Silas Merlin at Visions of Beauty in Second Life

Silas Merlin - Visions of Beauty Gallery
Silas Merlin at Visions of Beauty Gallery

Open now at the Visions of Beauty gallery, curated by dj12 Magic, is an exhibition of almost entirely new works by Maître Pastelliste (Master of Pastels), Silas Merlin, aka artist Jean-François Le Saint.

I make no apologies in being completely smitten by Silas’ work; I was hooked the first time I saw it at Gallery 24 in January 2016, and I’m still deeply pleased Silas came to Holly Kai Garden to exhibit his work there as well. For those unfamiliar with his work, the exhibition at Vision of Beauty could be no finer introduction. It features 18 pastel portraits and studies, and presents a number of Silas’ mesh sculptures – mesh being a medium he has recently moved into as a means of presenting 2D art through the 3D medium.

Silas Merlin - Visions of Beauty Gallery
Silas Merlin at Visions of Beauty Gallery

The pastel images are in a number of different sizes, allowing the visitor to see their rich, layered complexity – and appreciate why pastels are such an ideal medium for portraiture; in my opinion outshining both water and oil for the life-line tone and feel they give to the subject being studied.

Silas’ work very much focuses on children, generally those in period dress and attending traditional or medieval festivals in Brittany, and this exhibition again demonstrates this. Created from the hundreds of photos he takes while attending the events himself, Silas has brought together a select of pieces which very much put us at the heart of such a gathering, surrounded by children in period dress, some sitting earnestly, others at play or participating in a traditional dance, while others simply sit and talk or laugh together.

Silas Merlin: Dancer at the Barre - Visions of Beauty Gallery
Silas Merlin: Dancer at the Barre at Visions of Beauty Gallery

The floorspace of the room is broken up by a set of Silas’ mesh sculptures, some of which are taken from his own studies, including Mock Fight, which made its debut appearance at Holly Kai Park.

However, of the sculptures on display, there is little doubt that Dancer at the Barre, located at the foot of the spiral staircase leading up to another gallery area, is the most striking.

A stunning 3D interpretation of the painting of the same name by Edgar Degas, Dancer at the Barre has beautifully captured Degas’ own unite style, his appreciation of his subject, the tone and colour of the original. In short the very essence of the original is marvellously raised in 3D.

Producing 3D versions of art is something that has long fascinated Silas; he’s previously voiced a desire to be able to produce such pieces, particularly with his own art, which he might then produce in the physical world via 3D printing. More recently, in discussing the idea, he’s suggested part of the fascination is to be able to see  – or at least imagine – what lies behind / beyond the core subject of a work of art, and present that as a part of a 3D piece.

Silas Merlin - Visions of Beauty Gallery
Silas Merlin at Visions of Beauty Gallery

For my part, I can say it has been a privilege and delight to see Silas realise this move into 3D art, and to witness his ideas for the medium evolve. I certainly look forward to seeing more of both his 2D and 3D work – and do genuinely encourage you to visit his exhibitions in-world, perhaps starting with this one, and to visit his studio space, should you wish to see more

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Silas Merlin: Pastels and mirrors in Second Life

Holly Kai Garden: Mirrored Garden
Holly Kai Garden: Mirrored Garden

Opening on Saturday, April 16th, 2016 at Holly Kai Garden is a new exhibition by Silas Merlin. Entitled  Mirrored Garden, the exhibit is a rich showcase of Sials’ artistry, and I unashamedly admit that I’m pleased as punch to have having exhibiting at Holly Kai.

Better know in the physical world as Jean-François Le Saint, Silas is a Maître Pastelliste ( Master Pastelist) at the Société des Pastellistes de France, and his work is utterly captivating. so much so, that no opportunity to see it displayed in Second Life should ever be missed.

Holly Kai Garden: Mirrored Garden
Holly Kai Garden: Mirrored Garden

Mirrored Garden is very much an exhibition of three parts, all interwoven. On either terrace is a selection of Silas’ pastel works, each selection reflected by the words of two poems by Eala Du (CottonSwan), Where Is This Place? and Hands Form Into Puppets. On one terrace, the images focus on human hands: a parent’s loving hand resting on a boy’s shoulder, a teacher assisting a young violinist, children sitting engaged in a game – are all beautifully echoed in Eala’s words. Across the path, the sentiments and freedom expressed in Where Is This Place? perfectly frames Silas’ images of youngsters enjoying the freedom of the seashore.

Centrally placed in each terrace is a sculpture by Silas, one standing as the mirror reflection of the other, albeit with a slight difference between the two. Entitled Mock Fight, these two pieces both embody the title of the exhibition and reflect the youthful freedom and innocence found within the words of Eala’s poems.

Holly Kai Garden: Mirrored Garden
Holly Kai Garden: Mirrored Garden

The mirror theme of the title can be further found in the pillars directly behind the sculptures – although you will need to have Advanced Lighting (ALM) enabled in your viewer to see it. Set into each pillar is a “mirrored” surface which, thanks to the use of projectors, presents a marvellous refection of each terrace and the art displayed within it when caming across the surface of either mirror – while in one you might even catch Silas looking back at you 🙂 .

Silas’ work, beautifully executed in pastels and carefully uploaded to Second Life is a true delight to see. There is something utterly compelling in the layered textures of the images, their colour tones and depth, which captures the very essence of his subjects in a way photograph and paint cannot easily replicate.

Holly Kai Garden: Mirrored Garden
Holly Kai Garden: Mirrored Garden

Silas is always seeking ways in which he can extend his artistry; Mock Fight, for example, marks his move towards translating images he has produced in pastels into 3D pieces in-world. This in turn is a step towards his desire to produce models of his art in the physical world via 3D printing. For those similarly wishing to extend their artistry, Silas offers some words of advice in an article in Pastel Artist International entitled The Paper Is Your Playgroundwhich is presented at holy Kai Garden, together with articles in French from Pratique Des Arts and Dessins & Peintures Thematique, which offer a wonderful window into Silas’ world.

As noted, I’m utterly delighted that Silas is exhibiting at Holly Kai Garden, and we’ll be marking the opening of his exhibition at 16:00 SLT on Saturday, April 16th, with a special celebration (dress: smart casual) with music provided by DJ G-Windz (Gerrard Winstanley), all at the public terrace at Holly Kai Garden. I hope we’ll see you there!

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The pastel world of Silas Merlin in Second Life

The Portraits of Silas Merlin - Gallery 24
The Portraits of Silas Merlin – Gallery 24

Now open at Gallery 24, curated by Kayly Ilali, is a beautiful exhibition entitled The Portraits of Silas Merlin. And it is, in a word, magnificent.

Silas is better known in the physical world as Jean-François Le Saint, a Maître Pastelliste of the Société des Pastellistes de France. In Portraits he presents a number of his pastel studies from the physical world, all beautifully reproduced for in-world exhibition in a manner which loses none of their context or the power of his chosen medium.

The Portraits of Silas Merlin - Gallery 24
The Portraits of Silas Merlin – Gallery 24

Spread through the two floors of the gallery is a virtual treasure trove of his work, offering a unique and involving insight into Silas’ world as an artist who uses modern and traditional means to produce a portrait, mixing photography – while he does enjoy live sittings, he much prefers capturing his subjects on camera, often taking hundreds of photographs whilst visiting  traditional or medieval festivals in Brittany –  with the great tradition of pastel art.

Through the images, with their layered, textured richness, it is possible to appreciate just why pastels have been a favoured form of portrait art since the Renaissance period. The pale colour tones which are available or can be mixed result in incredibly life-like images which can often transcend the use of paints, capturing the very essence of the subjects in a study.

The Portraits of Silas Merlin - Gallery 24
The Portraits of Silas Merlin – Gallery 24

You might wonder why an artist established in real life might want to bring their work into Second Life, where the ToS is seen as being hostile. In talking to Kayly Iali about his work, Silas offers a more relaxed view on the benefits of exhibiting in-world:

Second Life is warm and cozy, I want to be here. Importing my real life work into Second Life and rezzing it on a virtual wall gives me a new perspective on it. By contrast sticking it on a website or posting on social networks does not add anything or give me new insight to my paintings.

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Natalya Gousseva: The Portraits of Silas Merlin – Gallery 24

Artwork comes into being in the virtual world, (especially when you don’t use the full bright lighting feature in Second Life), it is affected by the day cycle, local lights that can be coloured, projectors [that] cast shadows…

On a more practical level, Second Life offers him the opportunity to learn about using new mediums. He’s particularly interested in  sculpture, and adapting some of his work into 3D pieces.

The platform also present Silas with the ability to socialise more easily with visitors to his in-world studio, something he notes isn’t easily achieved in the physical world, where he is often lost in the flow of his work.

There are many facets to this exhibition which are both fascinating and enticing – the presentation of physical world art; the insight into Silas’ work and talent, the glimpse we get into the lives of his subjects. Speaking entirely personally, all of these aspects for me come together in one particular piece Silas has chosen to display: his portrait of Russian actress Natalya Gousseva, as she appeared as a 12-year-old in the mid-eighties Soviet television mini-series, Guest from the Future.

There is something fabulously intimate and compelling about the portrait, while beneath it, a bright panel offers us a glimpse into its creation: a link to a time-lapse video of the piece being drawn. Taken together, portrait and film offer a wonderful insight into Silas’ world, and I again offer him my thanks for allowing me to embed the video here, hopefully as a further enticement for people to visit the exhibition.

As well as the pastel studies, Portraits includes a number of photographs featuring young subjects Silas sketched during live sittings, presenting a further means of witnessing his work. And for those who might wonder how their avatar might look rendered in pastel art, a trip to the rooftop terrace will reveal a number of avatar portraits, work he still does today on a commissioned basis.

All told, The Portraits of Silas Merlin is a compelling exhibition, one all lovers of art should make time to see. For those who, like me, become enamoured of his work, Silas has a gallery in New Babbage and a second on Escapades Island – do visit them as well.

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