A couple of weeks ago I was away with my wife, we were taking a break from the city, whilst staying near the Santa Elena’s woods, we ended up watching a Netflix show called Amazing Interiors (we saw the whole season). I discovered 4 different examples of interiors packed with imagery and colour and this made me think about caves and how we humans set up the places we live in, these people and their homes, made me think that perhaps, some humans enjoy (or need ) images more than others, these examples were quite extreme ones and I am making this post so I can revisit this idea in the future.
Three years ago somebody suggested me to do an MA, around that time I had many ideas about my practice but I did not have a clear idea to give to others when they asked about my theme or my subject, thanks to my MA, now I know that it is all about the depiction of my visual experience of reality.
Both Francis Bacon and David Hockney helped me in the process of understanding my practice; I was captivated by Bacon’s views on the horror of life, the way he approached the figure and his spatial arrangements. Hockney helped me to question linear perspective and monocular depictive systems, I was also impressed by his views on how time flows between images.
Now I know that through my practice, I have been trying to push the limits set by the flatness. Using images to create 3D models has allowed me to reflect about the substance of images, and has also helped me to gain enough confidence to start sculpting again.
I think that I have developed both my digital and physical professional skills, the creation of META-IMAGES is a quite interesting path that I want to follow, I have learned a lot from the making of my final piece and I plan to use that knowledge for the making of hybrid pieces that might inhabit the viewers space.
Doing my first VR piece allowed me to explore an unknown territory, digital images have been always part of my practice but were never present in the final piece, making the VR roller coaster encouraged me to keep doing digital explorations without the need of painting anything. Creating and editing digital images has also helped me to understand that my practice goes beyond paint and brushes (Although I quite like those two).
I plan to keep learning about VR user interface creation. I also plan to explore projection mapping as it might allow me to present my digital creations over not-flat surfaces as I think this could allow me to create an immersive space without the VR headset.
I am quite interested in the moving image and also the process moving through the image, I already started to do experiments with a MOVING-META-IMAGE using the same principles I use for still images.
Reading a book titled “The power of the centre” by Rudolf Arnheim, has helped me to learn more about spatial composition, I see META-IMAGES as both a 3D object and a place for the viewer to visit, my plan is to read more about architecture and spatial composition.
This experience has also made change my expectations about the art world, now I know I will need to keep exploring options in order to continue developing my practice whilst making money to pay the bills. I also understood the importance of networking and collaboration, in my near future I plan to work with a sound artist to explore how sound might spread through the META-IMAGE.
Finally, I will say that I used to ask myself about the What, Where, When and the How of my pieces, now, I am aware that thanks to my MA, I learned to ask Why.
On April 2017 I was invited by Artist/Reader Jennet Thomas to do a 5-week residence at Wimbledon College of Arts, so, from April 19th until May 18th and for two days a week, I had the opportunity to set up a VR camp in the middle of the Print and Time-Based Media (PTBM) Studio, a big and well-illuminated room located on the second floor of the College’s intelligent building.
My plan was to display and allow students to experience a VR piece that I had already presented at the Tate Exchange event; Landscape #12. My goal was to connect with students in order to have meaningful conversations about VR technology and other related topics like 3D modelling and 3D animation.
During the residence, I had the opportunity to talk and share ideas with more than 10 students and 5 members of staff.
As a practitioner, I think this was a wonderful opportunity to talk to others about my practice and reflect about all the process of delivering a VR piece to the public. As a student, I enjoyed the opportunity to inhabit a different studio and to talk to students with different practices, I especially enjoyed the opportunity to meet BA students as I felt that they have a fresher look on things and are still quite open to new ideas. I believe that this kind of exercises provide a unique opportunity to create connections with peers and have meaningful cross-disciplinary conversations, I really think that this should be happening more often around UAL.
When I started using photogrammetry, a year ago, I did understand that 3D models made with it are far from perfect, however, at that moment I managed to take advantage of this to create a weird character for the collaboration I did with Jennet Thomas.
At the beginning of this year, I decided that I was going to use this technique again to create a piece for my final show. It made sense as I wanted to create an accurate 3D model from my landscape#13 piece. Since then, I had spent quite a good amount of time making/fixing the 3D model and this has made me also wonder about the challenges inherent to this technique:
180 Vs 360 degrees
One of the first things that I learned is that making 180 degrees single-sided pieces is a lot easier than making 360 degrees double-sided ones. Illumination becomes a nightmare and it is really difficult to get shots from 360 degrees inside my MA studio. I did try to hang the model from above but this did not work thanks to the micro wind currents so at the end I had to change my approach and decided to make chunks instead of a whole piece.
Another thing I learned from this project is that a number of photos you take on a particular region will affect both the density of the mesh and the quality of the texture, this becomes particularly relevant when you are making a 360 object as you might get fewer visual references in comparison with flat-shaped pieces like my landscape#12. Stitching up nightmare
Stitching and photoshopping
After creating all the 3D chunks, I imported them into Blender software. I discovered that all spatial references were gone and both the orientation and the scale of the objects was off. After arranging all the chunks I discovered that the lighting around the joining areas was uneven and after doing most of the stitching I felt that the end result wasn’t good enough. I thought that the best way to fix this would be using photoshop in order to fix the textures but this ended up being an impossible task as the whole texture of every chunk is actually a collage of 20 different and overlapping images. AT THIS POINT I WANTED TO KILL MYSELF!!!
Merging textures and reshaping UVs
Finally, after doing a lot of research I discovered that there is a procedure that allows you to bake all different textures into a single one, but before I made this, I had also to figure out how to change the existent UV layout in order to get decent size islands that I might be able to edit in Photoshop. FINALLY, I SEE THE LIGHT!
After 3 months trying to sort this out, I feel that finally, I’ve found a workflow that will allow me to produce bigger and more complex pieces. I feel that this process has forced me to change my approach several times and that the limitations/restrictions of this particular technology had had a great impact in the way I plan to make new work, I keep thinking about digital as a medium, I really feel that the way photogrammetry works will have a direct impact on how I create my future pieces.
A couple of weeks ago I started building this VR piece for an Academic Support event that will be held on the 11th of May, at the beginning I felt that it was kind of silly to make a sketchbook using VR, after all, it takes a lot of time without and it does not feel like a practical thing to do.
I have to say that after a while I felt that this exercise allowed me to refresh my memory around my practice as I had to go back to look at very old posts, I also felt that it was quite nice to walk around old and recent thoughts although I have to say that I did focus on just one of my projects in order to keep this task simple.
At the moment I feel that I need to spend more time wandering around this space as I have spent most of the time working on it and sorting little challenges like playing a video and replacing one of the VIVE controllers with a flashlight (something I wanted to do for a long time).
I really think that VR allows you to observe your notes from a quite unique perspective and now I am thinking about expanding this little work to include other projects.
Last week I was able to make a video render of the digital model from my landscape #13 piece. As a final touch, I added a soundtrack by Wagner called “Die Walküre”, I selected this musical background because I wanted to make a connection to a piece called “Der Riese”, a video made by artist Michael Klier. In this piece, Michael used the footage from an airport’s surveillance camera and by adding the sound, he created a narrative that was not meant to exist in the original material.
I am quite pleased with the end result. As a painter, it is quite interesting to me to be able to explore a piece from within and I feel this is really changing and expanding my approach to painting and sculpting and now I am trying to reflect on all the things I am subverting within my practice.
The active viewer
By escaping flatness, the image folds and grows on itself, so the gaze of the viewer is challenged by not being able to see everything from a set point of view, at this point, I am aware that not every viewer feels comfortable about this challenge but I also know that this opens a whole bunch of possibilities for the viewer to interact with the piece.
The evolving image
Painting sometimes becomes boring, I have to say that more than one time in the past, I have felt that the piece I was working on, became so familiar, that working on it was as enjoyable as brushing my teeth. Since I started working on 3D paintings, especially on the standalone ones, I feel that I am constantly challenged by them, not only from a technical point of view but also from a perceptual point of view, and I feel that, by not being able to see all the image at once, it keeps changing.
Although I knew that using a sculpture as a canvas was a way to challenge my practice as I needed to constantly adapt due to changes in light and terrain, I was not able to imagine how the piece would actually look from within, I guess I was not aware of how it might actually mutate once I added the artificial lighting, changed the scale and added a floating point of view. Another thing I also discovered is that I could potentially intervene bot
Controlling the gaze
By using a camera that runs through a path, and then rendering a video, I am partially controlling the way the piece is looked at. Of course, one could argue that the viewer is now looking at a video rather than looking at a painting, however, I think that by being confronted with the physical sculpture, both elements become strongly bonded inside the viewer’s mind.
In the VR piece, more control is given to the viewer as he/her is able to move his/her head in any desired direction, however, I still have control over the path that the viewer is following.
Seeing with rhythm
For many years I wanted to add sound to my pieces, although I am not creating it at the moment, I am quite pleased to use this magnificent soundtrack, I believe that this adds a new layer to the piece and allows me to increase the dramatic effect obtained with the flashlight-like lighting.
Things to try in the future
- Make an early 3D model or even playing with the concept of two different layers of paint, one will only be visible from within and the other one will be only visible from outside.
- Create restricted access areas, forcing the viewer to look from a distance or even prevent him/her from seeing some parts from within or outside the piece.
- Plan how the camera could potentially move following different paths.
Last week I was invited by Jennet Thomas to do a 5-week residency at the Print and Time-Based Media Studio, I am really excited about this opportunity as it will be a first for me.
This will be a great opportunity to test some ideas and especially, to keep developing my collaborative skills, I really like the idea of working with BA students and learning to work with them on a project that might lead to an exhibition.
This is an image of the studio I will be placed on.
And this is the poster I am using to promote the Residency.
I also plan to create at least one post for every day I spend at Wimbledon College.
Last month I visited the British Museum for the first time, my goal was to find pieces that could be linked to my concept of the META-IMAGE, I saw images on top and inside of Sarcophagus, covering Greek pottery, various sculptures and a box to collect money from people attending a religious ceremony.
Images seem to be a quite important part of these objects, however, I was surprised to conclude that in most cases the image followed the function, a function that goes beyond artistic expression. This made realise that my work is quite different as the image is the one that actually dictates the shape of the object.
On January, I submitted one piece for a competition, it is called “Portrait of my Wife”, at that moment I struggled with the images as I felt that they were no good, this was partially due to that in the past, I took pictures of flat paintings and now I have to learn how to properly take photos of a 3D object.
Days later I was informed that my submission was not successful, so, After shaking the bad mood, I went back to take a look at the materials I sent, specially the images.
I guess that, because I haven’t seen them in a while, I was able to spot important flaws in the images I submitted, to make it simple, I would say that if somebody does not know my work, he/she will have a lot of trouble to read what my work is about from dose images. This was a breakthrough.
Since that moment I understood that I needed to pay lots of attention to the way I was trying to present my work, specially if they do not know me or my work and if neither my work or me are present for the introductions.
This is why, last week I spend quite a good amount of time on my uni studio, trying to take a good pictures of my latest piece, pictures that might work together to give others enough information to make a decision.
I have to say that it was quite a challenge as I was trying to present both a painting/sculpture and a video.
I have to say that this exercise has raised many questions in my mind regarding the way I document my work, the amount of time I dedicate to this activity and most importantly; am I successful on it?
I must say that I feel challenged, not only by the fact that now I have to document 3D pieces but also that they might exist both physically and digitally.
Last Wednesday I participated in the second session at the Tate Modern, It was a very good experience as I managed to present my work to several people and even engaged some interesting conversations, I also got some good feedback from people that do have a genuine interest towards painting.
Thanks to this experience I do know that my piece is not for everyone, while some people really spend time teleporting themselves and watching carefully, others are expecting to play a game and quit my piece after a short period of time. I am aware that this is partly because the audience of the Tate Exchange is quite broad and with a huge variety of expectations.
When reflecting on how the whole thing is displayed i.e. physical object, VR immersion, and flat screen real-time transmission, I feel that I should get rid of the teleporting feature and replace it for a continuous navegation, at the moment, my solution will be to create a path for the Camera Rig and ask the VR player to sit down and move his/her head to look around, I feel that in this way, I will get a smoother experience for both the VR player and the spectators, I will also gain control on how the piece is viewed, in the future I could find a way to allow the VR player to move smoothly around the piece and zoom in and out on specific parts of it.
I want to add that I was quite surprised to see that some really young kids really enjoyed the experience.