Toon of the month: Paradise Awaits

Tomek Ducki’s music video for Zhu shows us analogue desire in a digital age.

Chris Robinson
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Polish animator Tomek Ducki stormed onto the indie animation scene in 2014 with Baths [], a beautiful, mysterious and haunting meditation on mortality. This year he returns with Paradise Awaits, a neon-drenched, Old Testament-tinged music video made for electronic artist Zhu which features a singing, swirling animation-leaking head, a naked lady, a mysterious square apple, pixilated fig leafs and some delicious dripping dances of paint that transform Eden from sin bin into a cool chill-out zone.

Zhu’s manager approached Ducki after seeing My Turn [], the young animator’s video for Basement Jaxx. Initially Ducki wasn’t sure he’d be a good match, but decided to give it a try. “There was something intriguing about potentially working for an artist who is completely invisible and only put out one video so far,” he emails me. “It meant I would have a chance to explore a new visual language and persona.”

Still, falling in love with the project was a long process. “The subjects, the Biblical themes and the music, they all seemed so distant from each other,” Ducki adds. “While the technique – a rather complex layering of CGI, 2D drawn and vector-based graphics that were then painted over frame by frame – helped us connect all these distant worlds visually, it took some risky experimentation to find the right balance. The first scene that really got me going was the cubic apple hanging and swinging around the girl’s head as Zhu sings, ‘I have seen your face.’”

Using Titian’s famous painting The Temptation of Adam and Eve as a reference (“I was interested in how the fruit of the tree of knowledge changes the vision of the first people”), Ducki offers a fresh take on the whole expulsion-from-Eden shenanigans. So once Eve takes the square apple, which look suspiciously like LSD tabs, into her mouth, the previously freewheeling and sinuous imagery shifts into rigidly quadrilateral pixellated fig leaves. The party, it seems, is over. The squares have won.

The film took Ducki and his team of seven about two exhausting months from concept to sign-off. “I landed super-sick in the bed by the end,” he says. “But it was worth it because we got to experiment a lot with animation and movement, and explore an associative visual narration of shapes and symbols, movements and rhythm.”

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