David Ellis, Animal

David Ellis, Animal, 2010. 9 min., 39 sec., color, sound, Blu-ray disc, Commission, Landmarks, The University of Texas at Austin, 2010. Photo is a still from video.

David Ellis, Animal, 2010.

American, born 1971


Multimedia artist David Ellis grew up immersed in various musical styles, from classical jazz to hip-hop. Though he never learned to read music or play it, he employs various elements of music-making in his work. His explorations of movement, change, and rhythm effectively combine his talent for visual representation with his passion for musical expression.

The collaborative and improvisational nature of music influenced a series of painting sessions that Ellis undertook with a group of artists called the Barnstormers in the early 2000s. Captured with time-lapse video, the paintings on vertical surfaces evolved into a style that Ellis called “motion paintings.” For Animal, he positioned a time-lapse camera overhead to photograph his painting process every few seconds. He then compiled the images into a stop-motion video. Similar to a hip-hop track, Ellis’s motion paintings are an assortment of samples, breaks, and disparate moments, all of which combine to create a rhythmic flow of artistic expression.


Animal is the visual record of Ellis’s six-week-long residency at The University of Texas at Austin. Produced in collaboration with cinematographer Chris Keohane and composed of more than 75,000 still images, the video is inspired by personal conversations and the local environment of Austin. Animal showcases the delights and details of the creative forces of nature that often go unnoticed.


The animation features a kaleidoscope of spectacular creatures, landscapes, and abstractions interspersed with dramatic splashes of paint. The soundtrack, composed by longtime collaborator Roberto Lange, combines a range of unexpected elements that complement the mercurial nature of Ellis’s practice. Animal shifts between moments of freedom, discovery, and surprise that extend from Ellis’s continuous search for ways of representing the universality of art through the rhythms and movement of life.

David Ellis, Animal, 2010.
David Ellis, Animal, 2010.

Location: ART Building Atrium

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