“An Experiment in Pure Design:” The Minimalist Aesthetic in the Line Films of Norman McLaren

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During the 1960s Scottish animator Norman McLaren undertook a series of inquiries into the nature of the line that culminated in three films, Lines Vertical (1960), Lines Horizontal (1962) and Mosaic (1965). Although McLaren has always been associated with innovation in animation technique and aesthetics, often times his more formal concerns have remained overlooked, underexplored, or even dismissed by critics such as Malcolm LeGrice. This paper seeks to readdress this by looking at the Line trilogy in relation to the development of minimalist tendencies that emerged in both art and music in the twentieth century. Further to this McLaren has asserted that the structure of his Line films is influenced by the structure of Indian music, a music whose formal construction is intrinsically bound to notions of the spiritual. This paper will draw on these notions in order to examine how the process of simplification intrinsic to Indian music and by extension minimalism, across the arts, has an innate spiritual quality to it that can allow McLaren’s films to function on both a formal and spiritual level simultaneously.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-33
JournalAnimation Studies Journal
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2011


  • Animation
  • Visual Music
  • Norman McLaren
  • Minimalism
  • Minimalist Music
  • Minimalist art
  • Evelyn Lambert
  • Modernism
  • Absolute Music
  • The Absolute Film
  • Indian Music


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