Lalbu’s Desert at DiXmiX

DiXmiX Gallery: Lalbu

Now open at DiXmiX Gallery, curated by Dixmix Source is Desert, which I understand is the first exhibition by artist Lalbu. Unfortunately, as Dixmix maintains the habit of not providing bylines on the artists who display at the gallery (marking DiXmiX Gallery as one of the few that doesn’t), I have no idea who Lalbu is, nor can I tell you any more about them.

In fairness, the lack of further information might be because that is how the artist would prefer things – but without any outline commentary supplied by the gallery, it’s hard to know.

DiXmiX Gallery: Lalbu

That said, from an art appreciation standpoint, a lack of background information doesn’t prevent one from recognising this series of images for what it is: a remarkable set of studies offering a glimpse of life in the sub-Saharan / Sahel region of Africa. Each image is focused on a single figure, dressed in what might be regarded as “traditional” desert garb. Female and male, these are intense studies, an entire story written into each one of them.

Such is the emotional depth of each piece, coupled with pose, framing and tone, we don’t need the accoutrements of daily life to recognise these people and the lives they live in what is one of the hardest regions in the world to live on a daily basis. Every single picture speaks volumes in the most marvellous way. Looking at them, it is impossible not to be drawn into the tales that have to tell.

DiXmiX Gallery: Lalbu

Take Desert #12 as an example. A close-up profile of a man standing at what might be the entrance to his tent. There is an intensity in his eyes that speaks volumes: intelligence, determination – love; emotions reflected in the soft turn of his lips. But there is more to the image as well: notice the slight scar under his left eye that has a story of its own to tell. Each picture in this collection has a similar depth and layering of story to tell.

As a total aside, I’ll also confess to being drawn to Desert #12 for another reason: the question of who may have been the model / inspiration for the piece. Was this an avatar study post-processed to resemble a painting or is it – as I lean towards – and original piece of art; and if indeed the latter, might the actor Michael Dorn served as inspiration for the piece, because the profile resemble is uncanny.

DiXmiX Gallery: Lalbu

And this is why it really would be nice to know more about Lalbu – because the truth is, these images are so remarkable, the story behind them, which necessarily involves the artist, deserves to be told.

Nevertheless, this  is definitely not a exhibition to be missed.

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Water and a Matrix: reflections on life by Akim Alonzo

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Water

It may seem a little unfair presenting two reviews of exhibitions at the same gallery space in such short order, but the fact is the Itakos Project, curated by Akim Alonzo, is currently hosting exhibitions by Awesome Fallen and Akim himself which I personally feel should not be missed. Having covered Awesome’s Simply Dreaming just a day ago (see Awesome Fallen at the Itakos Project in Second Life), with this piece, I’m diving into the what might be referred to as “an exhibition of two halves”, both of which feature collections of Akim’s own work.

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

Ansel Adams, The Camera, 1980

Ansel Adam’s words have been the foundation of Akim’s approach to photography, and of the Itakos Project as a whole – and this is clearly demonstrated in both of the displays of art he has on display within the gallery at the time of our visits.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Water

Split between the gallery’s entrance level and the floor above, and occupying the Black Pavilion area, Water is a collection of 12 images focused on the titular subject. However, these are not simply studies of seascapes, coasts or similar. Rather, they are examinations of our complex relationship with water. We are conceived into water, life came from water, we are water; it both defines us and stands as something of a metaphorical image of human life and relationships, all of which Akim sums up in his liner notes on the exhibition.

We are Water and we can not live without it. Sometimes we are like islands lost in the sea, or we float in lush archipelagos full of life. Water brings with it the meaning of survival, it is the immaterial substance of the flowing time, it is the depth of the human soul, of the vital emotions, of joy and fear, fury and tranquillity, of solitude and of love. Water moves me, I am Water.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Water

Thus, through this mix of monochrome and soft colour images we are offered the most stunning of image poems, each of which tells something of that complex relationship. These are pieces of such depth and narrative, they cannot be taken at a single glance; time is required to fully absorb their beauty and hear their myriad whispers. But that said, even looked a briefly, each speaks volumes about Akim’s eye and mind as a photographer; there is little doubting each piece has been influenced by the full breadth and depth of his artistry and all that has influenced it.

The Matrix, the second “half” of Akim’s overall exhibition on display, is located on the floor above the entrance level, within the Orange Pavilion. Its found influence is perhaps more obvious – that of the Matrix movie franchise; however, like Water, it is actually quite complex in foundation and presentation, as Akim again indicates in his liner notes:

These photos are loosely based on the cult movie The Matrix, which I loved a lot. A metaphor for a world of people trapped in a simulated, virtual reality that has many aspects in common with the Second Life world. So I imagined, listening to the Matrix soundtrack, avatars and life scenes in second life revealed in their intrinsic background network … of which we avatars do not realise.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Matrix

So it is that we are presented with nine images, again rich in metaphor and narrative. Framed by the ideas of the movies, as given form by the soundtracks, they also encompass an observer’s view of Second life coupled with a user’s innate understanding of the platform, with broader influences such as dream echoes and, stirred into the mix.

As with Water, these are pieces rich in story and interpretation. Within them lie questions of reality and identity, and the riddle of worlds within worlds – the Chinese Boxes to which Akim refers –  which not only extend inwards through the images, but also outwards to encompass each of us as we view them.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Matrix

In this, the reference to the Matrix is taken a stage further: not only are these images an interpretation of the films as layered within the virtual realm of Second Life – they actually reflect the central idea of the film: that were are all in fact unwittingly operating within a virtual realm. We are thus as much a part of each of these images, a further layer, if you will, that is observed from somewhere beyond us, as much as we are observers of each image.

However, there is something else here as well; a more innate statement on our relationship with Second Life itself. Within these pictures is a subtle reminder that, no matter how hard we might try to distance self from character within SL; no matter what the roles we play in-world, the backstories we build, the fact remains that facets of our own natures, our own identities, will inevitably be impinged on those characters; they are, inevitably, and by their very nature, a projection of self into the virtual. What’s more, their daily encounters and experiences within the virtual realm inevitably reflect and inform upon our physical selves. We have a genuinely visceral intertwining between the “real” and the “virtual”.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Matrix

Together or individually, Water and The Matrix are two absorbing, evocative and engaging selections of art by a master photographer, artist and storyteller.

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Awesome Fallen at the Itakos Project in Second Life

Itakos Project: Simply Dreaming

In 2017, Akim Alonzo launched the Itakos Project as a Linden Endowment for the Arts installation with the aim of presenting the work of SL photographers who, through their images, engage upon story-telling or presenting the ideas of stories, or who seek to present beauty and emotion through their study of the avatar and the worlds around it (see The Itakos Project in Second Life). However, I confess I lost track of the gallery after its 6-month LEA run came to an end. So an invitation to view a new exhibition at the gallery – now in its own location – offered the perfect reason to resume my acquaintance with it.

Simply Dreaming is a remarkable selection of pieces by Awesome Fallen, an SL artist whose work I’ve always been drawn to for her richness of narrative and opening of the imagination. With this exhibit, she presents twelve images on the subject of dreams and dreaming, located in the gallery’s entrance level Grey Pavilion. Surreal, marked by the use of heavy and dark colours and tones, these are perhaps images of the darker side of dreams and dreaming.

Itakos Project: Simply Dreaming

Each is  – and I use this term deliberately, despite the dark tones and subject presented – a beautiful representation of an instance of a dream; the moment of recollection we can all have when awakening from a period of REM sleep, a single frame of our dreaming thought processes captured in the lens or the mind, or which is retained and held subconsciously and returns to us at the first moment of waking in the morning.

In this, the surrealist nature of the images is entirely fitting on at least two levels. The first is that dreams are always linear or logical; as the brain processes its way through our sleep, cataloguing, filing, recalling – or doing whatever really is going on in our dream state – we can become observers to those processes without really being aware of what if going on or why. Thus the mental images that we regard as dreams can be both vivid and ethereal; images lying one over the other, some clear and fresh or vibrant in their emotion (if not necessarily in their colour), others faded and faint. Within their mixing we oft encounter surreal views and disjointed images or flashes of thought that are sharded and broken or at least confused.

Itakos Project: Simply Dreaming

So it is with this images that were are presented with contrasts and juxtapositions: faces split; images that offer a clear view of a subject and a shadowed reflection in the darkness; figures of menace; faces lost; scenes that might be from the day’s activities but turned by the churn of mental processes into scenes that aren’t quite right; negative thoughts and feeling that have become personified. A tumult  of emotions and thoughts given form to become surreal stories without clear narrative except the emotional response they create.

The surrealism approach is also fitting when one considers the origins of this form of art – that of developing painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. The surrealist movement embraced Freud’s work with free association, dream analysis, and the unconscious. Thus, by presenting these images in a surrealist form, Awesome not only maintains the movement’s idealism, she actually offers a visual treatise on the nature of the movement itself, literally taking the art back to its roots through the presentation of dreams as scenes.

Itakos Project: Simply Dreaming

There is more layering to be found within these images. Take for example the stanza-like line repeated in each of them: On the canvas of your soul, with the tips of my fingers, drawing smiles with the colour of my feelings… Not only does this provide a thread that draws all twelve images into a tapestry; it also suggests that through these images Awesome is offering us windows into her dreams – and into our own. In this latter regard, it is perhaps tempting to see these images as perhaps autobiographical, the capturing of personal dreams; this may be the intent, but equally all twelve pieces speak to our own psyches, offering a means for our subconscious to respond. Hence why, perhaps, on seeing these works we might all feel an odd sense of familiarity and recognition as we look upon them.

A fascinating and absorbing collection.

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Theatre: a story in pictures in Second Life

Diotima Leisure and Culture Gallery: Ana Oceanida

Opened on April 7th, 2019 at the Diotima Leisure and Culture Gallery, is a new installation by Spanish artist Ana Oceanida, featuring 2D images presented in a 3D space that forms a part of the overall statement for the installation, which has the simple title of Theatre.

I often discuss the idea of narrative within these reviews, the stories that so often exist with in the images presented by photographers and artists. With Theatre, the story very much is the installation, told through the images displayed, and via the broader setting itself. It is the story of the life – and ending? – of traditional theatre as a medium for teaching and telling stories; and it is a story told through the camera lens of a photographer – the images themselves taken at locations around Second Life.

Diotima Leisure and Culture Gallery: Ana Oceanida

Best enjoyed with local time set to midnight and with the viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model option enabled (Preferences > Graphics), Theatre can be very loosely split into two intertwined elements. The first is the setting itself, that of the photographer’s developing studio. It contains the paraphernalia of the photographer’s art: the chemical developers, the trays in which photographs seem to miraculously appear in their baths of chemicals, a cropping board, packs of developer’s paper, rolls of film awaiting use, scattered plastic containers of used film, and more, all bathed in the red glow of the developer’s bulb and the photographer stands before a bench carrying out her artistry.

On the walls and floor of this setting are the results of this work: a series of images that might be regarded as unframed slides, more than 40 of them, some in colour, some in black-and white. Offered sequentially, starting with 1-1A in the corner of the room above the photographer’s right shoulder and proceeding to the right, these offer an unfolding story about the theatre that winds back and forth across two walls of the studio, before dropping to the floor to finish their tale there.

Diotima Leisure and Culture Gallery: Ana Oceanida

The story perhaps isn’t easy to grasp. However, there are grab bags within the installation which contain, among other items, note cards outlining the tale.

I remember that moment, that time when, in the heat of fire started to tell stories , Stories of gods, Stories of monsters, stories of heroes, was such a fascination that I woke up among people that the cold nights became warm to the stories. Little by little you gave me a body, my first body was cold, hard, wide spaces and open-air stands but with your stories became laughed, suffering… and people. My childhood was happy.

In this, the story of the rise and fall and rise (or rebirth) of theatre down through the ages, I was reminded of Jaques‘ soliloquy and lament from As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;…” in that we are both observers of this installation and the actors within it; we play our role here in witnessing the story, and thus give theatre another breath of life.

Diotima Leisure and Culture Gallery: Ana Oceanida

And like Jacques’ view of the seven ages of man, so to is this story ultimately a lament: the passage of time has meant theatre has grown and changed over time, only to perhaps now in the digital age to face its final passing, the permanence of physical structure through bricks and mortar, of floorboards and seats, now giving way to the ephemeral flow of bits and bytes that give rise to impermanence and passing. Hence, perhaps the tear-like rain in the installation.

I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion of the piece – digital environment could be a boon to theatre – but, this is a story after wall, and the tale has its own telling and conclusion. As to the images offered, I can only say that they are fascinating studies, each one of which stands on its own, whether or not one follows the broader story, offering a unique perspective on the places Ana visited in preparing this installation.

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Art and motion at La Maison d’Aneli in Second Life

La Maison d’Aneli: Calypso Applewhyte

La Maison d’Aneli, curated by Aneli Abeyante, has opened the doors to its April 2019 ensemble exhibition, and once again brings together the work of several artists to offer a rich mix of art and artistic expression, featuring 2D and 3D art and a marvellous journey into machinima.

This exhibition starts at the gallery’s ground level, with a most unusual motor show by Willem Koba, which juxtapositions a shiny, pristine parking garage with SL cars and vehicles that have, to put it mildly, seen better days. I’m not sure of the purpose of this element of the exhibition, but it does make an interesting and unusual gateway to the teleport up to the gallery proper.

La Maison d’Aneli: Magda Schmidtzau

It is here that the rest of the artists within the exhibition display their work. Calypso Applewhyte and Magda Schmidtzau between them present two very different, yet at the same time somewhat reflective of one another.  Magda – or Maddy – has the more extensive portfolio of the two on display, and it demonstrates the breadth of her avatar work, from portraiture, through nudes and fantasy to richly artistic pieces.

Located on he upper floor of the gallery, Calypso – or Caly – offers a more focused selection of work, which leans into fantasy and science fiction elements. Like Maddy’s selection there is a mix of colour and monochrome to the set, but I admit that – as much as I admire Maddy’s work – I was drawn more to Caly’s exhibition, simply because of its captivating “minimalism”. This can be seen in both the images and in the use of the display space around them. This latter point in particular allows the eye to more readily focus on each piece individually, without the distraction of neighbouring works intruding into the eye and mind. This minimalism also presents a rich vein of narrative within each piece, which for me is fabulously exemplified in the wonderful Ma tristesse, seen at the top of this article.

La Maison d’Aneli: RazorZ

Also split between the gallery’s upper are lower floors are RazorZ and Bachi Cheng – both of whose art I don’t believe I’ve previously encountered in Second Life. RazorZ’s digital work is presented in both 2D and 3D, and is a glorious use of shape, colour and form; his sculptures wonderfully alive and vibrant, while his (apparently physical world) photographs are given a marvellous digital  / alien life through the use of colour filtering / layering.

Bachi also presents some of her physical world art on the upper level of the gallery. These are raw, intense and emotive drawings, with Bachi noting, “I love to paint Moments. Moments of life, Moments of Love, Moments so deep that you never want to forget them, Moments at the edge of orgasm or despair, just life; like we ought to live it, plainly.”

La Maison d’Aneli: Bachi Cheng

Rounding-out the exhibition is a display of Aneli’s own 2D and 3D art, and a joint presentation by Iono Allen and Theda Tammas.

The majority of Aneli’s pieces are beautifully animated and make use of geometric expression to captivate the eye. Colour and monochrome, these are pieces that tend to draw the eye into them, casting an almost hypnotic calming influence through their gentle motion.

La Maison d’Aneli: Aneli Abeyante

Iono and Theda present Samuari, a machinima short film, reached via a walk along an avenue of Torii gates set within a midnight landscape. Filmed by Iona, it utilises elements of Theda’s art (and Theda herself), within an  extraordinary piece, worthy of the best of classical Japanese film-making. The story unfolds entirely visually and sans dialogue, supported only by the use of sounds and music. It is a film that, frankly, should not be missed.

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Andrea DeLauren at DiXmiX in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery: Andrea DeLauren

It’s been only a few days since my last visit to DiXmiX Gallery, curated by Dixmix Source, but I was drawn back to it with the opening on a new exhibition there, this one featuring art by A. DeLauren (AndreaDeLauren).

Located in the gallery’s Grey hall, immediately adjacent to the main entrance, Body Lines presents series of 12 avatar studies. I confess to not being overly familiar with Andrea’s work, but these are striking images, rich in colour, boldly presented, and with an abstract tone to them that captivates.

DiXmiX Gallery: Andrea DeLauren

As the title of the exhibition might suggest, the focus is very much on the avatar body, with – I assume – Andrea being her own model. But this is only part of the story; each image uses a mix of geometric lines, colour, tone, blurring / soft focus and overlays to produced a finished picture. This results in each of the pieces being an abstracted piece that holds the attention quite marvellously and evocatively. When coupled with the individual titles for each of them, it is possible to start weaving a narrative to each image – although strictly speaking, no narrative is required; it is sufficient to be drawn into these images through the use of line and colour.

Some of the pieces, visually and by title, have an obvious focus – take Chest as an example, together with Milk and Honey. Others are more broadly evocative. In this, I was particularly drawn to the somewhat psychedelic tones and feel of Windows 70s, while the mix of colour, geometry and natural curve of Hips (also used in the exhibition’s poster advertising) completely captivated me.

DiXmiX Gallery: Andrea DeLauren

The use of geometry within the images is given further depth in pieces like Zebra, and particularly the “joining” of Surrender and Back Lines, where shadow elements are used to extend the lines of the individual pieces beyond their canvas and into the gallery.

A small, but elegant exhibition, Body Lines sits well with Moon Edenbaum’s The Likelihood of n e a r e s s, on display in the gallery’s Black hall (and which I reviewed here).

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