1.3 John MacFadyen and Painted Eightsome

Started in 1955 and completed in 1970, John MacFadyen and Painted Eightsome were, like Calypso, made by painting onto clear 35mm optical film stock. Neither of these films has received much attention and in a September 1982 list of her festival screenings, Painted Eightsome had shown just once at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, 1971. John MacFadyen is not even listed. Judging from the elements donated to the SFTVA, I suspect that after some initial interest in showing the two films in the early 1970s, Tait directed her energy and finances towards a new project and the exhibition of these two films was largely abandoned. Nothing has been published which discusses the two 1970 hand-painted films but Mike Leggett briefly lists them in his unpublished article based on conversations with Tait in the 1970s. The following are the only two quotes from Tait regarding these films that I have been able to find.

On Painted Eightsome:

An eightsome reel played by Orkney Strathspey and Reel Society, recorded in about 1955/6, later transferred to 35mm optical stock with clear picture and gradually painted over the years. Eights of different things – figures, antlers, or sometimes just blobs in tartan colours – dance their way through the figure of the reel.

On John MacFadyen:

Made over the same period of time and by similar methods to Painted Eightsome, the music being a march tune.

These brief descriptions (and the film elements themselves) suggest that Tait began painting them shortly after completing Calypso, using the same techniques of painting onto clear optical stock with a soundtrack already visible down one edge of the film.

Painted Eightsome and John MacFadyen are very much alike. Both have similar lively soundtracks of traditional Scottish dance music. Both are painted with several deep, rich colours – reds, greens, blues, purples, yellows – and typically have a washed background in one or two colours with dancing figures in the foreground. John MacFadyen begins with a tartan background with painted loops roughly dancing in time to the jig. The dancing line figures reoccur throughout both films, sometimes one, sometimes several dancing together hand-in-hand. Painted Eightsome, the longer of the two films, has birds flying above ocean waves and it appears as if every movement is in some way related to the lively music that persists throughout the two films. Towards the end of Painted Eightsome, a starfish and a linked chain are included among the dancing shapes.

In a filmography drawn up for the release of Blue Black Permanent, both Painted Eightsome and John MacFadyen are listed, though hand-written notes alongside each film indicate that no prints were available. Of all the titles discussed in this paper, these two appear to have remained out of circulation from shortly after they were completed and I suspect her interest in a new kind of technique had something to do with this.