Still from Len Lye footage depicting a thumbs up.

Free Radical: Len Lye at 120

Len Lye (1901-1980) was an influential New Zealand-born modernist artist whose long international career encompassed sculpture, painting, photography and filmmaking.

Len Lye had a restless creative mind, and as a filmmaker moved easily between animation, live action and Direct Film – an original technique that involved painting, drawing, stencilling and scratching on the filmstrip.

As diverse as his creative output was, Lye’s films become quite easy to identify after you’ve seen a few. They’re typically extremely colourful and energetic, full of abstract forms in joyous motion, and minutely synced to raucous jazz or blues. Some of the below films, although they were made decades apart, clearly refer to one another and show a remarkably consistent viewpoint across his lifetime.

These are the definitive digital versions of Len Lye’s films, shared here in collaboration with the Len Lye Foundation and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre. The original works on film are cared for by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision in Wellington, New Zealand.