Bif’s wings of wonder in Second Life

AmandaT Tamatzui Gallery: Bif Mopp, November 2021

If it seems my recent art reviews have been somewhat focused on artists who bring their work from the physical world into Second Life, then there is a simple explanation: it’s because they are. Admittedly, some of it is simply down to the manner in which I receive invitations or find them within the various art group notices I frequently check; however, it is also because  – contrary to the statement I’ve heard made more than once – I think SL is actually a very good medium for artists to present their physical world art as much as it is for presenting in-world images.

Take Bif Mopp, for example, whose work is now being displayed at the AmandaT Tamatzui Gallery, owned and curated by AmandaT Tamatzui, who is herself an accomplished professional artist in the physical world who hails from New Zealand. Bif is a most extraordinary artist who dedicates a good portion of his talent and portfolio to aviation paintings, capturing aircraft, military and civil and of times past and times present. And he does so with amazing skill and imagery, perfectly capturing his subjects in all of their majesty and / or going about their business. Such accuracy, in fact that his work has been displayed not only in galleries, but also aviation museums – and even the office of a former US Air Force Chief of Staff.

AmandaT Tamatzui Gallery: Bif Mopp, November 2021

As an aviation enthusiast myself, I was immediately captivated by the paintings presented within this exhibition, not only because of their technical accuracy – I challenge anyone with a love of aviation through the 20th century not to be able to recognise any of the aircraft here, even when viewed at a distance, such is the skill with which Bif have portrayed them – but because each image carries within it an entire story of an aircraft, and / or its era and or / or pilot.

Take, for example, 27 August 1941 (which I’ll state up-front is my favourite among favourites within this selection). At first glance, it is very obviously a Supermarine Spitfire Mark IID, possibly from the Battler of Britain. However, the markings reveal it to be aircraft P7308 of No. 71 (Eagle) squadron, one of three squadrons so-called as they were formed with volunteer pilots from the United States.

In particular, this aircraft was flown by Pilot Officer William R. Dunn, a man so determined to fly with the RAF, he lied his way into the Canadian Army (claiming he was from Moosejaw, Saskatchewan!), then once in the UK sought a transfer to the RAF, making a “pen slip” on his application form, so that it was believed he had 560 flying hours under his belt (500 being required to be accepted for pilot training), rather than his actual 160. In particular, on August 27th, 1941, Dunn’s squadron was escorting RAF light bombers over France when they engaged with enemy fighters. Dunn took two out before his own aircraft  – and Dunn himself – took hits, forcing him to return across the channel and a trip to hospital. He eventually re-joined the war as a member of the US Army Air Force – and already recognised at the first American fighter Ace of WWII (and in conclusion, I’ll note that Dunn went on to a distinguished USAAF/USAF career and became an artist himself).

AmandaT Tamatzui Gallery: Bif Mopp, November 2021

It’s a story that brings the image even more to life, as do the stories bound within other paintings here – such as the long tradition of Dallas Doll, (Buzz Job), the P51D Mustang flown by the 352nd Fighter Squadron, US 8th Air Force and which still flies today, a favourite of several aviation artists. Then there is Bunker Hill, with its Corsair fighter (as piloted by ace Lt. Dean Caswell), showing just how small and lonely the deck of an aircraft carrier can be on an ocean as big as the Pacific – and the relief felt on finding it in the fading light of day, a sentiment also shared by Almost Home. Elsewhere, US Mail evocatively captures the pioneering days of the US air mail service as exemplified by the men who flew the rugged Pitcairn Mailwing, specifically designed to ply US government airmail routes of the 1920s and 1930s, while a high-flying DC3 hails the aircraft that really kick-started mass passenger transport after the end of WWII.

Rounded-out by a trio of beautiful landscape / seacape, this is genuinely a superb exhibition, and SL aviators from across the grid (as well a lovers of art) really should come and see.

AmandaT Tamatzui Gallery: Bif Mopp, November 2021

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