Slow TV’s surprising new subject
THE sound of the gentle tap, tap, tap of stick on canvas is a soothing one.
Thousands of those taps, each representing a dot of paint, culminate in a beautiful piece of artwork - the centrepiece of a mesmerising long-form experience.
Marni, the latest instalment of SBS's slow TV series, is unlike anything viewers have seen before.
The multicultural broadcaster first introduced the meditative TV phenomenon to our shores two years ago with The Ghan, which took viewers on a real-time journey on the iconic train ride from Adelaide to Darwin.
Originally gaining popularity in Europe, slow TV refers to marathon coverage of an event in its entirety.
So far, the genre has largely focused on journeys by rail, road and water.
Marni breaks that mould by following renowned indigenous artist Allery Sandy in real time as she paints a mesmerising dot-work painting of the Pilbara region where she lives.
"I wanted to see if we could do something different from the community here," director Tyson Mowarin says.
"We asked her what country she wanted to paint and she said she likes painting Ngarluma country, my country, even though she's a Yindjibarndi lady. Her late husband is a Ngarluma man and they used to spend a lot of time out in the bush. Her painting keeps her connected to him."
Filmed over three weeks, the 170-minute episode starts with a primed canvas and finishes with the final dot, capturing Sandy's artistic process as she speaks about her childhood, family and the land which inspires her work.
"The room she painted in was just four metres by three metres," Mowarin says. "One of the challenges was getting the aerial view inside the room. We built a scaffold frame from corner to corner diagonally, mounted a remote-controlled camera system up there and it was on a timer so it was rotating while it was filming."
The grandmother and former teacher only started painting later in life after becoming involved with the Aboriginal Church. First putting paint to canvas in 2006, her award-winning work now regularly exhibits in private galleries in Fremantle and Sydney and is represented in public and private collections.
"We just wanted her to tell her story," Mowarin says. "She wanted to touch on, firstly, why she started painting but then the subjects she paints and it grows from there. Her paintings are in the present day but also take her back as well."
Mowarin intercut the footage of her painting with beautiful aerial imagery of the surrounding region.
"I thought it would be a great showcase for the countryside," he says. "I knew her style of aerial painting would match up with the aerial footage."
The filmmaker hopes Marni inspires other art-focused slow TV projects.
"I hope this film gets shown in festivals around Australia and the world," he says.
"I'd like to make a few more. I'm a traveller, so I reckon there would be a few nice travelling films we could make."
Sandy also has a role in Mowarin's next project, the live-action children's TV series Thalu.
"She's great talent on film," he says. "We've done short community docos with her, and she has a speaking role as one of the nannas in Thalu.
"All we have to do is ask her once and she's on board with anything we do. She's a real community person."
Marni airs tonight at 7.30 on NITV.