Spaces VR and the Comox Valley Art Gallery have collaborated to develop a creative research residency that offers participating artists the opportunity to explore virtual reality applications as a creative medium. The project provides opportunity for immersive explorations of new technology that bridge with traditional art practices through relevant forms of community engaged research, exhibition and presentation.
Spaces VR approached the Comox Valley Art Gallery to offer creative residencies for artists who have little or no experience in this medium. Currently, five artists: Angela Bedard, Cassidy Gehmlich, Clive Powsey, Emma Heitzmann, and Roxane Fortin are engaged in new projects on site at Spaces VR.
Spaces VR owner, Matt Adamson, believes that “virtual reality offers limitless potential for expression, but this is difficult to grasp without experiencing it firsthand.”
The VR creative research residency is part of Constant Change, a thematic program at the Comox Valley Art Gallery. The artists’ creative explorations will be presented at CVAG during the Constant Change exhibition.
VIRTUAL REALITY RESEARCH and CREATION / OPEN HOUSE + PUBLIC RECEPTION
Friday, May 31 2019 / 2 – 8pm
A day of artist + community interaction
This event offers all ages an interactive engagement with the virtual reality research + creation projects of artists who are participating in the Spaces VR sponsored residency that is part of the thematic program Constant Change at the Comox Valley Art Gallery. The community will have the opportunity to meet the artists, put on VR gear and be guided through the art projects presented. During the public reception the artists will share their VR experiences and thoughts about virtual reality as an art-making medium. During the afternoon there will be a remote VR station at CVAG for those who wish to take in the robotics and technology experiments presentation event running concurrent with the event at Spaces VR.
2 – 5 pm Hosted at CVAG – A remote on-site VR station will provide experience of the work by VR residency artists (concurrent with Calling All Robots event)
2 – 8 pm Hosted at SPACES VR, 468 29th ST, Courtenay– Community drop-in at Spaces VR, meet artists and engage in their work.
5 pm Hosted at Spaces VR – Public Reception / Artist Talks
This event is for all ages / donations to CVAG gratefully accepted.
CVAG’s creative residency program provides extended research and site-specific production opportunities for deepening artistic practice and fostering meaningful relationships between artists and local community.
Spaces VR approached the Comox Valley Art Gallery to sponsor a residency for artists who have little or no experience in virtual reality programs as a art making medium. Five artists: Angela Bedard, Cassidy Gehmlich, Clive Powsey, Emma Heitzmann, and Roxane Fortin have been invited to engage in creative explorations on site at Spaces VR and at a Spaces VR pod on site at CVAG. Matt Adamson, owner of Spaces VR, believes that “virtual reality offers limitless potential for expression, but this is difficult to grasp without experiencing it firsthand.”
The moment I expanded the first neon button in my Tilt Brush sketch an overwhelming sense of emotion flowed and I had to hold back the tears fearing short circuiting the expensive head gear I was wearing. Art is a personal expression for me and my exploration the first day in Virtual Reality influenced my direction of examining ‘being seen’ in the work. The first time I stepped into Virtual Reality using Google’s Tilt Brush at Spaces VR in Courtney produced feelings of limitless, fearlessness, excitement and a knowing that creating would never be the same for me again.
The 3D form, texture, size and colour are the elements that I connected with in this virtual experience. To stand inside a drawing, step further inside its components, walk behind, underneath and overtop of a drawing is amazing. To reach out and try touching something that looks tactile yet only exists while wearing the goggles is incredible. Drawing and sculpting virtually in air, while erasing or duplicating at will, creates an ease I’ve never experienced in my craft based mediums before; glass, clay, fibre. For me a blank page of a sketch book always produces a moment of unsettledness, but in VR drawing I feel a frenzied excitement to fill the empty space.
The use of black lines and colour in my Virtual Reality sketches is reminiscent to the way I use colour with my other practices. My line work is created with black lead lines in stained glass; black powdered glass and underglaze with sgraffito, a technique used in my fused glass and clay work; and black thread in my embroidery pieces. I use colour to highlight the dense black lines in a comparable way in and out of the virtual space, with sheet glass, powder, and frit, ceramic glaze, and underglaze, and fibre and threads. The colour feels alive and expressive in Virtual Reality, an energy I have not been able to attain in the tactile mediums.
I am drawn to the button shapes I have been exploring in Virtual Reality. Although these shapes are found in all mediums I work in, it wasn’t until I stood inside a 3dimensional button that I connected the wire armature structure to the armature I created and wore for a performance Eat Like a Lady where I explored my emotional intention towards food: sedation, deprivation and body consciousness.
Exploring the button as life force and armour in the work aided in looking deeper into the relationship of feeling safe hiding in the container of the known.
Brightly coloured buttons embodying true self in various states of hiding, buttoning up tightly behind layers of heavy line work of weight, claustrophobic space, and masks. While glowing lights of smoke and embers seep from the button and out of its cage, longing change, seeking calmness and boldness, to unbutton and to take up space with words, body and voice.
Additional virtual reality work by Angela Bedard:
I think one of the most fascinating things about drawing in VR is the opportunity to play with scaling. As someone who is interested in land, our connections to our environment, and how sculpture can influence that, creating objects in VR gives me a unique opportunity to see how a particular object might look in different ways. It is absolutely satisfying to be able to build a maquette in the space of minutes, and then be able to stand next to it and change its size, colour, shape, texture. In moments I can play with different ways of lighting it, standing back from it, standing inside of it, flipping it upside down, and more.
Because Tilt Brush is a drawing tool and not specifically a sculptural tool, sculptures created in VR maintain their roots in drawing in a very visible way. While using a guide can give me a finished looking object with exact measurements, if I avoid the guides then objects maintain a gestural quality from having been drawn with a movement that takes the whole body. While drawing with traditional materials arguably also takes the whole body, drawing in VR allows the artist to immediately go into their drawing, and to look through it. This opportunity for new perspectives opens up new ways of thinking about the ways drawings are made- already I am thinking of different ways of drawing with traditional materials, based on my experiences in VR.
One thing I wish I could do in Tilt Brush is indent surfaces. This may be possible, and I just haven’t discovered it yet. It would be interesting to see VR examples of traditional materials- a plaster that goes through its transformative stages and then fixes itself into a fragile rock, or a clay that can be moulded or rolled. I would like to be able to pour water- the diamond hull brush is a poor substitute for being able to change a surface by wetting it. I miss being able to leave physical fingerprints on things, even though in my work I generally try to cover them during finishing anyway.
However, the physical impressions of things that are lost in translation can be made up for in the delight of being able to immediately create worlds that can be shared- works of art that can be immediately uploaded and send across the world. I think this application has enormous potential for sharing work, and collaborating with others. I would love to be able to work on a world with artists in Ghana, or Greenland, or Chile. I think there is an important opportunity here- the possibility of being able to speak with others through the language of art, being able to physically immerse yourself into the ideas and dreams of people it would otherwise be impossible to connect to.
As you pull on the Virtual reality headset, a shroud is pulled over the physical world, and you are immersed in a world of apparently limitless “space,” where the laws of physics do not apply. Sketching with grand bodily gestures, you pull material out of thin air, that is unconstrained by the inevitable imperfections and unpredictability of tangible materials. Your scale is no longer fixed, and you can walk right through and into your ghost markings, seeing them from entirely new perspectives. Your head buzzes with possibilities, freed from its concrete bounds.
With traditional drawing, you create the illusion of depth, but when drawing in three dimensions, your hand dances through the air, tracing your brain’s projection of form in space. The process of drawing in VR is altogether physical, yet it denies a sense of tactile gratification. VR enables an image or environment to be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way. Your creation is an illusion; a simulation that lacks substance, and relies on somewhat exclusive devices to be translated to our viewers.
Experimenting with VR for the first time, I sought to bridge the gap between the physical and digital, bringing humanity into technology. With computerized creations and communications, interactions and transactions, the human experience is rapidly shifting toward the virtual. Individuals’ projections of self on the internet, like VR drawings, are often meticulously edited and carefully curated. The work I explored during this residency contrasts this, by emphasizing physicality, imperfection and vulnerability.
Between the Folds welcomes viewers into the maze of my mind, and encourages them to uncover a spattering of its contents. The virtual component is a brain-like knot of intertwined tunnels, that twist and turn around each other. Venture through the tunnels to find doodles, musings and secrets hidden within. The sculptural book component is comprised of personal materials found throughout my home, including tar paper, fabric, magazine clippings, post-it notes and photographs. The viewer must physically engage with the unwieldy book to discover what lies Between the Folds.
I would like to sincerely thank all those at Spaces VR and the Comox Valley Art Gallery for the opportunity to explore Virtual Reality. It is truly a privilege to be a part of the community exploring this emerging creative medium.
As someone trained in and deeply committed to a skill of the eye, mind and hand (drawing) I’m probably more suspicious than most of the benefits of excessive technology. I’ve nevertheless been curious enough to casually follow developments of the last few decades in both 3D modelling and more recently ‘virtual’ drawing and painting. So it was a fortunate and welcome opportunity to experiment briefly with VR drawing thanks to Matt Adamson of VRSpaces and the CVAG. I was pleased that curators Denise Lawson and Angela Somerset have seen fit to show examples of not just the virtual work of the artists involved in this project, but also their actual work.
Seeing and drawing in 3 dimensions was a novel experience, but not overwhelmingly so. VR did not open up a new psychic domain because drawing, whether 2D or 3D, is describing form and/or shape with points, lines and planes, so the shift from 2D to 3D was fairly seamless. Conceptually and even practically Tiltbrush drawing is not much different than drawing with pencil. A drawing on paper that employs linear perspective arguably creates a virtual space.
I wanted the 3D virtual drawing experience to be an extension of my drawing and printmaking aesthetics, styles and motifs. This precluded using colour and patently extravagant brushes. I settled on a line quality that seemed to imitate crayon. The Tiltbrush is a very coarse medium relative to traditional drawing materials and 2D digital drawing materials such as the Cintiq. Obviously this will improve in the future.
The onslaught of digital technologies in recent decades has made the mass production of images ever more frenzied, and this effects the value of images and how we experience and perceive images. The experience of even relatively modern visual mediums such as theatrical film are being rapidly degraded. As film maker David Lynch has wryly observed ‘…it’s such a sadness that you think you’ve seen a film on your ******* telephone.’ We could apply the same sentiment to drawing, painting and other visual art forms. Will VR provide a deeper and more considered visual experience as a result of the spectator being able to immerse themselves in drawing or painting? Or will its capacity for endless digital replication relegate VR to the ubiquity of other profligate digital media? At the moment VR enjoys a modicum of novelty and therefore perceived value. How long before VR art joins today’s interminably replicating epidemic of images? How can the working artist make a commodity of VR? The very existence of trained working artists requires what they produce images, objects and artefacts of value. Mass production, and especially digital mass production are so excessive they undermine this aspiration. Whatever existential impacts technology and constant change will have on the artist will be part of what it has in store for the future of all meaningful work, for human dignity, culture, civilization and even our survival as a species.
Additional virtual reality work by Clive Powsey:
So far, creating in VR for me has been about world building. When I’m given a space in which I can create in all directions around me, I want to find ways to fill it, to bring pieces of my imagination to life, to have it surround me. Working in VR has also been an interesting challenge for me as someone who is often restricted by physical materials and their capabilities. It’s a very different way to work where I can make almost anything I can imagine, if only I can imagine it in the first place.
Much of my art practice is inspired by the natural world and the science that lies hidden just beneath the surface. I’ve chosen to use that same inspiration to build scenes from a world that is not our own but may have some similar characteristics.
The imaginary reef is becoming populated by creatures and plants that could well exist already, or combinations of some of the strange animals that I know exist already in our oceans. In my explorations of the real forests around me, I’ve been much more aware of how much life it takes to truly make the space feel alive, and trying to bring that in to this digital realm feels like I’m taking an ocean desert and slowly re populating it into the thriving reef it is meant to be. I’m often thinking about where a specific kind of life might prefer to live while I’m creating in the world, whether it might be hiding among crevices in the rocks, perched high atop a cliff to catch the most motion from the water, or living in conjunction with another creature.
Additional virtual reality work by Emma Heitzmann: