Alex Riverstone’s Melancholia in Second Life

NovaOwl Gallery, November 2022: Alex Riverstone

After my almost back-to-back forays of late into art exhibitions that either focus on, or lean towards, hybrid art and the use of AI tools (notably MidJourney), I thought I would do a little course adjustment and offer a look at some Second Life based photographic art. To that end, I trundled off to NovaOwl Gallery, curated and operated by ULi Jansma, Ceakay Ballyhoo & Owl Dragonash.

It this there, within the ground-level gallery space, that people can find – through until the end of 2022 – an exhibition of art by Alex Riverstone, an artist whose work I have appreciated for some to and always enjoy witnessing.  This is a modest exhibition, featuring a baker’s dozen of pictures by Alex; however, it stands as proof that quantity isn’t necessarily everything: quality accounts for more.

Second Life has allowed me to enjoy it in a different way: allowing the exploration of scenes, poses and angles which wouldn’t be practical in the real world.

– Alex Riverstone

NovaOwl Gallery, November 2022: Alex Riverstone

On first viewing the exhibition, I was struck by the apparent disconnect between its title – Melancholia – and the subject matter of the images presented.

In purely medical terms, melancholia is a subtype of depression, characterised by a number of symptoms such as severely depressed mood, pervasive anhedonia, and lack of emotional responsiveness. As a concept, it has a history dating back to ancient medicine in Europe, and was long regarded as one of the the four temperaments matching the four humours. However, whilst the pieces Alex presents within the exhibition can be called many things – artistic, picturesque, engaging, and so on – none immediately strike one as being of a depressed or melancholic nature when looked upon.

However, in their visual richness they do encompass another interpretation of “melancholia”, one popular in the Renaissance when it was taken as a sign of artistic genius; and there is plenty of artistic expression to be found in each of these pieces from their initial composition, through their processing and presentation and finishing with their titles, such that each one stands as a unique image capable of carrying our imaginations into a world of self-made narrative.

NovaOwl Gallery, November 2022: Alex Riverstone

And it is within that narrative that we chose – as this is purely subjective – to see some of the images as how aspects of melancholia might be visualised in a picture or painting. For example, take the Duality images (7, 8 and 9). within them are hints of melancholic traits we might chose to see: the absence of anyone to enjoy the flying kites and the puppies on the bridge perhaps echoing feelings of anhedonia; the empty chairs speaking to the loneliness of depression / melancholy; the tree with its suggestion of a figure hanging by their wrists from it suggesting despondency. Others, through their titles perhaps whisper more keenly on the subject – as with the Wall and Lonesome Cottage.  Even the loungers of Summer Holiday, fading into the white-out of the picture as they  do, might be taken as a metaphor for the emptiness of melancholia.

But these interpretations are, as note, entirely subjective. Whether you opt to see then or prefer to take  the presented pieces purely as an expression of Second Life’s multifaceted beauty really doesn’t matter; this is Second Life photography rendered as art in a manner that is genuinely captivating and worth visiting.

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The artist known as Prins in Second Life

NovaOwl Gallery: Prins

Hailing from Denmark, Prins (Skylog) has been active in Second Life for more than a decade; however, he has only recently gained an interest in Second Life photography (starting in December 2021) – and in a relatively short space of time, he has established himself as a highly visual artist and something of an experimentalist. Proof of this can be found in a somewhat immersive exhibition of his work which runs through until the end of October 2022 at the ground-level exhibition space of NovaOwl Gallery in Second Life

Entitled simply Prins, this is a genuine tour de force of the artist’s work; one that literally takes over the exhibition space in what can only be described as a riot of colour.  Large-scale reproductions of his work cover walls, floors and ceilings alike, forming a backdrop to more “traditional” framed pieces. The result is a hall literally alive with art, several pieces of which are animated and all of which – be they on the floor, walls, windows or ceilings – appear to be for sale.

NovaOwl Gallery: Prins

On entering the gallery space, one is greeted by Prins himself (as a large self-portrait on the floor) whilst facing a clever view of the gallery’s centre room windows, which Prins has effectively turned into a  triptych of paired “glass” images (if I might be allowed to mangle ideas like “triptych” and “pair” like this).These are bordered to the left and right respectively by a marvellously evocative image of a sea monster entitled Nessie and a mural depicting a woman in clown-like garb and in various poses, entitled Ladies in Red.

This is the start of a three-room adventure into colour and presentation, where there is literally not a single corner without something to attract the eye. From landscapes through avatar studies to expressions of other people’s art, Prins has an ability to both capture his subjects – and our attention – in a multitude of engaging ways that speak to a natural eye for angle and focus. He is also an artist unafraid to both offer a restrained hand with post-processing and also experiment freely with layering, colour, depth and finish to present pieces that might be said to border on abstract expressionism, further captivating and holding one’s attention.

NovaOwl Gallery: Prins

Such is the immersive nature of the exhibition, it can be a little overwhelming when entering the gallery (I’d advise reducing draw distance if you’re on a lower-end system and tend to use a DD of 100m+ just to ease texture loading), it can take one or two moments to adjust to the all-inclusive use of space.

However, the very fact that every surface has been utilised, coupled with the richness of colour throughout the majority of the space, balanced here and there with the considered use of darker or more muted tones, given a sense of life to the entire exhibition, the sheer vibrancy evident in some of the pieces giving the impression they are shouting their stories in joy.

NovaOwl Gallery: Prins

As is usually the case with NovaOwl, the exhibition had a “soft” opening on September 3rd. However, there will be a more musical gathering to celebrate Prin’s work on September 11th, 2022, starting at 12:00 noon SLT, with an open invitation for anyone interested in Prins’ work and art in general in SL to attend.

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Vanessa Jane’s Endymion in Second Life

NovaOwl Sky Gallery: Vanessa Jane – Endymion

Open through until September 25th, 2022 at the NovaOwl Sky Gallery is a exhibition of Second Life art by Vanessa Jane (VanessaJane66), which stands a both a celebration of the beauty of Second Life, and also as a reflection of some of the artist’s thoughts on matters within the world at large.

Placed across the two floors of the gallery space are 26 images of locations around Second Life, all of which offer reflections of all that might be found here in terms of landscapes and similar. They encompass townscape, pastoral and rural scenes, coastal studies, street scenes and life studies (primarily and intentionally using NPCs that can be found within various locations in SL, rather than avatars).

NovaOwl Sky Gallery: Vanessa Jane – Endymion

As one would expect with Vanessa’s work, these are all pieces that have been carefully framed and focused so as to offer a single frame story; one enhanced by Vanessa’s considered use of post-processing techniques to evoke mood and narrative. For example, the painting-like finish to pieces like Orkney Croft, Mist Lake and Sunset Trees) gently calls forth thoughts of the great landscape masters; meanwhile, the more photo-like finish to the likes of The Horses, The Picnic Spot and The Bend in the Road, entice us with ideas of romance as bound within the words of the great romantic poets. Together, they remind us of the enduring beauty and power to be found within life’s passage.

However, this is not simply an exhibition of yet more tranquil and / or engaging places we can visit in Second Life. Set between the above are other pieces that are more subtle in their narrative tone. They start as subtle whispers through the likes of The End of the Holiday, The End of the LineAftermath, The Room, Bleak House, and reach full voice within the upper floor trio of The Lights in the Sky, The Innocents and The Cornfield, three pieces specifically produced in response to the war in Ukraine.

NovaOwl Sky Gallery: Vanessa Jane – Endymion

As Vanessa explains via her Artist’s Statement located that the top of the stairs accessing the galley’s mezzanine-like area, this is an exhibition that offers reflections on both the enduring beauty of life (and art), and also its great fragility – and the inherent risk that in only focusing on the one (beauty), we forget the inherent nature of the other (fragility), putting that beauty at risk of being torn down and broken by darker forces within our natures, unless we awaken and take proper action to avoid such fates.

To underscore this, Vanessa has called the exhibition Endymion, after the romantic poem by John Keats (published 1819, and itself building on the Greek legend of Endymion the shepherd / astronomer of Greek mythology and his love for Selene, the Titan goddess of the Moon), with the first stanza of the first book also quoted within the exhibition.

It is a poem which focuses on the idea that whilst it is easy to dream of eternal love in the arms of another (book 1 of the poem), it is much harder to achieve the same whilst awake; requiring as it does earnest travail and conscious effort (as depicted in Endymion’s journeys, recounted through books 2-4 of the poem). Thus its is only through conscious effort and action, rather than dreamy reflection, that we can truly appreciate – and safeguard – the real beauty and power of life.

NovaOwl Sky Gallery: Vanessa Jane – Endymion

In this, perhaps, there is also a reflection on Second Life itself: it is a places of dreams and the imagination kept alive and available through our daily conscious effort of logging-in and devoting our time and attention on it.

Evocative, beautiful, and personal, Endymion is thus a rare and thoughtful journey through Second Life, life, and the thoughts and reflections of the artist.

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Fifty Shades of Pey in Second Life

Poster

A while ago, I was invited to display a selection of my blog images of the places I’ve written about at the NovaOwl gallery. For various reasons, I couldn’t make the dates initially offered, so things were re-scheduled for July 2022.

The exhibition – which I opted to call Fifty Shades of Pey in an entirely tongue-in-cheek moment – had a “soft” opening on July 3rd within the ground-level exhibition space at the gallery, and at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, July 13th the exhibition will have a more “formal” opening with music by Dj Uli, and I’d like to invite you to come along if you happen to be free, while the exhibition will be open through to July 29th.

I’d also like to thank Owl, Ceakay and Uli for the invitation to some my work, and for Owl for her promotion and support of Fifty Shades, as well as he continued and unstinting work in supporting art and music across Second Life.

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The artistry of Melina Sue in Second Life

NovaOwl Sky Gallery: Melina Sue, June 2022

Now open through until Sunday, July 31st, 2022 is the most captivating exhibition of mixed media art it has been my delight to visit. Hosted within the Sky Gallery at NovaOwl, operated by Uli Jansma, Ceakay Ballyhoo & Owl Dragonash, the exhibition features the work of Melina Sue (MelinaSue1).

Set across two levels within the skybox is a selection of art that spans the digital divide, offering images, drawings and paintings from the physical world, together with avatar studies and wildlife pictures captured from within Second Life that is collectively utterly engaging in its richness and diversity.

A long-time resident of Second Life (having originally joined in 2009), Melina Sue describes herself as “a multi-discipline, mixed media artist”, a description that fall far short of her creativity, her eye for composition, colour, narrative, pose and lighting, and her innate ability to capture the very essence of life within her work.

NovaOwl Sky Gallery: Melina Sue, June 2022

Enter the main level of the gallery and you enter a place where Africa touches upon India’s rain forests, where gazelle, lion, elephant – and tiger – roam under a night-time sky (make sure you use the gallery’s Shared Environment settings). On the rock walls bounding three sides of this grass hollow are arranged images from Second Life: three large format avatar studies of equally enormous richness and that depth of life mentioned above, and three wildlife pictures.

Touching on elements of fantasy, all three portraits contain within them their own narrative that extends well beyond their frames, but which still as individual pieces that can be appreciated for their own beauty – with Inside Me offering a powerful resonance as to the strength of a woman. Between two of them, the wildlife pictures do more that offer images of the animals within them – but carry us to the Serengeti itself; placing us on the grasslands to witness first-hand the movement of gazelle, giraffe and elephant.

NovaOwl Sky Gallery: Melina Sue, June 2022

On the upper floor, reached by way of a ramp passing two further avatar studies, is another display of Melina’s art, which brings together paintings from the physical world, mixed media pieces from Second Life, and the most engaging drawings containing beloved pets and true life studies. These latter pieces are a continuation of a display of art on the lower floor, arranged around Melina’s signature. Click this and – if you have media enabled – you can witness her bringing a painting to life.

More than this, this selection of studies offer an introduction to Melina’s art in a manner we can all share: as a working artist, she offers both the opportunity for us to purchase her work to hang in our physical world, and will accept – subject to discussion – commissions to produce portraits of humans and our pets. For those who would like a professional photographic portrait of their avatar – or a painting of same – the info board alongside the display provides her rates, whilst more of her work can be viewed on her website.

NovaOwl Sky Gallery: Melina Sue, June 2022

A truly gifted artist, and a genuinely engaging exhibition.

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Skip Staheli at NovaOwl in Second Life

NovaOwl Gallery: Skip Shaheli, April 2022

NovaOwl is a new gallery space operated by ULi Jansma, Ceakay Ballyhoo & Owl Dragonash within the Mainland community of Novatron on the southern side of Corsica. It opened at the start of April 2022 with an exhibition of art by Skip Staheli, that runs through until late June 2022.

As a part of a broader community, the gallery presents a waterfront location, complete with local boat moorings, an outdoor events area with café bar, opportunities to participate in a fishing contest to music every Monday at noon SLT, while a teleport centre alongside the landing point offers connections to other point of interest on the southern side of the continent.

NovaOwl Gallery: Skip Shaheli, April 2022

The gallery building offers a main events space with a galleries lounge over, with the gallery hall running to one side, from front to rear. For Skip’s exhibition, this has been split into three, each of which with a specific focus for the presented art, which Skip describes thus:

The first room [is] a dark room, inspired by my dark thoughts, my worries and sadness, doubts and sometimes anger; about life and things going on in the world. Raw emotions.
The second room [reached] through a gateway, will bring you to a more mystical ambiance [one] still with a eerie feeling to it. Feel the calm, inhale the scent of fantasy, tiptoe to the little pond. Breathe in and see the fireflies dancing.
The third room will bring you to the light [and] a carefree happy spring feeling. [A place] where you can sit down and enjoy the flowers and tea with cake while your feet can rest and relax in the soft early spring grass. Maybe [you might] think a little about this journey in my head and I hope it can tickle you some, and at least give you a little well-deserved smile.

– Skip Staheli

NovaOwl Gallery: Skip Shaheli, April 2022

The result is three rooms with three distinct, but equally captivating artistic thrusts- although visitors should be aware that the layout of the exhibition space means that the first room to be encountered is actually Skip’s second room, with the first immediately to the right on entering and the third immediately to the left.This tends to interrupt the flow of ideas compared to Skip’s notes, as the mystical setting is the first to be encountered – but it does not alter the fact that across all three halls, Skip presents selections of his art that are richly captivating, each one carrying with it a particular narrative – or narrative themes in the case of some.

In this, I would dispute Skip’s reference to the first hall being about “dark” thoughts per se; both Run! and Tears for Australia speak to a man with a depth of love for nature and for animals that reaches well beyond anger to empathy and desire to help and care – although one can well accept an underlying anger at those who are careless enough to bring about wildfires quite outside of any natural causes of the same.

NovaOwl Gallery: Skip Shaheli, April 2022

The love of animals and nature is reflected in one of the images in the second room, sitting among those that turn more to fantasy for their narrative, and which in turn flow through to the remain hall, where beauty and nature take centre seat. Thus, while the three halls each have their own core ideas, all are joined through the richness of art and thematic flow that passes through all of the pieces presented.

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