Every frame a painting: An interview with Thom Yorke’s animation director on SuperRare, Saad Moosajee

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By Arseny Vesnin (Twitter: @designercollector), founder of Designcollector Network.
Editorial is open for submissions: https://bit.ly/3aCuaEE

Saad Moosajee is an award-winning visual artist and director, known for his painterly approach to animation. He has created and directed work for Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, The New York Times, Apple, Google, 88Rising, and many more. Moosajee was recently selected as a Forbes 30 under 30 in Art&Style and an ADC Young Gun. His video for Thom Yorke’s “Last I Heard” was renowned for its experimental techniques, receiving over a million views on YouTube, a D&AD Graphite Pencil and an ADC Gold Cube. Moosajee won the Special Jury Award for Animation at SXSW 2020.

You directed a video for Thom Yorke. Was it a breaking point in your career? How does it influence your way of doing work now?

Working with Thom Yorke was an incredible experience. The project centered around cinematic, emotive visuals which made it a joy to work on.

My work as an animation director is often multidisciplinary. In each of my videos, I build a unique, imagined world through which concrete and abstract narratives can develop. I use videos as playgrounds to experiment and often try to push the boundaries of different animated techniques. To realize the Thom Yorke video, 3D animation was combined with hand painted rotoscoping across thousands of individual frames in order to create a more organic and textural aesthetic.  

While there is a stylistic crossover between all of my projects, It’s important to me that each video can function as a standalone piece aesthetically. I believe this makes the experience of watching it more memorable and allows the audience to create a longer lasting connection. “Last I Heard” is a deeply personal work that explores different concepts of urban anxiety and isolation. I believe the most important test of a video is whether or not it can evoke an emotional response – I always strive for this. 

You’re already a successful and well established artist, what made you pursue NFT art as a medium?

Technology has played an integral role in shaping my practice. I’ve been working as a Digital Artist since 2006, and NFT feels like an evolution in how we can curate, release and congregate around art digitally. 

I see technology not just as an important platform for my work but also a critical component to it. I try to constantly experiment in the medium of animation, which means not just testing different techniques but also embracing new technological approaches. In my latest music video for Joji – 777, I used motion capture within the game environment of Unreal Engine to layer and refine the choreography of multiple characters in real-time with only one dancer. 

What inspired the work in your first NFT drop? 

My genesis piece for SuperRare is my first ever NFT, it’s also the first installment in my new series ‘Verses’. 

‘Verses’ explores the afterlife, reimagining classical paintings with an emphasis towards South Asian futurism and the surreal. 

I am interested in the potential of 3D animation, digital representation, and the Metaverse to create diverse futures that act as modern historical reenactments and rewritings. ‘Verses’ questions the european view of classical painting through highly dimensional, futuristic tableaus focused towards digital humans of color. 

What are your short plans for the next NFT drop?

The next release will be a continuation in the Verses collection. I plan to use each drop as an opportunity to reveal a different chapter or character from the overarching mythology. Narrative and visual storytelling are critical to my work and I’m excited about exploring how these concepts can be played with through the drops and the NFT space in general. 

What was your path to doing what you’re doing now?

I began my career as a digital artist at the Slashthree collective. After freelancing for several years independently, I studied art & design at RISD and went on to work at Pixar Animation Studios and the Google Creative Lab. During these experiences I became interested in bridging the fine art and animation worlds, which I eventually began exploring through music videos, short films and my visual art practice. 

Do you have any unrealised or unfinished projects?

I’m currently working on a project in collaboration with musician Max Cooper that is commissioned by the Tate Modern Museum in London. I can’t say too much more about it but expect to see it later this year. I also have a short film in development that I hope to finance through sales of my NFT drops. 

Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community of people?

I feel like this is one of the most important things, and something hugely promising about the NFT movement. Artists supporting and actively communicating with each other is inspiring on many levels.

Author profile
designcollector

Arseny Vesnin (Twitter: @designercollector), founder of Designcollector Network (2003) and curator of the Digital Decade initiatives, exhibitions and online collaborations. Interdisciplinary mediator guiding artists and communicating the future of art. Based in St.Petersburg, Russia.

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