Nick Collins first showed his films at no.w.here in 2005. That ‘Light Reading’ event involved a Q&A with A.L. Rees, who has subsequently written about his films for Sequence. This evening’s screening focuses on a number of recent films, most of which have been made in the last few years. Nick Collins will be present to introduce and discuss his work. The following text is extracted from A.L. Rees’ essay ‘A Space for Reflection: The Films of Nick Collins’ published in Sequence no.2 (Autumn, 2011).
Nick Collins has quietly built a body of work by slow and patient steps that tested the scope and focus of his art. In some respects this echoes the character of the films themselves, which are on the cusp between personal lyric, with its implication of subjectivity, and direct observation, with its camera-eye objectivism. They enact a kind of absorption in seeing, but always in relation to particular sites and events, such as water, sky, gardens, natural landscape and the traces of human habitation. They rarely show people, but they are not impersonal. The persons implicated in the films, however, are those not depicted in it. The filmmaker is one such, apart from rare traces of his occasionally glimpsed shadow. The viewer is another, more radically absent since not present at the original filming. Together, the maker and viewer complete the projected space of the image when ultimately the film is shown, and becomes “present to us”.
Nick Collins studied History at Cambridge (1972-5), and then at the Slade joined a remarkable diploma course in Film Studies, led by James Leahy. Founded by painter and former Grierson filmmaker William Coldstream, and by cineaste Thorold Dickinson, its students included Lutz Becker, Annette Kuhn, Deke Dusinberre and Simon Field, who became leading exponents of independent and avant-garde film in the 1970s. Already a committed photographer, Collins discovered at the Slade the proverbial ‘Bolex in the cupboard’ that has kick-started the filmmaking careers of many artists before and since. Soon, at the LFMC, he found like-minded fellow artists – including Nicky Hamlyn, David Finch and Nick Gordon-Smith - and an experimentalist film culture. The results of these experiences are, I think, embedded in his films. First of all, via the study of history, an eye for traces of the past (ruins, relics, monuments) in the contemporary landscape; and secondly, a profound knowledge of film and its own histories that he has subtly absorbed into his own way of seeing. Behind the presumption of an ‘innocent eye’ in his personal and often hand-held camerawork, for example, is an informed dialogue with such diverse predecessors as Brakhage, Larcher and Gidal – and also with the lyric mode in European art cinema and the British documentary movement.