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.
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!
Art is a powerful tool, offering as it dos the ability for many things from extraordinary creativity, self-expression through to hard-hitting social and political commentary. In this latter regard, art has the ability to prick our conscience and force us, often quite unexpectedly, to confront thoughts and reactions we might otherwise want to try to avoid -and it can also of a means to express pent-up feelings and work through concern and fears. It can thus be both challenging for the audience and cathartic for the artist.
Such is the case with America The Crumbling, an exhibition of visually stunning and socially expressive paintings by Chuck Clip, which opened on July 7th, 2022 at the Kondor Arts Centre, operated and curated by Hermes Kondor. Chuck has, in recent years, perhaps been best known for hosting and promoting art in Second Life through his Sinful Retreat regions or for providing music and entertainment as DJ Matrix. However, he is also a 2D and 3D artist, and with America The Crumbling he returns to theme exhibitions of his own work in-world for the first time in eight years.
Described as being intended to “shine a light on society in America” that is “colourful, disturbing, maybe even offensive”, America The Crumbling tackles head-on the rising threats to democracy and personal freedoms that are being witnessed both in America and around the world, in paintings that are intensely evocative and a veritable tour de force of an artist’s ability to convey thoughts and feelings through the curation of a specific approach to his paintings and the use of a thematic palette (notably the use of red, white and blue both as colours and tones) to convey his sentiments.
From the militarization of the police (which is actually the root concern of the Defund the Police movement, rather than an outright attempt to strip police forces of their abilities to perform their core functions, as some pundits would like people to believe), through the wholesale assault on democracy (most visibly the attempted January 6th, 2020, insurrection in the United States and also the war in the Ukraine), to the more “subtle” attacks on rights and freedoms such as the persistent assault on social care in the US and the erosion of the traditional barrier between church and state that has allowed a radical religious right to embark on what could well become a wholesale assault on the individual rights of those they deem as undeserving of such rights.
As the introductory notes point out, some of these paintings could well outrage some – but I would suspect those who do react so might not full appreciate the existential tripartite threat the American Experiment currently faces politically, religiously and even through its own judicial system.
For my part, I can only admire Chuck’s ability to challenge and evoke through images that are first and foremost expressions of art, and which do not, for the most part, belabour their point, but work far more subtly: Liberty on her sick bed; the splash of yellow in an otherwise monochrome piece that points to the source of the referenced “Evil”, and so on. Which is not to say Chuck has tried to wrap his comments in a “softness” of presentation: his pieces on the state of US policing pull no punches, whilst And the Magats’ Red Glare… carries an emotional power that can result in the sting of tears being felt behind the eyes.
Richly presented and layered, America The Crumbling is a genuinely startling and evocative presentation and not one to be missed.
I have been fortunate to follow a large part of Milena Carbone’s artistic journey in Second Life. Since her first major exhibition of work I visited (Agape, February 2020), Milena has repeatedly demonstrated the inherent power of art to challenge, to question, to offer statements on life, politics religion and self, to engage and to provoke.
Her work has tackled subjects as diverse as the nature of reality, self-perception and the realities (or otherwise) of “god”; it has plumbed the depths of our humanity (and inhumanity), of identify and self, and even navigated the waters of quantum field theory and the Casmir effect.
Thus, whilst offering a retrospective of her work after just three years of exhibiting it in Second Life might be seen as something of an exercise in ego, it is not (for one thing, I know Milena is far too self-aware to allow her ego to get in the way of things). Rather, it is a chance for those who have not had the ability to observe the evolution of her work and explore her ideas and thoughts on life, human nature, reality and self, to do so by acquainting themselves with piece from her catalogue of work to date, and to consider the paradigms she explores and presents. Equally, for Milena, it is an opportunity to revisit her work from earlier times and consider it under the light of her current thinking and world-view.Hence why, in receiving the invitation from Hermes Kondor to mount a retrospective of her work within the Art Square of his arts hub, Milena opted to title the exhibition Introspective, and frame it around a central commentary and three questions. The latter initially appear to be offered as a means to help frame her continued presence within SL; however, they actually reach much further than this.
Within all three resides both a cry oft heard down the ages, and also a challenge to us all in the here and now: why, really, are we here; what purpose do we serve? When are we finally going to put pettiness and anger and hate behind us and truly learn acceptance of one another and embrace love for one another? When will we, quite frankly, cease the shouting din of childish behaviours and grow up as a species?
Around the introductory boards (which on their reverse sides offer copies of the books Milena has produced in reference to some of her exhibitions, thus offering further insight and means of retrospection) and against the edges of the square are pieces taken from Milena’s exhibitions. These start in the north-east corner of the square and proceed south and then around to the north-west corner, arranged in chronological order. Each is presented with text either from the exhibition itself, or designed to offer a framing for it – text which also, for those willing to read, muse and reflect, offering further reverberations of the core questions Milena asks.
These images, in and of themselves, also allow us to travel through Milena’s growth in both experimentation and in confidence with her ability to use the tools at her disposal to represent her art and her thoughts and in allowing her inner voices to speak in unison and / or equally.
Introspective is an exhibition that can be appreciated purely visually; however, its full richness comes in taking the artist’s hand and walking through her words and thoughts in reflection of the images and the introduction.
Bamboo Barnes has a new exhibition, one that opened at Hermes Kondor’s main gallery at the Kondor Art Centre on April 14th, and like all of her work, it is a rich collection of images that offer food for thought through a presentation of vibrant colour and imagery.
Entitled Metaphysics, it offers a visual reflection of the themes explored through the branch of philosophy that shares the same name: the study the nature of being and identity; of causality, and possibility; of space and time; of consciousness and the relationships between mind and matter; of potentiality and actuality. In other words, the fundamental nature of reality.
Or to put it another way, metaphysics asks questions such as Who Am I?Who are you? What is there? What is it like? Through her words and images, Bamboo offers her own explorations of these questions. Her words set the frame for the exhibition, her paintings and images standing visual essays on the ideas she presents in her words.
Though I’ve never drowned There is a sense of drowning. In a crowded train. You are the only one on the train. In the life of the person next to me. His parents, whom I will probably never cross paths with, his family, whom I have never met, his childhood memories, joys and sorrows. His family’s very separate friends, jobs, partners, and the loneliness and past they carry with them. I am alone in the midst of it all, like a spreading ant’s nest. I drown in it, the dark and bright air constricting me, and I gradually become a black spot. Unable to open my eyes, I continue to watch the black dots disappear.
Thus, within the images we might find commentary on the nature of self; the causality of emotions on perception and outlook, and vice versa. And, ultimately whether we are ever really or genuinely joined as beings or is it merely an illusion brought about by these more esoteric interactions?
Because, how can we really be joined, share, unite, when ultimately, a part of us – our true inner self – forever stands apart, an observer, aloof, separated, able to ponder those questions free from the influences they seek to explore, but which actually govern and encompass every passing moment of life? A core being that forever sets us apart within ourselves; a part of society’s nest, but separated from it.
The images themselves are typical of Bamboo’s style: a marvellous mix of colour and form, each one captivating and eloquent in its expression of life and content, making this a further exhibition to be enjoyed for the art in its own sake, as well as for Bamboo’s explorations of self and reality.
Now open at the Kondor Art Garden, located within the Kondor Art Centre operated by Hermes Kondor, is double-header exhibition featuring the landscape art of Lori Bailey (Ishtara1) and Lam Erin.
The Garden has been a regular exhibition space at Kondor since the centre opened, but it has been recently given a completely new look by Naru Darkwatch on behalf of Hermes to present a striking new exhibition space. Gone is the central event space surrounded by a path and a space for images to be places, with a stage at one end and an additional open display space at the other. Instead, the gardens present a central events space, bounded by two pools of water around which gravel paths loop. Predominantly constructed using Alex Bader’s Zen Garden building kit, it is a space I immediately felt at home within, both because Alex’s kit is a personal favourite of mine and because the design reminded me of the open-air area display spaces I built using it and on behalf of the Phoenix Artists Collaboration.
This much larger design means that the garden can now easily feature two exhibitions of art, each centred on one of its two halves, or potentially a single large exhibition by an artist, their being plenty of room on the outside of each path as it loops around its respective water feature to display both 2D or 3D art as the need arises. Given both Lori and Lam specialise in landscape works, the garden is especially well suited to this joint exhibition.
I believe this is the first exhibition I’ve been to in which Lori’s art is very much centre stage. Occupying the northern end of the gardens, it presents some 15 pieces, all with a focus on water, and most taken during the later part of the day when the Sun is low on the horizon. However, what makes all of them particularly engaging is the manner in which Lori has used light, shadows and reflections, together with a very considered hand in post-processing to give us images that, while shot within the digital realm of Second Life, could so easily have been captured in the wilds of Canada or the United States or perhaps Scandinavia or northern Europe – and in one case, somewhere in the far south Atlantic.
These are pieces which, in terms of tone, balance and colour, capture a natural beauty that is far from the world of pixels and rendering engines. In looking at Dawn for example, it is hard not to think we are looking at a picture taken from aboard a survey vessel cruising along the coast of Antarctica (or maybe somewhere like South Georgia).
Sitting further along the same side, Remoteness, Duo and Transparency bring forth thoughts of a long walk along the banks of one of Canada’s wilderness rivers and what might be encountered along the way. Each image offers a scene so beautifully composed, it is hard not to get lost within it, whilst within others, narrative stir and entice us – perhaps the most evocative laying curled within Childhood Memories of Winter and Golden Hour.
Lam Erin is an individual whose work I have covered numerous times in this blog, both as the holder / creator of his Cherishville region designs and as a master of Second Life landscape photography. His work is almost always immediately recognisable due to the richness of colour he tends to present – a deliberate over-saturation of the colours of the Sun – and the processing of the clouds within his images to give them an often brooding sense of presence, so often stirring thoughts of Nature’s power and her sometimes capricious nature.
This is very much evident within the majority of the 11 pieces Lam offers here, images perfectly composed to convey a mood within their setting, the cloudscapes most clearly hinting at the narrative each picture contains. And even in those where the colour has been removed, leaving us with a monochromatic view of Lam’s world, the clouds continue to speak out and frame the image and its story.
Were I to critique this joint exhibition at all, it would be in the size of the individual images. They are pieces whose beauty deserves to be writ large, but within the expanse of this garden, there is a risk that, without close examination, they might be overwhelmed. However, this does not detract from both halves of this exhibition from being thoroughly engaging and well worth the time taken to visit them.
January 6th 2022 saw the opening of Awakening, an exhibition of art by Clau Dagger, which is being held at the Into The Future Art Gallery, a part of the Kondor Art Centre, operated by Hermes Kondor.
Specialising in avatar studies, Clau is an artist photographer whose work I’ve not previously seen exhibited in-world, but who has – as this exhibition demonstrates – a talent for creating images that not only present her avatar, but offer an entire story within – and beyond – their frame. As someone who always tends to look for a narrative within a picture, this makes her work particularly fascinating to me.
Comprising over 30 images spread across the three levels of the gallery building, the art within Awakening presents an visually engaging mix of studies that are richly expressive in terms of their colour and presentation, and which offer a range of themes and stories. From “simple” pictures celebrating the seasons, through to those focused on fantasy, horror, science fiction and glamour, with dips into literature and film, this is a collection that will capture the eye and offer a richness of story that extends will beyond the framing of each picture on its own.
While there are many who practice the art of avatar study and in creating single-frame stories with their images; Clau’s work stands apart in the level of detail presented in each piece. From backdrop through props, to angle, framing, focus and pose, everything within each picture is brought together not just the create an image, but to create a world that lives beyond the limits of each image.
One aspect of this “larger than the frame” story aspect of Clau’s work is her conscious directing of her avatar’s eyes. Rather than looking out of the image towards the camera, Clau frequently directs her avatar’s gaze to a point off-camera, with the rest of her avatar’s pose set to suggest a reaction to something out-of-frame and entirely separate to the camera’s position. This gives these pieces – such as Ritual Night, Holy Gral [sic] and Cabell (as three examples) – a cinematic feel, we are caught in a moment of something wider, that were the camera pan around, we’d see more of the story and the action would resume.
Another factor that brings a number of these pieces to life is their richness of colour. Often with avatar studies, there is a tendency to tone down colour in post-processing an image, to add “natural” haze or “natural” light. While this is true in several of the pieces within this exhibit, there are also pieces here where the colour has either been left untouched or perhaps enhanced (e.g. Supernatural, Under the Holiday Tree, Spring Fae and Metamorphosis) that further intensifies their framing and story.
All of which makes for an exhibition that is genuinely worth visiting, one that lifts avatar studies to a new dimension of expression.