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.

SLurl Details

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.

SLURL DETAILS

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.

SLURL DETAILS

Dido’s One Day: a visual sonnet in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery – Dido Haas: One Day, September 2021

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).

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery – Dido Haas: One Day, September 2021

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.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery – Dido Haas: One Day, September 2021

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”).

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery – Dido Haas: One Day, September 2021

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.

SLurl Details

Moni’s Images of Decay in Second Life

IMAGOLand: Monique Beebe – Images of Decay

There is something about Monique Beebe’s avatar-centric images that never fails to attract my attention. Her work has a unique blend of art, narrative, post-processing skill, and layering that allows her to create single-frame stories that carry a depth of mean that demands the attention of the eye and mind.

This is once again the case with Images of Decay, which opened at Mareea Farrasco’s IMAGOLand (Gallery 1b – use the teleport disk at the landing point) on September 2nd. Here Moni offers a selection of images with a central theme which wraps itself in layer of possible interpretation – whilst also allowing the observer to view them as intriguing studies in the use of light, colour and balance to present a captivating self-portrait.

The title of the exhibition – Images of Decay – might sound a little off-putting, but as noted, it can be taken on a number of levels. Predominantly offered in dark dark tones and colours – burnt umber, burgundy reds, shades of black and grey, these are intentionally “dark” images, each piece post-processed to add a rusting, metallic look to it, a discolouration that marks face, breast, arm, and so on. In some of the images, it is highly pronounced, in others it is more of a mottling. In one or two cases, due to the use of projected light and post-processed filters, it is subtle enough to give the impression of tattooing.

IMAGOLand: Monique Beebe – Images of Decay

As a first interpretation, this filtering / colouring might be seen as simple expressive colour play on the part of the artist. On another, and taking the title of the exhibition into consideration, they might be might be seen as experiments in giving a sense of age / the passage of time to the images themselves. It might also be taken as a reflection of life itself, and the undeniable fact that we are all doomed to grow older, age, whither, die and decay; that the beauty / vitality we have today is actual impermanent – but in being so, it is also part of life’s greater cycle.

This latter layer narrative is perhaps most clearly seen within the trio of images Girl, Lady, Woman, the idea of aging is clearly represented in the images as we take each in turn. So so might they also speak to how society can perceive women as they age, and our beauty is seen as fading over time (or to put it another way, decaying with the passage of time).

IMAGOLand: Monique Beebe – Images of Decay

There is an emotional content present within these pieces that adds additional layers to them. Many either directly or indirectly draw attention to the subject – to Moni’s – eyes, be it through the use of masks or eye shadow to highlight them, or face masks bubble gum or even  the wrap of a turban to obscure other parts of the face or the eyes themselves. In this way, we are drawn to each image and inhabit the emotions we might perceive as being present within them. Elsewhere, this emotional content is transmitted through the use of pose and lighting.

In places, this emotional element speaks directly to the idea of decay and the passage of time, in others, in other, the idea of decay emphasises the emotional content of a piece. Take, for example, Innocence and Light of Sadness. Within them the colours of decay do much to convey the essential emotion within them – the loss of innocence if the former, and the pain of sadness in the latter.

IMAGOLand: Monique Beebe – Images of Decay

Taken individually as as a whole, this is another richly engaging exhibition by Moni, one that should not be missed.

SLurl Details

Terrygold’s Empty Chairs: remembrance in Second Life

Solo Arte: Empty Chairs by Terrygold

Empty Chairs is a new art installation by Terrygold that opened on September 1st, 2021. It is perhaps the most personal installation Terry has created in Second Life, although its central theme – that of loss of a family member – is a subject many of us can particularly relate to in the current times, given so many of us have had to deal with the loss of loved ones as a result of the current pandemic.

It’s note directly indicated if Terrygold’s own loss was direct result of the COVID situation as I’ve not had the opportunity to discuss the installation with her. However, given the context of the final part of the installation, I am admittedly assuming this to be the case. But even if not, there is no denying the power Empty Chairs has to speak to all of us on the matter of loss.

The installation can loosely be split into three parts. The first presents a series of images together with words by Terrygold that contextualise the feeling she has been experiencing on the loss of her father in a deeply personal, but utterly understandable way; one that particularly speaks to anyone who has lost a close family member, regardless of our relationship with them., and Terry wears her heart on her sleeve in talking about her father and her impact on her.

I Don’t have good memories of my Dad, he was certainly not a good father. But I remember that one day he took me on a trip with the scooter, a different day for me; I thought he could change… I look at his empty chair at the table. Now the last memory of him is this loneliness. Will this sadness ever go away?

– Terrygold, Empty Chairs

Solo Arte: Empty Chairs by Terrygold

These are not easy words to read, and I know they were not easy to write; but again, regardless of our own relationship with those we have lost, the loneliness – the emptiness – Terrygold brings to her words and these images will be familiar. The manner in which their absence gives rise to that loneliness in the oddest of ways, from a chair now sitting empty, to sights and sounds we encounter as we strive to resume our own lives, the memories that, long filed away now come back unbidden…

There are so many ways in which such memories can be triggered: the empty chair, a walk that brings us into contact with a sight or object they would have appreciated and the realisation it is something they will never again see or we can no longer discuss with them, and so on, all of which are reflected in these images. Also, the use of dark tones and shadows within them not only reflects the fact they are dealing with matters of grief but also offer a metaphor for Terrygold’s relationship with her father.

At the end of the walk is a set of pieces that are brighter in tone, and which might be said to be the second element of the installation. Here a trees grows and forest birds flutter beneath its boughs, and the images speak of the point Terrygold hopes to reach; where the darkness and loneliness have given way to warmer thoughts; when memories of her father no longer revolve around unhappy memories or the emptiness of a chair or room, but rather allow her to recall those happier moments like the ride on the scooter. Here, as well, is a doorway into the final element of the installation: a street scene crafted by Terrygold that appears to speak directly to the loss the pandemic has brought on the world.

Solo Arte: Empty Chairs by Terrygold

Within this scene are many more chairs, all empty, sitting along the street and scattered through the little park, each representing those who have been lost. Among them are boards questioning the cause of the pandemic and our ability to truly live as a part of the world around us, rather than apart from it. Again, the tone is dark – but the thoughts and feeling it presents are ones we can all recognise – perhaps with a sense of familiarity. And here too, at the end, tucked behind the little row of shops is a message of hope.

Visualising and giving voice to grief can often be cathartic- and I hope this is the case for Terrygold. Speaking as one who has been through similar loss as a direct result of the pandemic – and while my own relationship with  the one I’ve lost was far closer, I think, than Terry’s with her father – I will say that visiting Empty Chairs was moving and offering a further sense of release from some of the memories that still give rise to confusion and hurt. But even without my personal experience, I would have found Empty Chairs richly poignant and with a remarkable depth of content and context.

Solo Arte: Empty Chairs by Terrygold

SLurl Details