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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Get Out in Second Life

Kondor Art Square: Get Out by Loviathar Hellman & Moolfryt Klang
GET OUT is an invitation into turning your compy off, grabbing the first quite satisfying camera you can find and into getting down the street, breathing more or less fresh air and look at your surroundings with new eyes, a street photographer (amateur or not) eyes. Soon, you’ll feel overwhelmed by the duality you can find in a city: darkness and light, colours and grey tones, tradition and modernity, beauty and ugliness, life and death.

– Insane Focus (aka Loviathar Hellman & Moolfryt Klang)

These are the opening words Loviathar and Moolfryt offer as an introduction to their joint exhibition Get Out, which opened on August 19th, 2021. And as they go on to note, this is not a call to rebel  against common sense precautions in the face of the continuing SARS-CoV-2 situation, but rather a call to those who might spend a little too much time in front of the computer (/me coughs and avoids looking into the eyes of my reflection in the monitor) to take the proper precautions and then get out and spend a little time in the big, wide world – preferably with a camera in hand.

In this, Get Out leads by example. Occupying the Kondor Art Square in Second Life, it is a celebration on multiple levels. On the first, it is a celebration of the artists’ time spent visiting numerous locations across Europe from England through Belgium, France, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Greece. On the second, it is a celebration of one of the most powerful genres of photography – street photography; a means to capture and document moments in time and place and the lives of people around the world as they go about their daily lives.

Kondor Art Square: Get Out by Loviathar Hellman & Moolfryt Klang

Thirdly, it offers a celebration of the world of photography, opening is it did on August 19th, 2021, World Photography Day.

It was on that date, back in 1839 that France took it upon itself to offer to the world the Daguerreotype process of photographic image development. Developed by Louis Daguerre, the technique (using a highly polished sheet of silver-plated copper mentioned) was not the first means to “fix” an image captured through a camera lens onto a medium – Daguerre actually built his technique on the work of his uncle, Nicéphore Niépce whilst others around the world were developing their own techniques – but it was the first publicly available technique of photographic image development, and in doing so, it started a movement that led directly to popular photography as we know it today.

Set out by country, some of the photos focus on a single centre (e.g. London in the case of the UK, Rhodos in the case of Greece) or two or more ports of call within a country (as with, for example, France and Belgium). The images presented are richly diverse in subject, tone and use of colour, each one fully capable of transporting its audience to the place it frames and the the glimpse of the story it has to tell, as well as allowing us to personally share in Loviathar and Moolfryt’s travels. All of them remind us of the power of the photographic lens to record a single moment of time and a unique perspective on that moment as seen through the eye(s) of the photographer; one that can be both deeply personal  and increasingly historical as time passes.

Kondor Art Square: Get Out by Loviathar Hellman & Moolfryt Klang

Get Out also reminds us that photography is open to all of us to try. Maybe we cannot all be a Dorothea Lange or a Lee Friedlander or a William Klein or an André Kertész – or a Loviathar or Moolfryt – and we might not be able to travel to distant towns and cities; but that doesn’t matter. The camera gives us the opportunity to capture moments across the very town we live in (and the opportunity to experience time away from the computer, as the exhibition’s intro notes). So why not go see Get Out and let it offer inspiration, then take the advice of the artists and take time away from the computer and get out and see what the streets around you have to say about themselves?

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Plastic People and Dead Cities: reflections on Second Life

Kondor Art Square, Jul 2021: Dead Cities (l) and Plastic People (r)

Monique “Moni” Beebe and Traci Ultsch are among a group of artists whose work I find immediately engaging, and which I always appreciate being able to see and appreciate. So any new exhibition by either of them is going to get me hopping with interest –  and when they are exhibiting together, then I’m not so much hopping as I am leaping – which has very much been the case with Plastic People / Dead Cities, which opened at the Kondor Art Centre’s Art Square, curated by Hermes Kondor, on July 8th.

Now to be clear – this is not a joint exhibition in the sense of being a collaborative project between the two artists. Rather, and like their joint exhibition at Midgard Gallery in February 2021 (see: Moni and Traci at Midgard Gallery in Second Life), Plastic People and Dead Cities stand as two individual exhibition linked by theme and reflection, allowing them to be appreciated both individually and jointly, with certain truths to be found within them that may well be discomfiting to some.

With Dead Cities, Traci explores the impermanence of Second Life through the dual medium of exploring the cityscapes that can be found throughout the grid and the medium of reflections on the ideas of so-called occultist Psychogeography as it relates to the city of London and as espoused through the work of Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd.

Kondor Art Square, July 2021: Traci Ultsch – Dead Cities

In short, the latter might be said to be explorations of the myths and legends that claim much of “modern” London (e.g. from the 1660s onwards) was built on occultist practices, and the idea the “spirit” of all who have dwelt in the city combine to inform its nature down the centuries, and that “spirit” in turn informs the nature of those dwelling in it today.

Thus we are presented with a series of bold monochrome images that, rather than presenting “traditional” views of buildings, streets, and so on, are multi-faceted in the way they have been layered to present us with glimpses of buildings and structure together with the ghostly outlines of something more – that spiritual element to their nature, so to speak. Similarly, the use of scaffolding to mount the images, some of which also has skulls sitting on it, encapsulates the idea of the present being informed by the past.

In taking this route, Traci also underscores her theme of emptiness / impermanence: by presenting facets of structures in this way, with the dark and light obscuring as much as revealing, Traci points to the fact that, like it or not – and contrary to SL myth) – nothing in this virtual realm is in any way permanent; it survives and is constantly rebuilt – like a city as great as London itself – only so long as there are people to populate it. When empty, it might as well not exist – and when the novelty of the platform does finally wane, Second Life and its cities and places will won’t exist.

Kondor Art Square, July 2021: Traci Ultsch – Dead Cities

By comparison, Moni’s Plastic People appears to be an altogether lighter, brighter presentation, both in terms of being a series of images that do utilise colour, and in their general theme.

In short, this is the idea that Second Life is a plastic – perhaps malleable might be a more appropriate term – world which we can all bend and shape into whatever we wish, and in which we can express ourselves howsoever we wish, in keeping with the old SL tenet, Your World, Your Imagination. Thus Moni presents us with a series of avatar studies that when first viewed, appear to reflect this in their presentation of “classically” posed images, touches of sci-fi, fantasy and the platform’s more adult elements.

Kondor Art Square, July 2021: Monique Beebe – Plastic People

However, I say “appears”, because – to me at least – there would seem to be a further layer to Moni’s images, evidenced through her use of a stanza from Frank Zappa’s 1967 song, Plastic People within her liner notes for the exhibition:

A fine little girl / She waits for me / She’s as plastic / As she can be / She paints her face / With plastic goo / And wrecks her hair / With some shampoo.

That song was written as a manifesto against conformity and materialistic culture. So is its inclusion in Moni’s liner notes for the exhibition simply a reflection of the malleably of our avatars, or is it a comment on the fact that whilst founded on the ideal of individual expression, SL is increasingly becoming a place of homogenised, materialistic conformity for many? Just look at the way a certain avatar body dominate the platform, or the manner in which “creativity” now seems to be more about looking good and buying the latest fashion.

If this interpretation might be seen as accurate, then it begs the further question: just who are the “plastic people”, the avatars within Second Life, or those who operate them? I’ll leave that to you to ponder.

Kondor Art Square, July 2021: Monique Beebe – Plastic People

Through these two exhibits, Moni and Traci offer collections of images that are in and of themselves captivating, whether or not one wishes to look deeper into them. At the same time, they each hold up a mirror, one of which encourages us to reflect on Second Life is a whole as it relates to us, and the other asking that will look directly on  ourselves, and how we relate to the platform.

What we might discover in looking into either might not be comfortable to consider – but that does negate either exhibition. Indeed, I’d strongly recommend that anyone who likes to ponder on this virtual world in which we invest so much of ourselves, whatever the reason, pay a visit to Plastic People / Dead Cities, and spend time with the art and the artists’ own words.

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Akim’s Anima in Second Life

Kondor Main Gallery: Akim Alonzo

Akim Alonzo, owner and creator of The Itakos Project, is also an excellent photographer artist in his own right, as I’ve noted in a number of pieces in this blog where I’ve covered his exhibitions (see Water and a Matrix: Reflections on Life by Akim Alonzo, for example).

The latest selection of Akim’s work is now on display at the Main Gallery of the Kondor Art Centre, curated by Hermes Kondor. It presents a mix of works that offer a choice of themes within it, and which also echo past exhibition themes Akim has produced, making for another eye-catching and thought-provoking display of art from a man who is a master of frame, tone and composition.

Kondor Main Gallery: Akim Alonzo

The images presented are offered under the title of Anima and comprise 27 individual images and 2 slide shows. One of the latter pages through a selection of the images on display, the other displays a collection of additional portraits. Between them, these two slide shows present the core themes to be found within this collection – both of which intertwine into a single, larger perspective.

One of these themes is that of the avatar-as-a-person. Avatar studies are a common theme with Second Life art – although more often than not, such studies tend to focus on presenting an emotional story / emotive response utilising the entire image – expression, pose, surroundings, etc., – that together form a single frame narrative. Akim, however, is one of the few Second Life artists who takes a very deliberate path in his studies: one that focuses on the emotions that may exist within an avatar.

Kondor Main Gallery: Akim Alonzo

Whether these emotions are real, or a projection of our own, or a reflection of the emotions Akim felt in composing each image, really doesn’t matter; although I would suggest that there is combination of all of these aspects involved. What is important is that each piece is a marvellously layered composition, the focus always on the subject, the  background and lighting a means to project / capture the emotions that we see as coming from within the avatar. This are pieces that make extraordinary use of chiaroscuro to imbue the subject of each image with a depth of life and feeling that is bewitching.

The second theme to be found within this collection is that of life itself – real or virtual – and the questions we can harbour about it; in this, some of the pieces are drawn from or reflect his 2019 exhibition The Matrix. There is a wealth of metaphor within these particular pieces – the majority of which can be found on the gallery’s upper floor – and also question: what is real? Is the digital realm any less “real” than the physical? Might we all in fact be unwittingly operating within a virtual realm, our need to project ourselves into a digital realm a reflection of this?

Kondor Main Gallery: Akim Alonzo

Both of these thematic strands come together to offer a broader set of ideas / questions related to the identity, self and who we are as individuals;  to questions of – dare I say it – soul.

Beautifully composed, perfectly executed and presented, Anima is an extraordinary exhibition by an extraordinary artist.

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Mareea and CybeleMoon at Kondor Arts Centre

Kondor Art Garden – CybeleMoon

June has brought with it two new exhibitions at the Kondor Art Centre, curated by Hermes Kondor, featuring the talents of Mareea Farrasco and CybeleMoon.

Having opened on June 10th at the Kondor Art Square, La mer, la mer, toujours recommencée, is an engaging selection of Second life art presented by the owner and curator of IMAGO Land Art Galleries, Mareea Farrasco.

Kondor Art Square – Mareea Farrasco

As the title might suggest, this is a collection that has a certain focus on the sea – although this is by no means the case for all the pieces on offer; at least, not in the sense of traditional water. Pieces such as Fabulous Goats and Silenced World give a suggestion of flowing waters through the wind-brushed sea of grass that presents a backdrop, and the shimmering of falling rain on which a rainbow is forming. Similarly, and while the sea does appear within it, Lavender perhaps embodies the ebb and flow of an ageless tide far more through the curving sweep of flowers that is its focus than by the sea that sits on the horizon.

However, all these pieces are deeply evocative and rich in narrative. Mareea has a deftness of touch coupled with a eye for style, angle, cut and framing that brings her images beautifully to life. Her use of colour to suggest emotion is sublime, while the lightness of her use of post-processing allows here pieces to retain a natural, unforced beauty about them that is simply ideal.

Kondor Art Square – Mareea Farrasco

It is absolutely no secret that I am in awe of CybeleMoon’s artistry. Her work embodies a life and spirituality that is is unmistakable both for its heartbeat and for its richness of narrative. Witnessing her pieces is genuinely like stepping into a Loreena McKinnitt song: you are lifted beyond the plain of the ordinary and carried into a mystic realm of light and shadow, life and dance, legend and fantasy and love and remembrance. Just as McKinnett’s music and lyrics weave tales in your mind, so Cybele’s images offer tales for your imagination.

Celebrating the Solstice, on display in the Kondor Art Garden embodies all of this in an exhibition of two parts. At the landing point and close to the stage, are eight images simply arranged on stone plinths. Each one evokes a sense of story both in terms of image and title (I confess that Listen to the Wind from the South utterly captured my eyes and heart, there is so much within it that sets the imagination alight).

Kondor Art Garden – CybeleMoon

Beyond this and within a wooded grove sits a mystical ring of standing stones and more of Cybele’s pieces. When crossing to them, it is best to set your time of day to Midnight to fully absorb the atmosphere of the setting and the beauty of the art. Again, while the focus is on celebrating the summer solstice, so too are wider tales embraced.

For example, Aine, the Irish goddess of summer, wealth and sovereignty, and who is particularly associated with midsummer, is pictured alongside the Celtic god Lugh, more usually associated with the time of harvest, and Ogma, the inventor of Ogham, the script in which Irish Gaelic was first written and who is often given the epithet Grianainech, or “sun-faced”. Thus through this exhibit, Cybele helps open us to the broader richness of Celtic mythology and the landscape of Ireland (The Hill of Tara, Listen to the Wind from the South) as well as to the worlds of fae and nature and childhood dreaming, all of which further engages the visitor in viewing these pieces.

Kondor Art Garden – CybeleMoon

Two superb artists and two very different but equally engaging exhibitions that can be enjoyed side-by-side when visiting the Kondor Art Centre.

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Waka region is rated Moderate.

The art of Thus Yootz at Kondor Art Centre

Kondor Main Gallery: Thus Yootz, May / June 2021

This article could appear to be a little biased, as it covers yet another exhibition at the Kondor Art Centre, operated and curated by Hermes Kondor. The centre is a place that I’ve been popping into a lot of late – but that’s because Hermes is hosting some really eye-catching exhibitions by artists from across Second Life; as such, it’s a natural destination for me.

Take the Kondor Main Gallery for example, for the next several weeks this is home to an untitled exhibition of 2D art by Thus Yootz.

Kondor Main Gallery: Thus Yootz, May / June 2021

For those unfamiliar with Thus, she is an artist based in Greece who has been active in Second Life for over 12 years as a creator, region designer, SL wedding planner, photographer and artist. With a MA in art, her physical world art encompassing drawing, painting, etching, sculpture, photography, and has been publicly exhibited.

In this exhibition, Thus presents a selection of her work that demonstrates the breadth of her artistic range. Within the pieces offered are some that have been composed  using images captured in Second Life (such as Magic at Home & Garden Expo, Mischievous Centaurs, Some Days You Feel You Could Fly, and Soft, Unspoken Love Words), some that apparently inspired by places in the physical world (such as Summer landscape at Oniro Beach), and those that pay homage to styles of art (e.g. Crazy Diamonds with its nod to surrealism and René Magritte, and the etching-like Open Heavens), and more.

Kondor Main Gallery: Thus Yootz, May / June 2021
Equally these are all pieces that carry a depth of narrative and richness of emotion that cannot fail to touch those who see them. This richness comes through a variety of elements – the image itself, its title, the use of colour – which all perfectly and gorgeously combine to hold our attention and release our imaginations.

Just take Crepuscular Creature of Plume and Don’t Fear, for example. In the former we have a marvellous flight of fantasy that wraps so much into it: what is the twilight creature, and where is the world behind it? Are we looking upon an alien being of the interstellar void that has happened upon a distant world or barren rock whilst seeking a home?

Kondor Main Gallery: Thus Yootz, May / June 2021

Or is it simply a trick of the camera and light that has rendered an Earthly insect as an exotic creature, a deceptive use of foreshortening turning our otherwise familiar Moon into a distant place about re witness the arrival of a gigantic alien… Meanwhile, in Don’t Fear might be found so many stories revolving around Death, the river Styx and its famous ferryman (or in this case ferrywoman?) and heroes, heroines and quests.

And then there is The Dragon, which stands as a literal suggestion of the Chinese idiom Hua Long Dian Jing – painting the Dragon’s eye – with the idiom itself expressing the perfection bound in each of the pieces in this collection.

Kondor Main Gallery: Thus Yootz, May / June 2021

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