Sansar: the art of Silas Merlin

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

I’ve been an admirer of the art of Silas Merlin since first coming across his pastel art in Second Life. A Maître Pastelliste of the Société des Pastellistes de France, his painting are remarkable, and I urge anyone who has not seen them in-world to do so. Over the last two years, Silas has also been branching out into 3D art, developing his skills as a sculptor – something I’ve been at times been privileged to witness.

For the last several months Silas has been working in Sansar, creating an experience to showcase his work. Called Felsenmeer, Silas describes it thus:

A sea of rock, peopled by creatures frozen in time. When you encounter the more detailed rocks, observe them from different angles, sometimes they reveal figures that want to be carved in more detail.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

It’s a perfect description for the setting, in which sits a large house and smaller cottage, surrounded by a field of boulders  – genuine felsenmeer, together with larger rock formations, in turn surrounded by hills.  Look closely enough at some of the rocks, and you just might see sculptures waiting to be found: one formation, for example, suggests it might become a dancing couple, or perhaps a grandfather sitting his grandson on his knee…

Other stones and boulders have already had the sculptures within them released. Finely crafted, several sit close to the house. Others, further away, have the look of being cast in bronze – as do the trees, which add a certain alien feel to the landscape.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

The ground floor of the main house is occupied by many of Silas’ circus characters, complete with one of his pastel pieces – a jester, appropriately enough. The house is also the home of a modern sculpture  – and find this, and you’ll find a ramp leading up to the upper floors (you may need to SHIFT-teleport to get onto one floor from the ramp), where more of Silas’ expressive pastels reside, together with some more sculptures; these are not to be missed, so do make sure you explore the house.

The rest of this intriguing landscape should also be explored; the landscape is all boulders and rock formations. Follow the paths outward from the house and you’ll find there are surprises to be found tucked away here and there. So don’t limit your explorations to just the vicinity of the house and cottage.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

Experience URL


Minimalisms in Sansar

Minimalisms – Zafia Vesta

Update, November 14th: when I originally posted this article, I passed a comment about it perhaps benefiting from in introduction. A few days after I posted this article, Zafia IM’d me in Second Life to offer her thanks for the piece (thank you, Zafia! Feedback like that is always appreciated!), in which she indicated she would be adding such an introduction, which she has now done (thank you, Ryan for nudging me on this!). It adds further depth to what was already a superb exhibit, being personal in nature, and I was particularly delighted to learn how Wim Mertens and Michael Nyman influence Zafia with this experience, both (Nyman particularly – hence mentioning him in the article below) having been a part of my own exposure to minimal music. As a result of the new introduction, I’ve revised the last paragraph of this article.  

Minimalism is a form of expression using pared-down design elements. It can be found in the arts, design, architecture and the use of space.

Within the arts, minimalism encompasses to 2D and 3D art, music and even performance arts. It began in post-World War II Western art, most strongly with American visual arts in the 1960s and early 1970s, where it was also known as “literalist art” and “abc art”. It can encompass works in both colour and monochrome.

Minimalisms – Zafia Vesta

Musically, the term “minimal music” was coined in the 1960s by Michael Nyman when  describing a ten-minute piano composition by the Danish composer Henning Christiansen, although the first piece of minimalist music is generally regarded as the Monotone Symphony (1949), by Yves Klein. With architecture and space, minimalism is founded on the principle that “less is more” (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) and focuses on the elegant use of lighting, the connection between two perfect planes and the space left by the removal of three-dimensional shapes.

I mention all of this as a means of introducing Zafia Vesta’s Minimalisms, her Sansar experience which brings together all of these elements in an immersive celebration of minimalism.  The space itself utilises lighting and a contrast between light and dark to great effect, while incorporating the connection between planes of colour along the single, fully definable hallway in the space, which also offers a void in keeping with minimalism, with the gap in the “roof”.

Minimalisms – Zafia Vesta

Within this pace is a series of elemental sculptures and geometric shapes – the very definition of minimalism – some of which are animated through spinning (which itself could be said to be a minimalist form of animation). These are spotlighted across the display space, inviting exploration and study. Surrounding all of this is a piece of minimal music, The Grid by Philip Glass and taking from the visual tone poem, Koyaanisqatsi, to complete the experience.

Minimalisms is an imaginative, expressive means of exploring an art form from within. As such, I hope Zafia will continue to curate the experience and add features and capabilities to it as Sansar grows.

Minimalisms – Zafia Vesta

Experience URL

The beauty of Digital Arts in Sansar

Digital Arts Gallery: from left to right – Natalie Shau, Ben Heine, Keith Webber Jr (far wall), Grégoire A. Meyer, and Martina Stipan

While it is still gaining form, Sansar is already attracting both artists and those with an interest in art, and I’m slowly working my way through the art-related experiences currently available in the Atlas and dropping into whatever catches my eye. Places such as the Digital Arts Gallery, designed and curated by Mad Max, and which focuses on the work of digital artists from around the globe – which I admit piqued my curiosity for a very specific reason when I saw the Altas entry.

The setting is well conceived and executed. Visitors arrive in a small lobby area with windows to three sides offering a view of a late evening sky – it’s as if we’re high in a skyscraper somewhere, about to enter an exclusive gallery space. A larger hall opens off this foyer space, neatly dissected by a central display area of alcoves, and which offers choice of routes through the gallery: right and through the Featured Artist display, or left through the “collected artists” section.

Digital Arts Gallery: Adam Martinakis – Golden Boy and Materialised

The Featured Artist at the time of my visit was Adam Martinakis. It was seeing his name in the Atlas entry for the experience that caught my eye; I first encountered his digital sculptures in 2012 through a piece written for Don’t Panic. I was immediately struck by the depth of his work: digital it might be, but it carries with it a realism and texture which truly makes it physical and tangible. It’s hard not to look at them and feel you’re looking at a 3D creation, one which if you could touch them, would reward you with the feel of cut stone or slick paint finish beneath your finger tips; there is a marvellous quality to the filigree elements of Golden Boy (featured in this exhibition and seen above left) which is so beautifully rendered it presents a wonderful sense of it own existence in the physical world.

The images selected for this exhibition span Martinakis’ work from 2011 through to the present. Alongside of Golden Boy, and among his more established works offered here are Love for Light,  The Departure of Innocense [sic] and The Remains of a Memory. His more recent work is also represented, and I found myself strongly drawn to Adam, rich in substance and metaphor, while Last Kiss is simply mesmerising. I do admit to hoping to see Baptised by Fire – Prometheus or The Divisions of Pleasure offered here, but only because both pieces made such an impression on me when seeing them for the first time five years ago. However, their absence in no way detracts from the exhibition.

Digital Arts Gallery: Adam Martinakis

To the left of the entrance the gallery displays selected works by Keith Webber Jr., with a focus on his Abstract Fractal series, the remarkable and simple absorbing, Martina Stipan, who at just 19 years of age is already renowned for her digital landscapes, Natalie Shau,and  the remarkable Ben Heine with a trio of his remarkable digital portraits. To the rear of the gallery is art from famous music albums and series of panels by Zoran Cvetkovic and Zdravko Girov, tracing the history of Skopje from earliest times to the 20th century.

Digital Arts Gallery is beautifully minimalist in approach, offering the perfect environment in which to showcase the work of these artists. The lighting is almost perfect, thanks to the considered use of emitters (“almost” because Ben Heine’s Marilyn Monroe was unlit at the time of my visit). Even the looped music track feels appropriate to the gallery (although I’m admittedly biased towards music with a new age Celtic leaning, particularly when a Bear McCreary like hint weaves through a part of the music, as it does here).

Digital Arts Gallery: Grégoire A. Meyer

This is an exhibition which can be visited and appreciated with or without a VR headset. When visiting in Desktop mode, I would suggest moving to first-person mode (F3) and touring the gallery to more fully appreciate the art. If you’re adept with Sansar’s (still basic) camera controls, then F4 and flycamming offers another good way to appreciate the art here (in fact, I admit to spending a lot more time flycamming in Sansar than walking or running at the moment!).

Mad Max is open to feedback on the gallery, and to suggestions for future artists he might exhibit there. I have a couple of names I’ll endeavour to get to him for consideration. Should you visit and think of an artist you’d like to offer to Max, contact details are on the rear wall of the gallery.

Digital Arts Gallery: Martina Stipan

Experience URL

A Reverse Perspective on art in Sansar

Sansar: Reverse Perspective Gallery

Art is a popular aspect of Second Life, and as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I enjoy following elements of the SL art world. So I’ve been curious to see just what might pop-up in terms of art within Sansar, and wasn’t at all surprised to see many SL 3D artists applying for the Creator Preview – among them Livio Korobase, Cica Ghost, Moya, and Bryn Oh. However, I was recently drawn to one 3D art exhibition in particular, which has  – literally – a most unusual perspective.

The Reverse Perspective Art gallery popped into my consciousness on Friday, September 1st, when I noticed it sitting high up in the Atlas listings. My interest was further piqued when, chatting at one of the Product meet-ups that same day,  Sansar user Gindipple stated how much he had enjoyed a visit, and offered it as a possible venue for a future Sansar social meet-up. So, off I went to have a look.

Sansar / Patrick Hughes: Reverse perspective: the doorway at the “end” of the tunnel is actually nearest to the observer

Designed by JackTheRipper, the gallery features reproductions of eye-crossing 3D art by Patrick Hughes of the UK. Hughes is famous for his “reverspective” art – 3D pieces in which the parts of which seem farthest away are actually physically the nearest to the observer.

He achieves this by using one or more 4-sided pyramids, ranged side-by-side and with their tops cut flat. These protrude outward from their picture frame, and have the points “closest” to the observer painted or placed on the sloping sides of the pyramid(s) and the points the furthest from the observer painted or placed on the flat tops.

This results in the described optical illusion: the parts of the art on the tops of pyramid appear to be furthest away from the observer, while the elements of the pictures on the sloping sides of the pyramids appear to be much closer to the observer – as if the complete image is inset into the frame holding it, rather than protruding outward from it. A further optical effect can be achieved by moving from side-to-side in front of one of Hughes’ works (or by turning one’s head gently from side to side), which results in the picture appearing to “move” and change perspective from the observer’s viewpoint.

All of this is perfectly recaptured within the Reverse Perspective Art gallery, where  some sixteen pieces are arranged in a minimalist, but effective, setting of four corridors arranged into a square, the images displayed on either wall of each hall. Ideally viewed using a VR headset (where only slight head movements are required to witness the optical effects of the images), the gallery can also be enjoyed in Desktop mode in one of two ways.

Sansar: Reverse Perspective Gallery– the stores appear to be close to the camera, the high-rise buildings further away

The first is to follow the instructions provided next to the experience spawn point: switch to first-person mode (F3) and walk to the red triangle before an image, face it, and then walk to the left and right. The camera will move smoothly left/right across the picture as you do so, revealing its optical illusion.

The second, if you are reasonably proficient in free-flying the camera, is to tap F4 and do so, advancing down the corridor, turning to face each picture and then sliding left/right – remember you can fine tune (slow down) your camera motion speed using the numeric pad minus (-) key. When viewing the pictures, it’s best to move left/right in front of them in one fluid movement, rather than via repeatedly tapping either arrow key or A/D. This will reveal the optical effects of each image more perfectly.

Sansar: Reverse Perspective Gallery – showing how the image is produced, the “foreground” shops are painted on the sides of the pyramids. The “far away” high-rise buildings on the pyramid tops

Simple in presentation, this is nevertheless an effective demonstration of Hughes’ art, and demonstrates yet another way in which an artist’s work can potentially reach a much wider audience and be enjoyed as intended, than might otherwise be the case.

Experience URL