is also interactive. Having come a long way since her Interactive Media degree, last year Natalia hosted her first solo exhibition in Paris, unsurprisingly entitled, ‘I Would Gif You Everything’. Featuring hologram lenticular lenses the exhibition was a physical continuation of her digital work, and this is something Natalia has plans to develop further, using screen-printing as another medium to establish a physical gif. “I’m also into kinetic sculptures; anything that has a rhythm or an infinite loop is endlessly fascinating for me.”

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Expanding out of gif, Natalia has created live music visuals to accompany Annie Mac across the globe, and closer to home, for events by infamous grime pioneers, Just Jam. When she isn’t making music videos for other artists, Natalia writes her own soundtracks as a stimulus to create videos within her Home Series. “I make the music and certain sounds look a certain way.” Magically, Natalia will create a visual aid to accompany her music, in the form of a geometric dreamscape, LA highway or Tokyo tower block. Building each component on her own allows Natalia to distinguish her work from her art. “I think it depends on who you are working with and in what context. But if I’m already given the images or the starting point then I don’t really consider it to be art.”

“I get the phrase a lot, “I wont know if I like it until I see it.””

“I like collaborating with someone else who is creative, because you can communicate visually rather than communicate through words to describe something visual. I feel like there is always going to be a disconnect if I try to explain something to you in words, because you are going to imagine something completely different to what is in my head. I find that it’s sometimes tricky with music clients because you are working with someone who isn’t necessarily visually inclined, and I get the phrase a lot, “I wont know if I like it until I see it.” It’s a stressful way of working.” Emphasising that this isn’t always the case, she continues, “Occasionally you’ll meet a client and you have a certain level of symbiosis and you’ll create something that surprises you both. Fashion designers are great because they already design for movement and 3D shape, I think fashion is like animation in that way.”

Discussing other London based female animators and gif artists such as Rachel Noble and Sara Ludy, it’s agreed that the animation industry doesn’t feel as male dominated as some of the other visual industries. “I feel like in my close circle there are way more girls making cool shit than guys. But back when I was at University there was only two girls vs. twenty five guys on my animation course.” She continues, “The crew that I work with all the time to shoot is pretty much all female. The producer I work with, Posy Dixon, is fucking incredible. I’ve known her for years and she has always been incredibly supportive and good at giving advice.” Even across the continents the “wave of girl power” continues as Natalia takes part in the Milwaukee, Present Works exhibition She Wolf, “that’s all girls, really talented girls.” She is even part of an all female football team built up of other creative female friends.

If this were a CV, Natalia would tick all the boxes. She’s self-motivated, with original ideas and is also a team player. She’s incredibly supportive of her female peers and also has a personality as vibrant as her work. Let’s hope Natalia continues to initiate new methods of working within the medium of gif and animation, as she leads the way for more women in technology.

 

All images and video courtesy of Natalia Stuyk

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