Art, Ukraine & Xmas: two personal exhibitions in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre: Hermes Kondor – Christmas in Ukraine

December brings with it two evocative and personal exhibitions on the subjects of Christmas, the human condition and the world at large. They are presented by artists I greatly admire for their ability to give us pause for thought through their narrative whilst also offering us the opportunity to appreciate them for their pure artistic quality. Given this, and the fact that these exhibitions are being shown in the halls of the main gallery space at the Kondor Art Centre, I’ve opted to write about them in a joint article.

Within Christmas in Ukraine, Hermes Kondor once more offers a series of photo-like images generated via the Midjourney AI programme and the post-processed to provide a collection of digital prints that are rich in emotional content. The best way to describe it is through Hermes’ own words:

Christmas in Ukraine is a personal project created to pay a deep heartfelt tribute to the people of Ukraine who do not have the same right, as we do, to celebrate Christmas. 

– Hermes Kondor

Kondor Art Centre: Hermes Kondor – Christmas in Ukraine
Presented as a collection of 15 pieces in the manner of a photo-journalistic study, there are pieces not celebrating the resistance of the Ukrainian people against their invaders, but offered rather as stories of reunion, love and rejoining, as the men and women, wives and husbands, fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters, lovers and friends, may experience reunions of hope and peace across the their homeland, so rudely torn asunder throughout most of 2022.

Digital productions these may be, there is no denying the humanity they contain. They also stand as a reminder that, no matter what your political stripe, the use of organised military force through acts of war in suppression of others is not something to be celebrated but – in a so-called civilised age – preferably avoided. For while it may well by measured in terms of political (or religious) “success”, it is inevitably a story of human suffering.

Kondor Art Centre: Hermes Kondor – Christmas in Ukraine

Across the square, Scyllia Rhiadra presents God with Us: Essays on Christmas within the lower-floor setting of the 2-storey Main Gallery hall 1.

Utilising avatar-centric photographs posed and captured within Second Life, this is a richly layered collection that juxtaposes her images with quotes primarily from the Gospels concerning the birth of Christ (although some are taken more broadly from the Bible and other religious writers), to produce pieces that both reflect the Biblical presentation of Christ’s birth and offer modern commentary.

Kondor Art Centre: Scyllia Rhiadra – God with Us: Essays on Christmas

Within this structure, Scyllia also seeks to express a measure of her own attitude towards Christmas, encompassing childhood memories – presents under the tree, etc., – with her outlook on matters of faith and the Christmas message and the messages of hope, sacrifice and love it contains. These are aspects that Scyllia beautifully outlines within the artist’s notes available from the board just inside the gallery entrance. As such, and at the risk of putting words into Scyllia’s mouth, I’ll focus here on the broader message these images convey to me.

To me this broader message appears to be a commentary on the realities of the so-called “Christian spirit” as all too often espoused by the organised churches and branches of the Christian faith today and which – I would gamble – Christ himself would oppose were He here. This commentary appears throughout many of the pieces within this exhibition; perhaps most visibly The Innocents; however, I’ll focus my thinking on the neighbouring piece, No Room.

Kondor Art Centre: Scyllia Rhiadra – God with Us: Essays on Christmas

On the one hand, this is a modern-day representation of the plight faced by Joseph and his heavily pregnant wife: forced to make a long, uncomfortable trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfil political requirements, only to find themselves denied reasonable comfort and rest on their arrival. On the other, with its modern backdrop, it is a reminder that, in an age of mass human displacement, when Charity – the so-called greatest of the three Christian graces (the other being faith and hope – see 1 Corinthians 13:13) – is greatly needed the world over, it is all too often the loudest voices raised in opposition to the idea of any form of charity, large or small, being given, are those all too equally loudly raised in proclamations of their “Christian values”.

This layering of context and meaning can be found throughout God with Us: Essays on Christmas, encompassing elements such as the commercialisation of Christmas and the sheer selfishness that Christmas tends to bring out, and more. All of which marks this as an exhibition fully deserving of considered viewing.

Kondor Art Centre: Scyllia Rhiadra – God with Us: Essays on Christmas

Two superb exhibitions by two gifted artists, both Christmas in Ukraine, and God with Us: Essays on Christmas are appropriate and engaging exhibitions for the time of year, and I have no hesitation in recommending both.

SLurl Details

Monsters, Demons and Chess in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre: Monique Beeb – Monsters, Demons and Chess

Monique Beebe – Moni to her friends – is one of the most expressive digital artists I know in Second Life. I’ve had the good fortune to follow the growth of her photographic and digital art skills since her first exhibition, hosted at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery back in early 2017 (see: Hidden Faces in Second Life), and have always utterly enjoyed exploring her work as it enfolds the sensual, the sublime, the emotive and more – always with a story to tell, a question to ask, or a subtle means of engaging her audience’s minds.

Through the years since that first exhibition, Moni has continued to enthral, engage and challenge through evolving styles and approaches, as is the case with Monsters, Demons and Chess, which opened at the Kondor Art Centre, curated by Hermes Kondor, on November 8th, 2022.

Kondor Art Centre: Monique Beeb – Monsters, Demons and Chess

To be honest, this is an exhibition I would have embraced even without having an admiration of Moni’s work which has only grown over the last five years, because it encompasses a form of art that is gaining increasing traction among artists engaged in Second Life: that of hybrid art, and specifically the use of AI processes – in this case the Midjourney AI art generator. I’ve outlined this open-source software previously in these pages, but I’ll let Moni – who has been using it for around six months at the time of writing this article – describe it:

It is software used to generate realistic images, based on Artificial Intelligence. It is used with text we can write down, and it creates some indications; it is not a random image taken on Internet, which corresponds to your text, your words really create something with a deep learning algorithm, giving birth to a new image.
[It presented] A complete new experience for me! In the beginning I was doubtful about it, and I did read a lot of discussions around this subject. It ended becoming a curiosity in my mind, and turned out to be a complete addiction. It [has] allowed me to search more about AI, to discuss it with users and artists, in what way they manipulate it to come to something they wanted at first or appreciate something they did not know about previously.

– Monique Beeb

Kondor Art Centre: Monique Beeb – Monsters, Demons and Chess

Offered across the two floors of the striking gallery building are some of the fruits of Moni’s labours with Midjourney: a striking series of 25 images that allow us to see into Moni’s journey with the software tool, a journey involving chess, monsters and demons, as she explains in her liner notes accompanying the exhibition:

My first use of this software was rather random, I was mostly discovering it. I took simple shapes, balls, and it ended in chess pieces. I made many of them, arranging the background, the lights, the perspectives … When I tried to make faces, I often saw irregularities in the way they were created. Distortions on the eyes or lips, strange shapes. Then I worked more, trying to identify why it came that way. I was at some point left with a gallery of “monsters” on my computer. Their unusual odd curves made me like them … I eventually edited them on Photoshop, and make them: beautiful monsters and quiet demons!

Monique Beeb

I don’t propose to delve into the pieces in depth – each and every one of them speaks clearly and beautifully for itself. The lower floor of the gallery focuses on the works featuring chess, and like that game, there a marvellous strategy at work within them as Moni takes the nuances of MidJourney’s algorithm and combines it with her own innate ability to frame a single-frame story which born of the aforementioned sensuality, subtleness and expressiveness.

The latter is also present in the images around the upper level, where Moni’s “monsters” and “demons” reside.  These may not be sensual in the conventional sense like those on the gallery’s lower floor, but there is a richness of expression, beauty and look that makes them as equally attractive and as rich in their own narratives.

Kondor Art Centre: Monique Beeb – Monsters, Demons and Chess

As a part of this exhibition, Moni asks a question that is not uncommon with the subject of hybrid art: are images generated through, or collated and manipulated by, AI (and other) means really art? She also enquires whether such images have a place in Second Life. My personal response to both questions is an unequivocal “yes”; traditional artists manipulate brushes, paints and inject their own eye and imagination in their work in order to create a piece of art; similarly, Second Life (and digital) artists also manipulate images with tools like  PhotoShop and GIMP and paint with digital tools to produce an end result.

The fact that tools like Midjourney rely on descriptive text elements or the manipulation of algorithms or alterations to their baseline parameters does not lessen the fact it is the artist’s eye and imagination, often assisted by additional tools that allow for editing and / or compositing – just as with other digital art forms, as noted above – guiding the entire creative process.

Kondor Art Centre: Monique Beeb – Monsters, Demons and Chess

More than that – I’d defy anyone to visit Monsters, Demons and Chess and not see the images presented as a richly artistic expression.

SLurl Details

A touch of artistic self-promotion in Second Life

Exhibition poster

I’m taking time out from regular art reviews to engage in an irregular bit of self-promotion. Opening at the Kondor Art Garden, a part of the the Kondor Art Centre, on Thursday, October 27th, 2022, is an exhibition of art entitled Masters of Landscape Photography.

The exhibition features the work of two individuals, Vanessa Jane – an accomplished Second Life photographer-artist – and moi, and is itself one is a series of exhibitions utilising the title and featuring pairs of artists to take place at the Art Garden.

I’m frankly – and genuinely – flattered to be asked to exhibit alongside Vanessa, who is is an artist in the physical world (and holds and arts degree), and is thus able to bring the eye, training and sensibilities of her physical world artistry to Second Life. This is clearly and fully demonstrated in  the selection of pieces she presents within the Kondor Art Garden, all of which demonstrate she is fully deserving of the title afforded the exhibition. Through her work, she has been one of a number of talented individuals who has – albeit indirectly – helped me to improve my abilities with the SL camera, although I still have a lot to learn.

Kondor Art Garden: Vanessa Jane

The exhibition of our work opens at noon SLT today, Thursday October 27th, 2022, with music provided by the talented DJ Tulsa Sapphire, who will be spinning a mix from the 80s, together with taking requests from those who attend the opening. I very much hope that in reading this, you’ll opt to hop along and join us for the party, or that you’ll find the time in the course of the next month to pay the exhibit a visit.

My sincere thanks to Hermes Kondor, owner and curator of the Kondor Art Centre for both extending an invitation to exhibit at the Garden, and for encouraging me to do so.

Kondor Art Centre: c’est moi!

SLurl Details

Art on the edge of dreams in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre: Hermes Kondor – In The Edge Of The Dream

Now open at the Kondor Art Centre is the most engaging and fascinating series of digital art, presented by the Centre’s owner / curator (and exceptionally talented photographer artist in his own right), Hermes Kondor.

Located within the Centre’s Art Square, In The Edge Of The Dream is a collection of 20 images that combine themes of fantasy, flights of the imagination, the free thinking of childhood, and the freedom all of them can give us. Each and every one of these pieces carries an artistic and narrative richness that is completely stunning and captivating. More than paintings, these 16 works are portals to worlds of wonder, places of mystery and magic, halls of wonder and the marvels of the imagination unlocked when the mind – both in childhood and adulthood – is given the fullest freedom of thought and expression.

Kondor Art Centre: Hermes Kondor – In The Edge Of The Dream

The introduction to the exhibition can be found within a 17th image in the square in words from Hermes himself which are perfectly written and frame the exhibition beautifully. As such, rather than ramble on myself, I’m simply going to quote them here in the hope that in doing so, I can also help visitors frame their mindset in readiness for a visit.

Live the dream, transform yourself into it and discover the Reality of Fantasy.
The Magic is right there, living by your side and inside you. Let yourself be carried away by the Dream of Existing. Be enchanted, play with what you think is real and try to transform Life into Magic. 

– Hermes Kondor

Kondor Art Centre: Hermes Kondor – In The Edge Of The Dream
Delight yourself with the Fantasy that dwells inside the Dream. Discover yourself, finding the other side of the Real. Complete yourself with your inner side and find the supreme Happiness that is right there with you, in the deepest dimension of Life. 
Transform the Dream into Art and join me in the search for who we deeply are.

– Hermes Kondor

In addition to being presented in large format images, the painting in this collection are also available gathered into an in-world coffee table book – perfect for keeping the entire collection at home and being able to enjoy it even if you don’t have sufficient wall space for copies of the individual paintings. The book can be obtained from a table just a short walk from the exhibition’s introduction board – which I’m also using the landing point SLurl for the exhibition in this piece.

Kondor Art Centre: Hermes Kondor – In The Edge Of The Dream

A beautiful exhibition of digital art that really should not be missed.

SLurl Detail

Moki Yuitza’s Illusory Frameworks Second Life

Kondor Art Square, August 2022: Moki Yuitza – Illusory Frameworks

Now open at the Kondor Art Square – a part of the Kondor Art Centre, owned and operated by Hermes Kondor – is Illusory Frameworks, an exhibition of 2D art by Moki Yuitza.

Having entered Second Life in 2008, Moki was immediately drawn to the endless creative possibilities inherent within the platform. Starting with the basics of building, she moved on to master the use of lighting, projectors, SL physics, opting to focus on the use of prims – which are in many respects more “organic” than mesh, simply because they can be manipulated, changed, re-shaped in an almost tangible manner. The result of all this effort has been some of SL’s most remarkable 3D installations such as Hypercube, Synapses, and Cells, all of which have been both visually engaging whilst offering the opportunity to explore multiple themes  – reality dreams, growth, change, geometry and more – some of which I’ve covered in these pages.

Kondor Art Square, August 2022: Moki Yuitza – Illusory Frameworks

Moki is also very much adept with 2D art. Much of her work within her Flickr stream focuses incredible avatar studies; pieces in which she brings to bear all of her vision, and skill with lighting, form, colour and narrative. However, Moki’s 2D extends much further, exploring many of the ideas and themes found within her 3D art – as with the likes of her Mindscapes exhibition at Nitroglobus earlier this year.

Within Illusory Frameworks – which is, as noted, an exhibition of 2D pieces – she combines her love of form, architecture and building with her thoughts on matters of life, reality, and the world to present a most engaging series of images that celebrates locations across Second Life whilst also offering the opportunity to take a deeper thought journey into the nature of SL – and, potential of our modern society.

Kondor Art Square, August 2022: Moki Yuitza – Illusory Frameworks

The 20 images presented within the square all feature locations from around Second Life, with each piece either overlaid with a subtle grid-like pattern, leaving the primary image visible but intentionally blurred, or post-processed to present a sense that it is entirely lattice-like in nature, reduces to a complex geometry of lines and bright concentrations of light.

Offered against black backgrounds and in more muted tones – noticeably teals, white and greys – these latter might initially put one in mind of something like Disney’s Tron Legacy, and this would not be entirely incorrect. Some of the underpinning terms within both Tron and Second Life – whilst not necessarily originating with either – are the same: the grid, rezzing, etc. Within both, all constructs are only made possible only thanks to an underpinning framework of intersecting lines, a wireframe, if you will. Thus through the lines and patterns in her art, Moki reminds us of this hidden fact: that all we see is an illusion of form, one built from a simple guiding framework (one you can bring forth, if you are so minded, through the use of CTRL-SHIFT-R and then hid once more in the same manner).

Kondor Art Square, August 2022: Moki Yuitza – Illusory Frameworks

More than this, however, is the reminder that even that framework itself is illusory, it exists only as long as there is power running through the circuitry managing the algorithms and computations need to keep it alive. And in this, perhaps is a deeper reflection of life and civilisation as a whole: that all of society is itself bound by an invisible framework of “laws” and “norms” which are themselves utterly illusory, holding true only so long as we allow them to do so.

Whether you opt to view Moki’s work through the lens of these deeper interpretations or simply as works of experimental art, Illusory Framework is an engaging visual feast.

 SLurl Details

Abyssal – the art of Abyss Artful in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre – Into the Future Gallery: Abyss Artful

Abyss Artful is one of Second Life’s foremost avatar photographers, with pieces so highly regarded they have been used in the promotion of events such as SL19B. Her work – available on Flickr – centres on sci-fi /cyberpunk and fantasy, although not necessarily exclusively so, and all of which are rich in narrative.

Given Abyss has been active in Second Life for 13+ years, and has a deserved reputation for her work, it’s perhaps surprising to learn that Abyssal 1, currently on display at the Into The Future gallery at the Kondor Arts Centre, is the first exhibition of her work Abyss has mounted in-world.

Kondor Art Centre – Into the Future Gallery: Abyss Artful
Some 30 pieces are presented across the gallery, from the lower flower through the mezzanine catwalk to the roof. They may not have been produced specifically for this exhibition  – but this does not meant there are any the less for being seen. Rather the reverse, in fact, as the selection offered brings home the sheer richness of expression and story Abyss puts into her work.

These are genuinely pieces that do not require extended exposition on my part; each one marvellously speaks for itself. So, this being the case, I’m going to shut up and encourage you to go see for yourselves!

Kondor Art Centre – Into the Future Gallery: Abyss Artful

SLurl Details