Hikaru Enimo’s Reflection in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: My Reflection

Who doesn’t know Hikaru? Dido Haas asks in reference to Hikaru Enimo in her introduction to the October art exhibition at her Nitroglobus Roof Gallery in Second Life. Well, to my embarrassment, I have to hold a hand up and say “me”; for despite Hikaru being a photographer, blogger, event organiser and Editor-in-Chief of L’Homme Magazine SL, I have not had a prior opportunity to view his work. Thus My Reflection, as his exhibition at Nitroglobus is titled, has been an opportunity for me to become better acquainted with, if not the man, then at least his work.

This is something of a person exhibition of pieces for Hikaru, as again the liner notes make clear. Each piece is intentionally designed to offer insight into the moods and emotions the artist was feeling during its composition of each shot, rather than just trying to evoke a mood or response in the viewer of his work. The result is a baker’s dozen of fabulously monochrome pieces that are presented in the large format that marks exhibitions at Nitroglobus, all focused on Hikaru’s avatar (joined in places by his dog), that are deeply expressive, and in which pose, tone, lighting and setting have been carefully crafted to as much give insight into the artist’s mindset as much as any facial expression.

Indeed, given that many of the images offered – in difference to Hikaru’s own comments on his use of his avatar’s gaze – eyes and face are not visible, the depth of feeling that is conveyed in some of these pieces just through pose completely captivates. Just take My Reflection 07, My Reflection 09 and My Reflection 10, for example, all of which contain a sense of listlessness borne of solitude and / or boredom. Similarly, Reflection 12 is a completely stunning narrative of mood in which, while it partially reveals a downcast face, the statement come no closer is perfectly portrayed through the placement of the stripped bars across the doorway before Hikaru’s avatar; so much so, I would suggest, that even whilst rendered in monochrome, bars mentally convey the idea they are in fact stripped yellow-and-black in that familiar warning do not cross.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: My Reflection

Where his avatar’s face is visible, the conveyance of mood / feelings is more directly pronounced, but not less marvellously framed. My Reflection 11 and My Reflection 04 (which I would not is definitely NSFW when viewing!) for example, utilise the placement of a hand over or before the face to charge each piece with its emotional content, the use of splayed or crooked fingers speaking volumes as to the thoughts that lie behind the avatar’s eyes even as those eyes remain hidden by lowered lids. Similarly, and alongside of it, the curl of cigarette smoke rising beside the steady gaze of Hikaru’s avatar in Reflection 01 draws us into his eyes and the sense of mood within them. And then there is My Reflection 14, where pose, directed gaze and the presence of a window (or door) frame between us and the avatar offers an entire story.

And it is in the idea of contained narrative that Reflections further unfolds before us. For while these are images intended to reflect Hikaru’s own moods, thoughts, feelings – and yes, his vitality – at the time of their creation, such is their depth and composition, we cannot help be see each as part of a larger canvas. Each image invites us in to it, awakening our imaginations to weave stories that can fill the rest of that unseen canvas. Stories in which our own role might also be defined: are we merely a observer of a moment in Hikaru’s life, or are we an invisible participant – lover, partner, friend, passer-by – looking upon someone we care for, like or just happen to see – or who has caught us unexpectedly within his gaze?

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: My Reflection

Evocative, rich, personal, emotive and a tour de force of an artist’s talent for expression and story-telling, My Reflection is both a superb introduction to Hikaru’s work for those who like myself have not been fortunate enough to encounter it previously, and as a richly layered series of images that superbly straddle the line of “personal” and “public” in their conveyance of mood and narrative respectively.

SLURL DETAILS

Mihailsk’s Red Sky at Nitroglobus in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mikailsk – Red Sky

It was back to 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

The vulnerability of a Tough Man in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Tough Man – August 2021

The terms tough guy and tough man are generally defined as a person who is  strong or resilient; a durable, often pugnacious and of undoubted resolution and resilience, able to deal with hard or difficult situations or a hard life. Both tend to bring to mind the hard-boned loner – cowboy, warrior,  etc., perhaps battling the odds.  Someone of a disposition to be reckoned with.

All of this is true enough, as far as it goes. But the “tough” part of these terms isn’t just about being a hard man, a fighter, or similar, or in having to show any particular prowess off. The genuine “tough man” is a person of confidence, understanding, and strength of conviction and ethics such that he is willing to do the right thing; he is a person that doesn’t see the need to hide behind façades of toughness or be afraid to should emotions or vulnerability. 

It is these latter points that make Hilaire Beaumont’s new exhibition Tough Man, which opened on August 11th at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, an outstanding selection of single-frame stories.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Tough Man

Hilaire is well-know for his avatar studies, although he does not tend to exhibit that often in-world – something that makes Tough Man even more appealing. He also does not regard himself as an artist – a point I would dispute, because his works contain all the richness to be found in any true work of art, not just from a technical perspective: framing, lighting, colour, etc., but because of the sheer depth of story each and every image carries with it, together with the richness of life, vitality and emotion each conveys.

This is doubtless in part because of his background in role-play in Second Life. Creating and inhabiting a character is very much an artform it itself; bringing that character to life such that they can be believed and interacted with requires a strength of imagination and willingness to emote and remain in character.  Coming from that background gives Hilaire, I would suggest, a deeper connection with his characters, and this is evidenced in the twelve images presented in this selection.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Tough Man

In this 12 images (the exhibition poster is actually by David Silence, albeit based on an image by Hiliare), all of them new for this exhibition, gets inside his characters in a manner that sets his work above others; whereas an avatar study is generally posed  and framed to convey an emotion such that the image is essentially a moment out of time, the avatar a puppet in the telling of the story, Hiliare’s work genuinely conveys the story of the character within each of these images. Thus, rather than being a moment out of time, these are very much moments in time, capturing a specific point in the life of the character.

And while they well be framed in “tough man” situations, they go further than the typical archetype; each one offers a depth of emotion that is the true hallmark of the tough man – that willingness to stand firm for what is right, to show vulnerability, to stand against odds for something worth believing in; to be someone who finds not loneliness in being alone, but the comfort of his own company.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Tough Man

As pieces of art or as stories or missives on the nature of the tough man, these are pieces that have a lot to say, and as an exhibition, Tough Man should not be missed.

SLURL DETAILS

miu miu miu’s Stamp in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery – miu miu miu’s Stamp, July 2021
Miu miu miu (miumiumiusecond) is an artist who – I believe I’m correct in saying – tends not to exhibit to frequently within Second Life, preferring, as many do, to use Flickr as the medium to present her work.

What is striking about her work – as revealed by even the most casual flip through her Flickr photostream –  is that whether focused on avatar studies or landscapes, whether posed or offered as a “natural” take, miu miu miu’s art is always given a sensitive touch of post-processing that allows her to offer pieces that are evocative of many different genres and presented in different styles – but which are all connected through an undeniable richness of narrative and content.

She is also an artist who is not afraid to express her joy in creating images or to openly publish multiple versions of the same image as she experiments with technique, colour and light. And both of these aspects of her work appear within in the portfolio she currently has offered for display within Dido’s Space at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery – miu miu miu’s Stamp, July 2021

Entitled miu miu miu’s Stamp, this is in some respects an impromptu exhibit; Dido explained that she’d been trying to get miu miu miu back to Nitroglobus since much earlier in the year, but schedules and inspiration hadn’t been good enough to align themselves. Then miu miu miu came across a folder of previously unpublished images on her computer, and decided to offer them as a collection to exhibit.

The central focus of the images is that of the COCO ball joint dolls (BJD) avatars produced by Cocoro Lemon and available through her in-world store, with the emphasis on head-and-shoulder portraits. While the doll avatars might not be everyone’s cup of tea, miu miu miu has used them here to great effect, the individual pieces offering what might be regarded as a surprising wealth of emotion considering their construct – and I’d cite in particular Indigo through Turquoise as they share one wall of the gallery as evidence of this, although every single piece carries an emotional depth.

There is also a sense of joy that permeates these pieces, mainly that is transmitted through the post-process colour palette that suggests miu miu miu genuinely lost herself in both the creation of the look, mood and tone of each piece and the the joy of simple experimentation with both the doll avatar and within PhotoShop itself.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery – miu miu miu’s Stamp, July 2021
Captivating, warm and marvellously expressive, miu miu miu’s Stamp also sits as an excellent companion / contrast to Mihailsk’s Baptism of Fire within the main hall of the gallery, and with which Stamp currently overlaps (and you can read about here).

SLURL DETAILS

Mihailsk’s Baptism of Fire in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mihailsk’s Baptism of Fire

Sometimes the best art exhibits come from a chance encounter. Dido Haas, owner and curator of Nitroglobus Roof Gallery (and a talented photographer in her own right), bumped into Mihailsk while he was visiting Nitroglobus in March. A couple of days after that first encounter, he posted an image taken at the gallery, which was then displaying Daantje Bons’ work (see here for a review of that exhibition) – and this image led to Dido looking through Mihailsk’s Flickr steam and then approaching him to exhibit at Nitroglobus.

Even so, he took a little persuading. Despite being active in SL for several years, Mihailsk has only recently entered the world of SL photography and artistic creation, as he explains:

Even though I am in SL since 2014, I feel my second life started the day I decided to dedicate a large part of my time in this virtual world to photography. It was [in] January 2020 when I started this beautiful journey in light, colours and emotions; a journey to fantastic places and loved persons, trying to capture special moments in eternity. Sometimes with a smile, sometimes with pain. 

– Mihailsk describing his journey into SL art

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mihailsk’s Baptism of Fire

Given this, Dido’s invitation marked the first time he has been asked to display his art in-world – which can be a daunting prospect for an artist-photographer, even when well-established on a site like Flickr. Hence the title for this exhibition: Baptism of Fire.

Mihailsk’s work is probably best defined as avatar-focused; a term I use in preference to the more usual “avatar study”, because while a fair portion of his work does focus in on an avatar (either his or that of a friend) in order to frame a story, he also frequently sets his canvas much more broadly, framing an image that blends avatar and surroundings into a richly layered composition that is utterly captivating – as can be seen time and again throughout his Flickr stream.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mihailsk’s Baptism of Fire

He is also an artist who uses a variety of styles to express his work, from full colour, to gentle tonal work through to monochrome, with techniques that touch upon sepia colouring, chiaroscuro, post-processing and digital layering. The result of all this being pieces of great visual depth.

Given this, there might be a temptation to pull together a multiplicity  of styles and display them together; instead, Mihailsk has focused on presenting pieces that focus on black-and-white / monochrome, and which also fold into them elements of  silhouette art, chiaroscuro and minimalism that very much help to focus on his use of emotion in his art. In this he also differs from many other SL artists, who often construct their images to frame what amounts to a pre-determined emotion that they wish to convey to their audience. Instead, Mihailsk frames his pieces in a manner more designed to convey the emotion he felt within a scene or setting; thus they become windows into his feelings and outlook.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mihailsk’s Baptism of Fire

The above all said, given the sheer depth and beauty of Mihailsk’s art, I admit I would have perhaps liked to perhaps see some of his colour art included here, simply because it is equally emotive. But make no mistake, what is shown within Baptism of Fire is utterly engaging and a more than worthy display of art from an exceptionally talented individual. and as well as visiting, I encourage you to also take the time to peruse his Flickr stream; you will not be disappointed.

SLURL DETAILS