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.
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.
I am obsessed with the idea of depicting visual reality in a way that comes closer to how I truly experience it.
I ask myself if visual reality evolves through time and space, why should the image of that reality remain still and flat?
I feel that the depicting potential of the image is undermined by the restrictions imposed by the flat canvas and geometric perspective systems.
I WANT TO SET THE IMAGE FREE TO ACHIEVE ITS FULL DEPICTIVE POTENTIAL
Since I started using digital technologies like 3D modelling software, and Virtual Reality, I realised that, inside these environments, the image becomes malleable matter, a new material full of visual ingredients.
I give shape to this malleable element by exploring the architecture of spatial metaphors e.g. the tunnel, the cave, and the landscape. The end result is a 3-dimensional piece full of visual information. I call it THE META-IMAGE.
Sometimes I leave the META-IMAGE as it is, other times I materialize it through 3D printing and/or sculpture and finish it using traditional media i.e. painting, drawing, and black & white photography.
At the moment, I am also using photogrammetry to build 3D models of the final piece, and then navigate them through Virtual Reality.
Since last week, I have been trying to create a 3D model of my latest painted piece; it has been a fun nightmare.
My previous model was quite challenging as it required me to go take more than 400 photographs and required 3 different sources of light to get rid of most of the shadows, however, I only needed to use one side of it so everything worked at the end.
My new piece is quite different, in order to allow people to navigate it from inside, I have to create a 360 model of it, this sets a bigger challenge for proper lighting and placing on the space.
My first idea was to hang it so a could take photos from all the angles, that did not work because it is impossible to keep it still inside of the studio, apparently, a ghost breeze lives within the room.
Next, I did take lots of images placing the object in three different positions over a plinth, so far I was able to make good enough models from three chunks of the original piece, now I have to figure out how to stitch them.
I think that this “chunk” process might be the best way to go, although it is a bit annoying to put the pieces back together, this workflow might allow me to create bigger and complex pieces without worrying too much about RAM processing limits and might be a modular approach for model handling.
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.
Trough this summer I had a great opportunity to work with artist Jennet Tomas, when I met her she told me she was working in a commissioned project she was going to exhibit at Block 336 in the middle of September, when she explained me her idea for a video I suggested to help her by making some 3D animations of one of the characters, she accepted so we spent the next moths sharing thoughts and animating the 3D characters I made using photogrammetry.
I was also involved in the production of the exhibition, It was a great experience that allowed me to meet more artist while gaining experience on how to deliver a big show.
This is the trailer for the show, here you will see bits of the 3D animations I made.
I am interested in the depiction of reality , In my work I want to challenge the traditional use of flat surfaces and fixed geometric perspective systems as fundamental values of naturalistic representation.
My practice is based in both physical and digital grounds and involves the use of a wide range of techniques in order to manipulate and expand the representational possibilities of the image i.e painting, sculpture, photogrammetry, 3D modeling, 3D animation, and Virtual Reality applications.