Visualisations of various types of flow separation are presented in an experimental set-up that translates a rotating cylinder parallel to a wall. Particle image velocimetry is used to measure the two velocity components in a plane perpendicular to the cylinder where the flow is two-dimensional. To spatially resolve the flow close to the wall, a high-viscosity fluid is used. For a periodic translation, the fixed separation is compared to the theory of Haller (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 512, 2004, pp. 257–311), while for non-periodic translations, a method is proposed to extract the moving separation point captured by a Lagrangian saddle point, and its finite-time unstable direction (separation profiles). Intermediate cases are also presented where both types of separation, fixed and moving, are either present simultaneously or appear successively. Some results issued from numerical simulations of an impinging jet show that all the cases observed in the rotor-oscillator flow are not restricted to high-viscosity fluid motions but may also occur within any vortical flow.