The Art of Portraiture in Second Life

Art Korner: Tiya Aura – The Art of Portraiture

Currently available at Frank Atisso’s Art Korner is an exhibition of avatar studies by a artist whose work is new to me: Tiya Aura, who presents a series of images under the title The Art of Portraiture, and it is a fascinating collection to view.

Avatar studies are one of – if not the – most popular forms of art and photography produced through Second Life. images take many forms, from straightforward portraiture intended for use within Profiles to complex posed pieces, often with an backdrop of some form and intended to reflect a theme (generally the title of the piece) and / or tell a single-frame story. Sill others focus on the avatar itself, tightly-focused and intended (again) to convey a narrative and / or emotional content, and so on.

Within The Art of Portraiture, Tiya very much focuses on that category of studies intended to convey emotion, offering 21 images of her own avatar and those of her friends (some subjects featured in more than one image), split between the two display spaces within the skybox gallery. Some of the images are captured in the “traditional” style of a portrait image, with the subject looking directly at the camera or in profile. Others are offset in both cropping and angle, suggesting a sudden moment caught by chance. Throughout all of them there is a deep of character.

Art Korner: Tiya Aura – The Art of Portraiture

These are images that not only capture an emotional element, many offer insight into the nature of the subject within the image, and by extension, the persona behind it. This is perhaps more evident within Tiya’s self-portraits, but is also very notable in several of the other pieces as well. Thus, this is a collection where the life – the humanness – of the avatar subjects is prevalent, and with a depth that suggests it was as much captured within the raw image as brought to the fore by considered and practiced post-processing that more than demonstrates Tiya’s artistry with digital tools.

In terms of post-processing, lighting and contrast are perhaps the most powerful tools Tiya uses to complete her work. Several of the pieces utilise lighting overlays and effects to help bright forth the emotional content, either by framing the subject so as to cast illumination around but perhaps not directly on the face, or by providing a seen, a projection of light and softer colours we must look through. Both approaches are utterly effective, as they causes one to focus in on the subject, to study eye, expression, direction of gaze, tilt of head, and thus become drawn into the sentiment Tiya saw when creating each piece.

In this the pictures within The Art of Portraiture not only offer a richness of emotion within the study of an avatar or present a glimpse of the persona projected by an avatar’s looks, they provide a subtle insight into the artist herself and how she responded to these images as she post-processed them.

Art Korner: Tiya Aura – The Art of Portraiture

Rich in form, colour, content and presentation, The Art of Portraiture is a genuinely bewitching collection of images; one that is offered – as is becoming increasingly popular within SL art circles – for sale on the basis of “pay as you feel” – the buyer set the amount they wish to pay for a given piece, rather than the artist setting the price.

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Cica’s Waiting in Second Life

Cica Ghost: Waiting

It seems like only a few days since I was writing about Cica’s Sandcastles, so I was surprised to receive an invitation to return to her installation region and witness Waiting, which opened on September 19th.

This is a very different environment to Cica’s most recent installations – Sandcastles, Lollipop, Summer Day – in that the theme here is darker, both in tone and potential meaning. However, before going into specifics, while Cica’s environment settings are always central to her work, it is particularly important that Waiting is viewed under its intended environment settings, or an important detail will be lost.

On the one hand, this is a setting where the orientation seems clear: across a desolate, parched landscape with desiccated trees hills rise hump-like or broad and flat, and on which what might be the remnants of a town stand: tall, aging buildings that stand without glass in windows or roofs on top. This all seems straightforward enough. But then there is the sky.

Cica Ghost: Waiting

Stretching from horizon to horizon, the sky is a frozen expanse of flat, parched ground hanging over the setting. And while it may be difficult to initially discern, not only are the trees towards the centre of the land stretching up towards this desolate sky – they also appear to be reaching down from it, branches interwoven like bony fingers. It is a disquieting sight, once noticed, but its and the desolate land below (or is that above, if you flip your perspective to match the “sky”?) are just the start.

As well as the empty buildings and dried-out trees, this is a setting that is home to tall figures. Stone-like grey, emaciated and with faces largely caught in shadows frowns, they are almost golem-like, looking as if they have been formed out of the clay of the Earth beneath the feet of the majority as they sit atop of the central hill (although individuals might be found elsewhere). Why they are huddled together is unclear, but they sit under the tangle of branches “growing” down from the sky – but whether the latter are trying to grasp them or simply form a canopy over them?

Thus, this is a setting with many potential interpretations. These might be aided by consideration of the quote Cica includes with the installation: time waits for no-one. It’s a truism we’re all familiar with, but how might it be applied here? Could it be a reference to the idea that while we have been caught within the worry of the pandemic, life and the world have continued to move forward without us, or might the installation reflect the idea that life is something that happens whilst we sit around waiting for something to happen, or might it mean something more personal, is a matter for how the installation speaks to you as a visitor.

Cica Ghost: Waiting

However, when visiting, do be sure to look around carefully and mouse-over things: there are some interesting characters awaiting discovery – check the trees for a couple of them; and there are the expected sit points and dances that mark Cica’s settings, but which many also not always been easy to spot (but as a clue: when all you have is a hammer…).

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  • Waiting (Luna Sea, rated Moderate)

Duna’s Simply Nature in Second Life

Janus Gallery II: Duna Gant – Simply Nature

Currently open at the Janus Gallery II at Sinful Retreat, Chuck Clip’s superb arts centre, is Simply Nature by Duna Gant. As the artist notes, this is something of a continuation of an earlier exhibition from around two years ago, entitled Poetic Lines, in that it furthers the minimalist theme started in that exhibition, turning the direction fully onto to nature. Thus, the twelve pieces offered at Janus Gallery II capture the elegant beauty of nature, as reflected in so many ways by creations within Second Life, in a marvellously minimalist style that have woven into them a central thematic thread of the interplay of light and water within nature’s realm.

This interplay is perhaps most directly expressed within the sculpture by Duna that spans the entrance to the gallery, itself called Light and Water. As well as offering an anchor for the surrounding images, this sculpture also personifies Duna’s central inspiration for her Second Life photography.

Given this, it should come as no surprise that several of the pieces offers images of the water and the sky, each of which is lightly rendered, both in terms of palette and touch; naturally drawing the eye to the further details within each piece, or which express the natural beauty waiting to be found within the sky itself or upon the ripples of water.

I have looked for those elements that, isolated from everything superfluous that surrounds them, represent by themselves a concept, a poetic line, that invites the viewer to open a door that leads them to interpret the image for themselves beyond what it represents.

– Duna Gant

Janus Gallery II: Duna Gant – Simply Nature

These are images that are almost haunting in their vacant expanse; they naturally draw the eye into them and invite the mind to frame a narrative around them. From Always with its slowly rising (or setting) Moon, through to Loneliness – to offer a minimal sense of progress around the images from lower floor to upper – there is a palpable sense of life, place and wonder, of emotion and thought, that leads the visitor onward from one image to the next, the story forming and re-forming almost prism-like as each new image is encountered. This sense of story is in some respects enhanced by the gallery itself: the dark walls and hidden entrance leaving the visitor with no distraction from the subtle, soft richness of the images.

Through her use of muted tones, minimal colour and both framing and blurring, Duna presents 12 pieces that speak to the beauty of nature, the way in which it can use the simplest of forms over and again, never repeating but also never really changing, to offer something uniquely beautiful, be it the spread of a tree against the sky or the sea, the roundness of a hill or sand dune, or the sense of escape and freedom evoked by the rolls and curls of clouds – a sense further and quite fabulously embodied by the flock of birds to be found in Get Away.

Janus Gallery II: Duna Gant – Simply Nature

An outstanding exhibition, Simply Nature speaks from and to the heart.

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Persona: emotions and self in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre Main Gallery: Hermes Kondor – Persona

Now open at the Kondor Art Centre Main Gallery is Persona, an intriguing selection of Second Life / Avatar-based images by the art centre’s owner and curator, Hermes Kondor. Intriguing, as that selection of images on display have apparently been selected by Janjii devling – although whether from Hermes’ existing collection of works or from a series of images specifically produced by Hermes with the intent to be used in this exhibition, I have no idea.

The 20+ images are a further tour de force of Hermes’ work as an artist. Each is a rich, digital collage study with an avatar focus. Either presenting a layering of colour or one if monochrome tones, each is a genuinely multi-faceted piece, a glimpse into a life offered through its layered, almost sharded finish, some of which offer a sense of the abstract, others touch upon the surreal, but each one carrying its own narrative. Collectively, these are all exceptionally tactile pieces – they draw out the desire to touch them as much as they call on us to study them and decipher their story.

According to the liner notes accompanying the exhibition, the narrative in each of these images is an intent to explore the idea of persona, the idea that we project facets of our personality depending on circumstance and audience. While this is very true as a theme within the images here, I found it to be somewhat too narrow a view, because while there is a projection of persona in these images, there is a far greater depth of emotion and a capturing of emotional expression.

Kondor Art Centre Main Gallery: Hermes Kondor – Persona

To be fair, this is touched upon within the liner notes, but it is this emotional expressionism that really comes to the fore in viewing the images. In some it is offered directly through the eyes of the subject in the image, or their expression(s), in others it is more subtle – such as the suggestion of music in Persona 091 for example. Of course, emotions and projection  / persona are inter-related, the one tends to give rise to the other; nevertheless so, allowing the mind to explore the former rather than attempting to define the latter – again for me – offered a richer experience.

These are also pieces that, whilst clearly the product of considered experimentation with software, the use of colour or tones, the structured nature of the layering within them, are obviously the result of a cartesian process, both on the part of the software itself (for obvious reasons), and the artist himself. This separates them from what we might regard as “traditional” abstract expressionism in works of art, which tends to be marked by a certain spontaneity, but it also offers a doorway into the medium of digital abstractionism  / abstract expressionism that has a unique richness of its own. Further, and in keeping with the works of Rothko, Newman and Still, these are pieces that carry a strength of symbolism that offers s further narrative avenue awaiting exploration.

Kondor Art Centre Main Gallery: Hermes Kondor – Persona

Evocative, rewarding, challenging and engaging, Personas offers multiple threads of exploration and interpretation. However, when visiting, I would perhaps suggest avoiding reading the posted curator and guest notes that sit on the gallery’s walls along with the images; not because they are in any way “wrong” or anything, but rather because doing so might constrain thinking around, and appreciation of, the images in their own right.

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Mihailsk’s Red Sky at Nitroglobus in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mikailsk – Red Sky

It was back at Dido Haas’ Nitroglobus Roof Gallery for the second time in less than a week, this time to visit Dido’s Space in the gallery (follow the bare footprints on the floor from the landing point to find it), where Greek photographer-artist Mihailsk makes his second appearance in a 3-month period, this time to offer a selection of new pieces under the title Red Sky.

Mihailsk is relatively new to the SL art scene in terms of exhibiting his work – his first such exhibition was actually the July appearance at Nitroglobus mentioned above, which took place in the main gallery space (see: Mihailsk’s Baptism of Fire in Second Life). The smaller Red Sky offers both an expansion on what made that exhibition so attractive whilst also contrasting very strongly with it.

In writing about Baptism of Fire I noted that Mihailsk – Miha to those close to him – produces work that is avatar-focused, but not necessarily avatar-centric. That is, whilst an image may include an avatar and framed in such a way to draw the eye to that avatar, it is the overall composition – pose, expression, surroundings – be they indoors or out – use of lighting and colour, etc., that are as equally as important in telling the story within the image, rather than sitting merely as a backdrop. With Red Sky, this is equally if more more true, with each of the pieces featuring – as the title of the exhibition suggests – a red sky of a deep crimson hue which serves to  additionally frame the emotional depth of each image.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mikailsk – Red Sky

Colour is oft used to define or evoke emotions and emotional responses; we talk in terms of someone “seeing red” when exceptionally angry, or of having a “black mood” or being caught in “the blues”; we believe muted tones and colours help evoke feelings of calmness or help people to relax, and so on. Red is especially evocative, as it generates so many responses / emotions / feelings. As noted here, it is often used to represent the stronger emotions of anger and rage, but at the same time it can also express the more tender – love, compassion, care; it can also express danger, the need to be careful or to keep away and, conversely it can emphasise attractiveness and wanting to attract through its use in the clothes we wear.

In his eight pieces, Miha offers six expressions / emotions with which were are all familiar: love, joy, longing, power, pain and danger, together with two pieces – Balance and Visualisation – that speak to broader themes. Within each image, the red sky / backdrop serves to reflect and enhance the sense of emotion already present through the use of other colours, pose, framing, and overall composition.

It is here that the contrast with Baptism of Fire is most evident: were the images there used darker or muted tones / monochrome shading that coalesced within each piece to express their emotion; here it is the strong contrast between the sky and other colours present – green, yellow, the tones of nature, etc., that frames the emotion. But at the same time, the use of colour / tone / shading in this way offers the same strength of narrative context through both exhibitions.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mikailsk – Red Sky

Writing in his liner notes for Red Sky, Miha states, “We are a part of the environment around us, not the main theme.” This is again evident through his work seen within this collection: the poses are natural in form, capturing simple gestures, etc., any one of us might naturally make in any situation; thus they are devoid of any sense of intentional construction, but appear as moments of life caught in a blink of a shutter, avatar and setting forming a natural balance. And here too, the crimson skies also play a role, for crimson is oft referenced as the colour of blood, the oil in our machine, so to speak, that keeps us running; thus we are reminded both through the emotional content of these pieces and the use of colour that life is not just about participating in it, it’s about experiencing it to the fullest extent we can.

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Owl at Hoot Suite in Second Life

Hoot Suite Gallery: Owl Dragonash, September 2021

Owl Dragonash is a genuine tour de force in Second Life: she curates art, organises events and artists across various venues; she organises music events (and arranges musicians for exhibitions and the like); she provides PR support to galleries and groups; she has her own blog with a focus on music, art and places to visit, and she brings an incredible amount of energy, shining enthusiasm and dedication to all that she does.

She is, in equal measure to all of the above, a gifted Second Life photographer-artist. It’s therefore a pleasure to be able to write about an exhibition of her own work she is self-hosting at her Hoot Suite Gallery in Bellisseria.

I always find visits to boutique galleries in SL a pleasure, as they offer compact exhibitions one can easily take in and appreciate. In this, Linden Homes of Bellisseria add to this simply because the fact that they are held within a house means they give a relaxed, informal air to exhibitions held within them (and the open “open plan” styles available in the Chalet and Fantasy themes potentially makes their use as exhibition spaces even more attractive).

Hoot Suite Gallery: Owl Dragonash, September 2021

With Owl hosting her own exhibition – simply entitled Owl’s Photos – this sense of relaxation is further enhanced as the visitor wanders from room, simply because it is Owl’s work offered within her own informal space, one of the rooms and the garden lightly furnished, encouraging the sense we’re being invited it to spend a while visiting. The front room of the house has been given a gentle décor of flower that lead the eyes naturally to the single image within it; an image Owl has cleverly framed so as to suggest it is a doorway (or portal) leading to a world awaiting discovery  – thus perhaps offering a touch of metaphor to passing through the doorway of the viewer and into the world of Second Life.

This is a portfolio that indicates Owl and I share a common love of images that feature both water in SL and Second Life wildlife. More to the point, however, it is a collection that naturally demonstrates Owl has an eye for capturing a moment in time on her travels, and has developed a deft touch in post-processing her images. In a couple of cases, they also show she is not afraid to experiment with her work (Playing, located in the back garden, and Half Knit on the upper floor), adding to the depth of her work.

As they do cover places Owl has visited in her travels, these are pictures that remind us of the richness and diversity of our world, featuring places such as Bellisseria and Elvion, and which stand as a reminder of places now passed into history (such as Serena Falls and Veneta Silurum), and and personal view of those that endure as timeless, beloved locations, such as AM Radio’s The Far Away, which is featured in a stunningly atmospheric image by Owl.

Hoot Suite Gallery: Owl Dragonash, September 2021

Mixing landscapes and topics that lie close to Owl’s heart, and offering a rich demonstration of her talent as a photographer-artist, Owl’s Photos will remain open through until October 1st, and is a recommended visit.

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