Shuǐmò, or shuǐmòhuà (suiboku-ga in Japanese or “ink wash”), is a type of East Asian ink wash painting that uses different concentrations of black ink to create an image. It first emerged in Tang dynasty China (618–907), and is marked by the emphasis of the brushwork being on the perceived spirit or essence of the subject, rather than directly imitating its appearance.
Within Second Life, it has become a form of art exquisitely brought to life by FionaFei, who uses it to produce the most extraordinary 3D art installations. I was first introduced to her work at One Billion Rising in 2019 prior to visitingd her Shui Mo Gallery to see Wo Men Dakai, an art-as role-play environment she created using shuǐmò that had its inspiration on Joss Whedon’s Firefly series (see: Captivated by FionaFei’s art in Second Life).
I made a return to the gallery on December 10th, after Miro Collas pointed me to an announcement Fiona made via Flickr concerning her latest shuǐmò piece. Entitled Reflection, it presents a to-scale painting as a marvellous 3D environment, about which Fiona notes.
In this exhibit, I am utilising Second Life’s virtual platform to provide a new perspective on this traditional art style by adding depth, making what has traditionally always been portrayed as 2D paintings into 3D sculptures. When the viewer looks into the art, they are looking into a 3D space, and depending on the angle they are viewing it from, the art changes.
– FionaFei, describing her shuǐmò art
In this respect, Fiona is very much what Bryn Oh refers to as an Immersivist: an artist who makes use of virtual 3D environments such that the sense of immersion felt by an observer is more intense because as well as viewing the art as a static piece, they can become an active participant in it simply by moving through the piece and witnessing it from different angles.
In this respect, I do recommend stopping at the entrance to observe Reflection as a static observer first (perhaps in Mouselook). This reveals its richness as a painting. Then, after you’ve done this, either move or flycam around it to reveal the additional depth it presents as it beautifully transitions from traditional Chinese ink painting into a 3D sculpture that reveals many facets, each a painting in its own right.
Reflection is actually one of two shuǐmò installations on offer. The other might be described as a foyer / events area, sitting immediately beyond the huge red doors of the landing point. This includes elements from Fiona’s SL16B installation Umbrella Landscape. Interactive, these sit as part of a landscape where water falls to a pond of Koi and on which interactive umbrellas float. Painted board walks running from the red doors provide access to Reflections (to the left as you face the exhibition space) and a second gallery area to the right.
This second space contains Rising, an installation Fiona created for the One Billion Rising in Second Life 2019, part of the annual global event to raise awareness of the plight of women and girls who face violence and abuse in their daily lives, and the staggering fact 1 in 3 women on the planet is beaten or raped during her lifetime.
Rising represents those women who have experienced abuse who have finally been able to break free of the pain that they’ve experienced, literally rising from the darkness they have experienced. The particle figures are all hand-drawn, while the abuse they have suffered is additionally indicated by the bruised hands also being lifted up out of the darkness.
Nor is this all. The entrance hall containing the landing point includes a collection of 6 more pieces of art by Fiona. These are 3D pieces that represent scroll paintings combining both shuǐmò and guóhuà (“natural”) styles of Chinese. These are exquisite pieces, some of which are animated, and all of which are available for sale.
Fiona’s art is captivating in both form and style, marvellously capturing a traditional form of Chinese art and bringing new life to it.
- Shui Mo Gallery (Dreams, rated: General)