Sunday, January 2022 saw Cica Ghost open her latest installation in Second Life – just in time for us all to have some extra New Year’s fun.
Funday offers a strange, partially-ruined town, a place where buildings are often lacking the accepted number of walls and roofs, and where courtyards and floors sit partially exposed, partially broken, while roads and paths are entirely absent – the way to get around is to simply wander over grass and under the trees.
However, this is not a place of ruination; rather it is a place of contrasts and brightest; a playground, if you will. Paintings of flowers and windows brighten walls – one of which has Cica’s smiling face peeking down on those below, and another of her playing with a butterfly; washing lines are draped with oversized socks and jumpers, and run between towers and poles, suggesting they could by shimmied along, Nor are all the buildings in ruins; a number of them form thin, squat towers sitting upon pedestals, some of which can be reached by ladders.
Scale is something that doesn’t matter here; chairs suitable for avatars mix with couches (and floor lamps!) big enough for giants. Meanwhile, the local inhabitants – cows, sheep and chickens – suggest a farm may once have been a part of the setting, while the local ponds are home to decidedly oversized frogs and a water worm.
Given this is a build by Cica, there is also a mix of interactive elements (including the seats mentioned above) awaiting discovery, allowing visitors to enjoy a dance or two and even perform some acrobatics.
Easy to explore and with elements that match its the first part of its name, Funday presents an easy way to relax and enjoy Cica’s creativity.
Melusina Parkin is a Second Life photographer whose work never fails to impress and attract. Her images are among some of the most unique to be found in SL; beautiful blendings of focus, colour, tone, subject, angle and minimalist presentation that present us with highly personal yet resonant photographs that bring her subjects to life in a way that never fails to attract.
Generally building her exhibitions around an idea or theme, Melu uses her camera not only to present that theme, but to explore it, observe it, and even question it – or cause us to question what we are witnessing, thanks to her ability to offer not just a a moment in time, but an actual phrase within a wider narrative, inviting our imaginations to define what that wider narrative might be.
Which does not mean Melu’s art cannot be enjoyed simply in and of itself; all of her images are so perfectly composed and composited, that they stand as individual pieces that can be appreciated purely for the artistry they contain, without the need to plumb deeper ideas or thematic elements.
With Shining Lights, now available at Frank Atisso’s Art Korner, Melu explores the world of the signs and lights that illuminate our city nights, as presented within in Second Life. In doing so – as she notes herself – she follows in the footsteps of Walker Evans and other;, photographers who frequently used signage, billboards and the like as a means of adding depth to their photographic documentation of American life (Evans perhaps pioneered the technique whilst employed by the Farm Security Administration, documenting the impact of the Great Depression in the 1930s, and often returned to the subject of signage and billboards through his career, particularly during his 22 years with Time Inc..
Within this collection, Melu again offers her unique approach to her work – that use of angle, focus, depth of field, etc., that allows her to present the Shining Lights of Second Life in a manner that – thanks to her use of darkness / night to offer contrast to the bright glow of lights whilst avoiding wider structural detail – is again very minimalist in tone and feel, even when the colours are rich and bright.
Even for those of us very familiar the the neon glow that flows through our cities, Melu offers us completely new ways of looking at the night signs of a city, inviting us to view them not so much as informational / promotional elements designed to invite or entice, but rather as expressions of art in their use of colour and – particularly with neon lights – flow. Within this is also the hint of narrative – what are the lives being lead behind the glowing windows of high apartment blocks or who might be working within the illuminated of high office buildings.
Some of the images – consciously or not – touch on memes and tropes that too often get trotted out about SL – take Shining Streets 2, Shining Streets 3, and Shining Streets 8, for example. Others might be more emotive in the way they encourage memories of visits – real or virtual; or they simply give us pause to reflect on the art of the neon lighting itself, as noted above; an intricate form of lighting with its own form and flow.
There is something else within these images as well. We often talk about the beating heart of a city – the pulsing of life through the veins of its streets as we all come and go about our daily lives, travelling on foot, by car, by public transport, eating, talking, working, laughing, shouting through the hours of daylight. But at night, that pulse of life is changed; we still flow through the streets, we still meet and talk and dine and allow ourselves to be entertained, but only because we have the lifeblood of lights, be they neon, fluorescent, LEDs, OLEDS, incandescent, and so on – that holds back the night and like our ancient, primal times of pre-history, give us the sense of comfort and protection we still very much need.
Within Shining Streets, Melu beautifully reminds us of this: under the bright glow, the high fingers of illuminated windows and the invitations, the lights of our shining streets – always seen, if their artistry is rarely noticed – give us companionship and holds off the darkness that might otherwise leave those same streets not only darker, but also more threatening in their layered shadows.
All told, Shining Streets is another captivating exhibition from one of Second Life’s most expressive photo-artists, and one more than visiting.
I recently received an invitation from Vally Ericson (Valium Lavender), owner of the ValiumSL regions in Second Life, to visit a new exhibition of images now on display at the Art Street Gallery, located in the air above the Valium regions. Entitled The Eternal Leave, the exhibition is devoted to the striking avatar studies of Gianmario Masala, an artist whose work I cannot remember previously encountering – which, having spent time viewing The Eternal Leave, I cannot help but regret.
Multi-talented, Gianmario received a Master of arts in Architecture after studying in Milan, and is also recognised as a musician and a motion picture set designer. In particular, he is an accomplished photographer, his work having been displayed in several collective exhibitions in Milan, Turin and Naples. In addition he has also mounted solo exhibitions, including Il parco agricolo sud Milano (“The agricultural park south of Milan”), displayed in Milan, Vigevano and Naples; and Harmonia, exhibited in Finland.
Having entered Second Life in 2007, he was quickly drawn to the potential of photography within our virtual world, and started exhibiting his work in 2008. In 2010, his series Women Portraits was displayed on the metro stations of Milan as a part of a collaboration involving the Italian community of Arte Libera/2Lei in Second Life and the Brera Academy of Milan.
In both the physical world and within Second Life Gianmario’s art covers both landscape images and portraiture / avatar studies. His work involves considerable experimentation with a range of techniques from long duration exposures through to the skilled application of post-processing techniques and tools.
I try to create artistic images through post-production, giving them the aspect of a painted artwork. Through the variety of texture layering as a background, together with use of colour and focus, I try to give give the sensation of paintings of past centuries. In highlighting elements by fractured textures, I invite a sense of uneasiness, putting “beauty” up for discussion in order to reach a more deep sense of “truth”.
– Gianmario Masala on his art.
For The Eternal Leave, Gianmario offers a selection of his avatar studies that bring together all of this in the most engaging of exhibitions spread throughout the various levels of the gallery. Mixing colour images with those in monochrome tones and / or black and white, these images are extraordinary in their richness of presentation and depth of narrative.
As a photographer, Gianmario notes he is influenced by some of the greatest painters down through the ages through to some of the most noted cinematographers and directors of the 20th and 21st centuries. This is also much in evidence through the images offered within this exhibition. The narratives, drawn as they are from classical art and from the central inspiration of music by English electronic band Massive Attack, are presented through the mix of subject, pose, colour, tone, camera angle and post-processing, whilst also opening the door on that discussion as the the nature of beauty and it truth.
With the holiday period upon us, we’ll all possibly have more time for our SL explorations and travels, and when it come to art exhibitions, I can think of none better to visit for its breadth of presentation of avatar studies and portraiture than The Eternal Leave.
Yes, this exhibition is me. Me, the explorer in SL, who travels from light to dark, from colour to monochrome, depending on the mood and moment.
Each of my works expresses a moment with a different mood. Sometimes visible and sometimes hidden. But do not try to look for hidden meanings and symbolism behind the images, because there is none.is none. All my images represent an aspect of me/show a part of who I am.
– Mihailsk in Ego, his latest exhibition
I first encountered the photography of Mihailsk in July 2021, at his very first public exhibition. Despite being active in SL for several years, he had only relatively recently entered the world of SL photography and artistic creation, and his first exhibition came as a result of encouragement on the part of Dido Haas, who hosted that exhibition – and indeed, Mihailsk’s second exhibition – at her Nitroglobus Roof Gallery(see: Mihailsk’s Baptism of Fire in Second Life and Mihailsk’s Red Sky at Nitroglobus in Second Life).
From the start, I was captivated by his approach to Second Life photography; whilst avatar-centric, his work is not precisely focused on his avatar as a subject for / of study in the manner of many SL photographers; rather he utilises his avatar as part of a larger canvas, one that brings together both avatar and location (as in region, rather than constructed studio setting) to offer an expression of a moment, a mood; something reflective of his own mood at the time the image was created. And I’m not alone in finding his work captivating.
Further appreciation of his work can currently be gained at Art Korner Gallery II, curated by Frank Atisso., where Mihailsk presented his largest exhibition to date. Comprising more than 30 pieces specifically produced for it, Ego is a remarkable journey through the art and mind of the artist. And by “journey”, I am not just talking metaphorically; the pieces again represent the artist’s explorations of many popular places in Second Life, and have also been arranged in a manner that takes us on a journey through them, as we pass through seven rooms within the gallery space, each one offering at least 5 images.
The images in each room carry a theme, defined by the use of a selected colour. The colours used include green (nature, and our relationship with the natural world), yellow (the Sun, life, warm (of feel, touch, etc.)), blue: tranquillity and coolness (of thought and emotions) and monochrome (purity/ clarity of thought and emotion – as in seeing everything in black and white). Each room also includes a quote or passage by a writer or poet, the majority of whom hail from Mihailsk’s native Greece, although in the first room is a piece by George Gordon Byron, better known as Lord Byron, that might be taken as an exhortation of how to live life, and which can also be seen as a code by which Mihailsk approaches his art.
The use of the quotes within each each is particularly interesting, because while Mihailsk states that his images are not intended to carry “hidden” meaning or symbolism, the words nevertheless encourage us to a certain outlook that cannot help but add a further layer of possible meaning or interpretation to the pieces in each room. At the same time, thy offer us insight into the artist’s thoughts and moods whilst capturing and processing each piece.
Expressive, vital, and beautiful in the manner in which they frame avatar (either Mihailsk or Dido) together with setting / background with little more than a pose (remember, these are not images that us purpose-built sets, but have been captured during Mihailsk’s travels through Second Life), Ego (the word in this instance being used in its purest sense: to mean “I”, or “me”) is a compelling exhibition, and will be available for people’s appreciation through the Christmas period. When visiting, done make sure you have your viewer set to Use Shared Environment (World → Environment) and have Advanced Lighting Model enabled (Preferences → Graphics).
Asperger Syndrome (AS or sometimes referred to just as Asperger’s (without the “syndrome” when used with the apostrophe)) is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests. As a pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome is distinguished by a pattern of symptoms rather than a single symptom, and can be demonstrated by sufferers in a variety of ways, and also presents them with numerous means of dealing with it in their daily lives.
Xia (Xia Chieng), for example, has found a means of addressing the condition through art, using oils and watercolours to express the feelings and emotions she experiences and to give a sense of the her personal situations, outlook and experiences.
If anything, this is a more expressive exhibition that either of the previous two; not because there is more art on offer through this exhibition, but because Zia herself provides a commentary on her art and her life that takes us deeper into her art and her exploration of self.
I see artistic creation as a tool for self-transformation and healing, a way to dialogue with my internal demons and those of our culture, a means to create my own myths with which one moves through the world.
I am on a personal journey; personal exploration into the essence of life, the relationship between the relationship between my senses, ideas and perceptions and the external world; my conception of space and substance. Only things that are personal can be truly real for me.
– Xia Chieng
As a result, this is a powerful series of self-portraits that delve into Xia’s world, each telling a specific tale or mood whilst also being placed into groups defined by both style of the art itself and a collective narrative that flow through them. In this, there is an incredible amount of care and thought that has gone into this exhibition – up to and including Xia’s spelling of “Assburguer’s”, which she notes is a common mis-spelling of the syndrome used by those afflicted by it), all of which further deepens the power and personal nature of the art in display, making it an exhibition best explored through Xia’s words more than my own.
My art is narrative, but not literary, it tells stories but does not create their meaning. It may not mean anything more than we can individually feel. My work is a thing, an object, presented to you for your pleasure and for my relief. It just is what it is. It is not explained alone. I found in art and Second Life a way to escape from the ordinary world, creating my own worlds.
– Xia Chieng
Hence why these are images that should not just be taken physically or literally, there is a metaphorical / symbolic element to them as well – hence the use of the keyhole in Xia’s forehead in several of the images in the case of the latter, and with pieces like Memento Mori, Shadowman, The Keys and Lying Mirror.
But it was in art that I found away to express my feeling and thought. with this I do not pretend that others understand me, but that I find in it a way of knowing myself and transcending what torments me.
– Xia Chieng
Thus, Assburguer’s Mood Diary is an exceptionally powerful, emotive selection of art, and one that I – again – highly recommend.
Towards the start of the year I wrote about the simply brilliant art of Kraven Klees, at the time being exhibited at Chuck Clip’s Janus Gallery I, Sinful Retreat (see: The digital mastery of Kraven Klees in Second Life). It therefore seems only right that as the year draws to a close, I return to Sinful Retreat and the Janus Gallery III, where Kraven is again the guest artist – and once again, presents a simply magnificent select of his work.
While it is a term more usually applied to the world of film and the idea of cinematic collaboration, it’s hard to look at Kraven’s digital art and not see him as a auteur. By taking photographs and combining them with both fractal generating software and assorted art genres – impressionism, abstractionism, surrealism, Kraven works subjectively to bring together multiple ideas and techniques to create pieces that are stunningly layered and narratively rich.
Within Twisted Imagery, we are treated to all of this and more. Whether a piece utilises an iconic image as its basis – such as with Shhh, featuring Pete Humphreys’ finger-on-lips David Bowie – or offers a landscape that offers us a glimpse of autumnal warmth not only through the use of colour, but also through the manner in which the use of fractals creates a sense of flow within its lines (Autumn Road), all of the the pieces on display are an utter delight to behold. Wrapped within all them is not only a use of fractal generation, but also touches of abstraction, impressionism, realism and surrealism.
In terms of narrative, these are pieces are as equally as engaging. In some, the narrative is as layered as the piece; in others it forms a symbiosis with the art. Take Welcome My Son on the upper level of the gallery, for example, together with Peyote alongside of it. In the first, we have a richly layered narrative: there’s the natural protectiveness and comfort in the way the father is holding his baby son, the suggestion that the babe is either new or recently born; there’s then the sense of wonder and confusion in the baby’s eyes while his overall expression of calm suggests he is being comforted by that parental warmth, and finally the colours and swirls give the depth of emotion and feeling – pride from the father, and trust and peace from the child.
Beside it, Peyote sits as a piece and title that both inform one another, working in a symbiosis that carries us into the world of native American Indians. Both evoke the manner in which the spineless cactus, rich in psychoactive alkaloids, has played a central medicinal roles in American Indian culture, and also its use without non-medicinal “vision quests”. Meanwhile, those seeking a rich presentation of surrealism need look no further than the exotic Clockhead, whilst on the lower level, 101st Airborne presents a richly evocative piece that draws on paintings that commemorate the US military, thus taking us in yet another direction.
All of the above really just scratches the surface of Kraven’s art, both as a whole and within Twisted Imagery as an exhibition of selected pieces. I say this because all of his work has a depth – in content, colour, narrative, and style – that is genuinely unique. As such, this is (again) an exhibition that should not be missed by anyone with a passion or interest in art.