I’ll say up front that I’m not a great fan of the “Halloween season”. Not because I dislike horror or anything; it’s just that I sit just on the side of the age divide (and also the Atlantic) where I look upon all the fuss and things like trick-or-treating as a dubious import¹. However, every so often something comes along that is related to the “season”, and which catches my eye – such as the first iteration or two of Linden Lab’s Haunted House or the odd region design.
One such place that did this for 2021 is a modest but engaging art installation by Terrgold, which is now open at Solo Arte to form both an immersive art space and precursor to an event space that will likely see activity throughout the month.
Horror Museum is a small semi-interactive exhibit in which you can witness scenes associated if not with Halloween per se, then most certainly the annals of cinematic and written horror. The core element of the installation is a visit to a museum – or perhaps gallery would be a better description – offering a series of images drawn from the worlds and legends of horror. In one hall, for example, we can peer into a scene of Frankenstein’s laboratory; and another, Nosferatu stands as if in greeting as we pass, whilst others offer images of nightmare characters and creatures – clown and giant spiders – with more beside.
But these are not ordinary images; each is in fact a 3D setting in which visitors are invited to step and become a part of the story that has been captured. Most are fairly straightforward in their presentation of a scene, but one takes you a little further than the others, opening as it does into a chamber beyond its frame.
As well as the 3D images by Terrygold, the halls of the gallery include models of monsters and posters from a number of horror films, some of which compliment Terry’s art.
At the end of the gallery spaces is a picture called The Forest, a walk through what is often the favourite setting for horror films, a mysterious forest, this once complete with strange figures and creatures. A path winds through this forest, providing the way to the event space mentioned above.
If I’m totally honest, I’d have liked to have experienced poses within the various vignettes Terrygold provides that are more in keeping within each theme. But at the same time, producing custom poses is no easy task, and its not as if this diminish the content of Horror Museum nor the fact it is an engaging installation. When visiting, do make sure you follow the instructions at the landing point to set your environment correctly.
1. Yes, you’re allowed to shout “bah! humbug! at me for saying this (even if that does belong to the end-of-year season!).
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.
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.
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…).
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.
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.
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.
It was back to 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.
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.
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.
Dido Haas is taking a break from Second Life to enjoy a well-deserved vacation in the physical world, and in reflection of this, Nitroglobus Roof Gallery is taking a break from displaying the work of other artists in the main hall. Which is not to say it is empty: for September sees the hall host an exhibition of images by Dido herself, and quite marvellous it is!
One Day presents fourteen pieces framed around Amoretti LXXV, the 75th sonnet in a cycle of 89 written by English poet Edmund Spenser, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, relating his courtship of the well-off and beautiful Elizabeth Boyle. It is perhaps the most well-known of the cycle (itself a much overlooked collection when compared to his allegorical The Faerie Queen), opening with the line One day I wrote her name upon the strand (sand).
One day I wrote her name upon the strand, But came the waves and washed it away: Again I wrote it with a second hand, But came the tide, and made my pains his prey. ‘Vain man,’ said she, ‘that dost in vain assay, A mortal thing so to immortalize; For I myself shall like to this decay, And eke my name be wiped out likewise.’ ‘Not so,’ (quod I); ‘let baser things devise To die in dust, but you shall live by fame: My verse your vertues rare shall eternize, And in the heavens write your glorious name: Where whenas death shall all the world subdue, Our love shall live, and later life renew.
Whilst breaking with the “tradition” of such works being about an unattainable love, the subject invariably already being married and thus beyond reach (Elizabeth Boyle was single, and she married Spenser in June 1594), this is a sonnet heavy in typical Elizabethan themes / conceits: the worshipping of beauty, the idea of immortalising that beauty (aka her name) through words (despite her honest rebuttal of said claims in her recognition that her beauty and name are doomed to fade and eventually fade with death), the promise, nevertheless of bringing her immortality by doing so, and so on; and these themes are richly reflected within Dido’s One Day.
The modern equivalent of immortalising a name and its associated beauty in word and sonnet, is via the photograph. Thus within this selection we have images with focus on Dido’s avatar – thus Writing her name”. These have a subtle eloquence in their suggestion of what makes a woman memorable to society: : her looks, her make-up, her clothing., a moment captured unexpectedly. Within these images are further layers I’ll come back to in a moment.
Also to the found are several images of Dido on the beach. These are most clearly a reference / link to the opening line of the sonnet. But rather than being a simple hook on which to hang this exhibition, they also speak to something deeper within Amoretti LXXV. Elizabethan poets – Spenser included – waxed lyrical about “immortalising” their loved one’s name in writing – but invariably (and for assorted reasons) never actually use the name itself, instead leaving the reader with mere hints. Within Dido’s beach images we see this reflected in the way that we do not get a clear view of her face (her “name”, so to speak), but are left with hints thanks to the fall of hair, or distance of camera to subject, or that actual position of the camera relative to the subject, or the positioning of a parasol or seat, etc.
Elizabethan sonnets can be marked for the conceit of placing mortal love (oft bound with lust – itself perfectly presented in One Day 13) on a par with heavenly (virtuous) love. In Amoretti LXXV, Spenser in part touches upon this, proclaiming their love (and her beauty) is the kind of lover that shall continue after death (Where whenas death shall all the world subdue / Our love shall live, and later life renew.). Dido poignantly reflects this idea of beauty transcending to the heavens One Day 06 and One Day 07, both of which were captured at the fabulous Chouchou build of Memento Mori (see here for more on that stunning build).
The sestet in which Spenser makes his proclamation is a further extension of the central conceit within Elizabethan sonnets (at the end of the day, who is really being immortalised – subject or poet?). More particularly in this context, it comes after an attempt by his subject to rebuff him for his foolishness, noting that her beauty is but passing, and time and death will lead it to decay.
Whilst intended as a foil to allow Spenser his volta in to the sestet, Dido again captures the underpinning truth of the words uttered by Spenser’s love through those images depicting her avatar directly. The use of vivid red clothing One Day 14, One Day 12 and One Day 09, to draw the eye away from the face of her avatar, with One Day 14 and One Day 12 joining with One Day 08 to place her avatar off-centre. These positioning and use of colour thus causes the eye to shift focus away from the face – the name, if you will – of the subject, a visual metaphor for the passage of time dimming a woman’s beauty (and name). One Day 09 similarly presents this idea, but through the use of colour against monochrome, the bright red of the dress drawing attention away from the face (the “name”).
So it is that One Day is a richly engaging exhibition. All of the images are marvellously presented and framed in their own right, each open to offering its own unique narrative, whilst together they offer an fascinating and layered visual interpretation of Amoretti LXXV. All of which makes the exhibition – which runs tough until the end of September-2021 – a display that should not be missed.
We all have memories of childhood times, and while they can be a mix of the good and the bad or the happy or the upsetting, hopefully it is the good / happier times that stand in the majority and be recalled as we progress through life.
For those of us who lived on or near the coast during our formative years, it might be that some of those memories are about trips to the seaside: sploshing through the tide as it rolls up the beach, finding rock pools where some of the creatures of the sea – starfish, sea snails and so on – have found refuge until the tide returns, the sight of crabs scuttling their way over the warm sands, or getting out the bucket and spade to build our own fortresses of the imagination in the form of sandcastles.
With her latest installation, which opened at the start of September, Cica Ghost has offered us the opportunity to tap into those beach time memories and relive the delights of discovery and building on the sand. Called – appropriately enough – Sandcastles, its a joyous celebration of time spent at the seaside, and which offers a salient comment on life itself.
This is a place filled with the kind of sandcastles many of us might have envisioned when playing with buckets and spades: places of high curtain walls, tall keeps and graceful towers, where arches connect courtyards and sand stairs climb up to parapets and upper levels while moats stand guard, spanned by graceful bridges. Only here these designs are writ large by Cica as places we can explore and wander without any danger of accidentally treading on them and breaking them. They are true sand castles, complete the sandy stairs we can climb and wooden ladders ready to access higher levels.
Nor do they stand alone. within their walls and courtyards and across the sands on which they stand are denizens of the sea – starfish, hermit crabs, sea snails – all of them with happy faces, with many having fun we’re invited to join, be it dancing or riding see-saws. while for those who prefer something quieter, in places the sand has been shaped into benches to be sat on, or shells can be found that offer a place to curl up in.
Sandcastles is a place designed to evoke happiness and a sense of child-like release. It is also a reminder that it is important we not only keep hold of memories of happy times, we should make happy times part of the fabric of our lives, to be enjoyed and shared because – as the quote by American author and teacher Jack Kornfield that sits within the setting’s About Land description reminds us – nothing, from castles in the sand to life itself is permanent; the time will come when we will have to let things go (hence the beached whale, perhaps?).
But rather than let thoughts of the latter weigh you down too much, why not head over to Cica’s installation, grab yourself her free starfish wearable pet, and have a little fun amongst the Sandcastles?