Poppy’s Talefathers in Second Life

Janus Gallery II: Poppy Morris – Talefeathers

Talefeathers is – as far as I’m aware – my first exposure to Poppy Morris’s art in Second Life. Currently open at the Janus Gallery II within Chuck Clip’s Sinful Retreat arts hub, this is an engaging display of physical world art spread across the two levels at the gallery.

Hailing from Canada, Poppy commenced her art career in the world of paint, but has since expanded her expression to include textiles, new media and sound, and more. Her work as an artist and performer – Poppy often performs live as a sound artist- has been displayed before both domestic and international audiences, gaining considerable recognition. In particular, she uses her work as a means of exploring our relationship with technology, utilising “traditional art techniques such as weaving and dying alongside those of machines and micro-controllers. Most recently (in terms of her time in Second Life) she has started using machinima as a means of artistic expression.

An example of the latter forms the centrepiece to Talefeathers, Entitled Chrysalis Circuitry, it is the result of a commission by New Music Edmonton, and features images by Poppy together with music she composed with musician Allison Balcetis (who also performs in the video). A ballet of music, light and sounds, the piece edges on the psychedelic in places but is also an aural and motion rich form of abstract expressionism that is both flowing and in places atonal, thus offering a rich reflection of the genre’s many forms through a living piece of imagery and music.

Janus Gallery II: Poppy Morris – Talefeathers

Around the video screen on the lower level of the gallery are nine pieces of Poppy’s 2D art, with a further 20 displayed around the walls of the upper level. It’s a richly diverse selection of pieces that also might, in places be said to be thematically grouped.  Take, for example six of the pieces along the lower west wall of the gallery. These feature a range of bird-like creatures (some very definitely avian in nature, some apparently wearing masks), all of which – thanks to their titles – carry something of a social commentary. Meanwhile, and above them are four images focused on deer that also, through their titles, also appear to offer reflections on emotional responses.

Across the gallery from both of these sets, and occupying both upper and lower levels, are what might be regarded as more “traditional” landscape and plant paintings, but which again offer further food for thought in their distinctive titles. In this, the title given to this exhibition becomes clear; the tale reflecting the fact that all of the paintings have a story contained within their individual canvases, the feather perhaps a reflection of the avian nature seen within many of the piece. In fact, these might be said to be stories in two parts, depending on whether we opt to view them simply as they hang on the walls – as I would initially recommend –  or through the lens of the title Poppy has determined for each piece – which I would suggest as a follow-on activity, and only after appreciating / interpreting all of the pieces sans any reference to their titles so as not to be influenced in your initial interpretation.

By doing this, it is possible to view, as a singular example, Memories of Renewal both as a piece that celebrates a spring evening, with flowers in bloom set against the backdrop of a sky reddened by a setting Sun. At the same time, taken with its title, it sits as a reminder that, when it comes naturally rather than as a result of human error or mischief, something like a forest fire (suggested by the red backdrop to the piece) is actually nature’s way of natural renewal and rebirth (as presented by the foreground blooms).

Janus Gallery II: Poppy Morris – Talefeathers

Thus, Talefeathers is a visually engaging collection of art awaiting discovery, with Chrysalis Circuitry offer a unique insight into how Second Life can be a canvas for modern performance art and expression through machinima, and I recommend both during their month-long (I believe) stay at Janus Gallery II.


Art and Asperger’s in Second Life

Janus Gallery, September 2021: Xia Chieng

Open until the end of the September 2021 at Sinful Retreat’s Janus Gallery is Visions of an Aspie, a collection of original physical world paintings by Xia Chieng. While I’m getting to it late, this is a fascinating exhibition that should not be missed.

Asperger Syndrome (AS or sometimes referred to just as Asperger’s (without the “syndrome” when used with the apostrophe)) is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests.

Having been diagnosed with the condition, Xia has found a way to overcome her difficulties in communicating with others through her art, using oils and watercolours to communication the feelings and emotions she experiences and to give a sense of the her personal situations, outlook and experiences.

The Janus Gallery, September 2021: Xia Chieng
I see artistic creation as a tool for self-transformation and healing, a way to dialogue with my own internal demons and those of our culture, a means to create my own myths with which one moves through the world. I am on personal journey; personal exploration into the essence of the live; the nature of the relationship between my senses, ideas and perceptions and the external world; my conception of space and substance. Only things that are personal can be truly real for me. 
My art is narrative but not literary, it tells stories but does not create their meaning. It may not mean anything, more than we can individually feel. My work is a thing, an object, presented to you for your pleasure and for my relief. It just is what it is. It is not explained alone.

– Xia Chieng

At Janus Gallery I, Xia presents a collection of self-portrait images each one of which presents a narrative – but not one in the literary sense; these are stories designed to give insight into a thought, a feeling, a senses of mind. In part, this might be contained within the title of each individual piece, but which is also mostly through the composition itself. Given this, these are exceptionally poignant pieces, paintings that might also be seen as a part of Xia’s own quest.

My condition makes me face life as a continuous challenge. Rejection, misunderstanding, intolerance have been present throughout my life and have led me to become elusive and lonely.

– Xia Chieng

Janus Gallery, September 2021: Xia Chieng

This quest is perhaps most clearly indicated in those images in the collection that feature a keyhole (or in some cases a question mark) painted onto the forehead of the subject(s) in each painting. A keyhole that might be taken as both Xia’s quest to unlock that part of her that causes her to feel apart, separate and lonely, and also perhaps as a pleas for use to better understand the blurred, isolated, challenging world in which she finds herself living.

As insights into a person’s life, these are pieces that can be stark, dark and a little disturbing (Memento Nori, I was a Suicide Girl, Misery, Nightmare, Good Memories), other have a difficult edge to them (The Princess of Broken Hearts, The birthday Party Without Guests); but these should not be taken to mean these are exercises in personal pathos – life is abundant throughout all of them, with some encompassing religious motifs that speak to broader questions that can affect us, thus offering something of a bridge between our own inner thoughts on life and those that flow through Xia’s mind.

Janus Gallery, September 2021: Xia Chieng

I cannot imagine what it means to be diagnosed with Asperger’s and would not try; but what is undeniable about Visions of an Aspie is  the over-arching statement of the power of art in its ability to give voice, to share, to overcome  – to help understand oneself and one another. This makes it – as mentioned at the top of this article – an exhibition that should not be missed, although it will be ending on September 29th.

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Duna’s Simply Nature in Second Life

Janus Gallery II: Duna Gant – Simply Nature

Currently open at the Janus Gallery II at Sinful Retreat, Chuck Clip’s superb arts centre, is Simply Nature by Duna Gant. As the artist notes, this is something of a continuation of an earlier exhibition from around two years ago, entitled Poetic Lines, in that it furthers the minimalist theme started in that exhibition, turning the direction fully onto to nature. Thus, the twelve pieces offered at Janus Gallery II capture the elegant beauty of nature, as reflected in so many ways by creations within Second Life, in a marvellously minimalist style that have woven into them a central thematic thread of the interplay of light and water within nature’s realm.

This interplay is perhaps most directly expressed within the sculpture by Duna that spans the entrance to the gallery, itself called Light and Water. As well as offering an anchor for the surrounding images, this sculpture also personifies Duna’s central inspiration for her Second Life photography.

Given this, it should come as no surprise that several of the pieces offers images of the water and the sky, each of which is lightly rendered, both in terms of palette and touch; naturally drawing the eye to the further details within each piece, or which express the natural beauty waiting to be found within the sky itself or upon the ripples of water.

I have looked for those elements that, isolated from everything superfluous that surrounds them, represent by themselves a concept, a poetic line, that invites the viewer to open a door that leads them to interpret the image for themselves beyond what it represents.

– Duna Gant

Janus Gallery II: Duna Gant – Simply Nature

These are images that are almost haunting in their vacant expanse; they naturally draw the eye into them and invite the mind to frame a narrative around them. From Always with its slowly rising (or setting) Moon, through to Loneliness – to offer a minimal sense of progress around the images from lower floor to upper – there is a palpable sense of life, place and wonder, of emotion and thought, that leads the visitor onward from one image to the next, the story forming and re-forming almost prism-like as each new image is encountered. This sense of story is in some respects enhanced by the gallery itself: the dark walls and hidden entrance leaving the visitor with no distraction from the subtle, soft richness of the images.

Through her use of muted tones, minimal colour and both framing and blurring, Duna presents 12 pieces that speak to the beauty of nature, the way in which it can use the simplest of forms over and again, never repeating but also never really changing, to offer something uniquely beautiful, be it the spread of a tree against the sky or the sea, the roundness of a hill or sand dune, or the sense of escape and freedom evoked by the rolls and curls of clouds – a sense further and quite fabulously embodied by the flock of birds to be found in Get Away.

Janus Gallery II: Duna Gant – Simply Nature

An outstanding exhibition, Simply Nature speaks from and to the heart.

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The Falling Leaves: Fly’s watercolours in Second Life

Sinful Retreat Janus III gallery Aug-Sept 2021: Fly Kugin

Second Life is awash with opportunities for people to express themselves creatively, be it through talents and skills they bring to the platform from their physical lives, or through the opportunities the platform itself offers for them to discover new avenues through which to express themselves – or indeed, a combination of the two. Through the platform we also have the opportunity to share in people’s creativity and their artistry and even to witness its growth.

Sinful Retreat Janus III gallery Aug-Sept 2021: Fly Kugin

This has certainly been the case for those familiar with Fly Kugin (FlyQueen). She first entered Second Life six years ago, and the majority of us were probably none the wiser. However, this changed in 2019 when, as a talented violinist with over 20 years of professional playing throughout her native Turkey and overseas, Fly started performing in Second Life.

In doing so, she quickly and rightly establishing herself as one a highly sought-after musician, with many of her concerts form early 2020 onwards presented through The White Mask Project, specifically established so she could channel the funds raised through such concerts into various charities close to her heart.

As well as bringing her music to Second Life, the platform has encouraged Fly to express herself through other mediums available within it, notably SL photography. She started taking landscape pictures in-world in 2020, teaching herself Photoshop to produce images that carry a the impression of having been painted. From here, either directly or indirectly, she started experimenting with art in the physical world, teaching herself techniques in line art and painting using on-line resources, and over the last several months she has exhibited her work at a number of in-world galleries.

On August 22nd, Fly opened what is her latest – and possibly last, at least for an unspecified period – exhibition at Chuck Clip’s Janus Gallery III at Sinful Retreat. The Falling Leaves is a gorgeous collection of nine watercolour paintings of the leaves (and in three cases the flowers) of various trees and flora.

While the title of the exhibition might remind some of the opening line of Johnny Mercer’s English lyrics for Autumn Leaves, the pieces selected in the exhibition are offered not in memory of a lost love, but as a dedication to the plants and flowers lost during the July / August 2021 wildfires that burnt through 1,600 square kilometres of Turkey’s Mediterranean forest (although given the soulful nature of the tune by Joseph Kosma to which Mercer set his words, it can actually frame the exhibition quite well).

In presenting The Falling Leaves, Fly describes herself as a “beginner” in the subject of painting flora; I’d actually dispute that statement. There is a maturity and grace within these paintings that easily puts them on a level approaching the works by some of the great botanical artists and illustrators; being English, I was almost immediately put in mind of some of Elizabeth Blackwell’s illustrations found in her A Curious Herbal, (without the associated medical connotations, obviously), such is the detail to be found in Fly’s pieces.

The maturity of technique these painting is made all the more attractive when one considers Fly only started experimenting with watercolours in June 2021. In fact, The Falling Leaves is her first exhibition of her watercolour paintings; a fact that makes the exhibition a bittersweet experience, given it is unclear when (or even possibly if) she will be exhibiting in-world again.

Sinful Retreat Janus III gallery Aug-Sept 2021: Fly Kugin

Given that there may not be another opportunity to view exhibitions by Fly after The Falling Leaves closes on September 22nd, 2021, I urge all lovers of art in SL to hop along to Sinful Retreat and visit the Janus Gallery III between now and then and share in these pieces.

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Art in 3D at Sinful Retreat in Second Life

Sinful Retreat – Ciottolina Xue in the foreground

Since its first major event in October 2020 as a new centre for arts in Second Life (see: Unveiled: a new art experience in Second Life), Chuck Clip’s Sinful Retreat has become a genuine hub for art and artists, with continuously rotating 2D and 3D art exhibitions and permanent (or semi-permanent) displays and collections, many of which I’ve covered in these pages).

The venue covers two regions – Sinful Retreat itself and the neighbouring Artists Retreat – to offer a multi-level experience from the main galleries on the elevated level, complete with the airship Dionysus offering an event space, to the open-air 3D ground-level displays through to the additional 2D galleries both on the ground and higher in the air, all the way to the the UWA-like challenge space which is currently home to Sinners and Saints, which you can also read about here.

Sinful Retreat – London Junkers

From the main landing point it is possible to directly visit the Janus I and Janus II galleries, the 3D sculpture by Bryn Oh, Cica Ghost, and Walton F. Wainwright (Faust Steamer) entitled The Exquisite Corpse and the studio spaces in between, or use the numerous teleports to reach the open-air exhibitions of 3D art to be found across the two regions – which is the element of the setting I wish to focus on here.

Within Sinful Retreat it is possible to visit areas featuring the work of (at the time of writing – names may vary over time) Aequitas, Cica Ghost, Ciottolina Xue, Ilyra Chardin, Kraven Klees, London Junkers, Mariposa Upshaw, Melio Minotaur, Phenix Rexen, Pixels Sideways, and Toysoldier Thor.

Sinful Retreat – ArtemisGreece

Meanwhile, Angel’s Rest features the work of Alchemelic, ArtemisGrecce, Havit Neox, Sharni Alazee, Suzanne Graves, Thoth Jantzen and DB Bailey and Venus Adored, together with a display by region holder and Sinful Retreat owner / curator, Chuck Clip. Between all of these are various displayed of art that Chuck is displaying from his own collection, whilst two further sky galleries were, at the time of my re-visit, presenting exhibitions by Leo Bhalti (photography entitled Second Lives) and Wolfgang Ginka (poems and photography entitled Remembering Blue). 

In terms of the ground-level 3D art displays, I’d recommend picking one that grabs you and then when on the ground, using your pedal extremities to explore those across the rest of the two regions. This is because the sheer richness of the art on offer unfolds quite naturally, and it is possible to find yourself being call onwards from location to location on what becomes a voyage of discovery.

Sinful Retreat – art across Angel’s Rest

These include several blasts from the past – such as Ciottolina Xue’s exquisite Little Paradise in Second Life and Covfefe! The New World Disorder by Djehuti-Anpu (Thoth Jantzen), both of which appeared at SL15B (with the latter forming a part of the larger Moments of Immertia).

Also to be found within Angel’s Rest is Sharni Aalzee’s Never Say Never 2, a recreation of her 2014 UWA  Grand Prize winner in the 2014 Grand Art and MachinimUWA Challenge, Never Say Never – Love Transcends Borders. This sits on a plateau that forms both an art display area and a memorial garden that includes a remembrance to Ebbe Altberg and with candles lit to those whom Second Life has lost.

Sinful Retreat – Sharni Alazee, Messuno Myoo and the memorial garden

Such is the richness of the art on display – from Greenies getting up to mischief to giant lava dragons and parring by way of glittering cathedrals, little towns, figurines, robots at play, magical gardens and more – Sinful Retreat and Angels Rest are well worth taking an hour or two to explore. And should you feel in the mood for more art, there’s also Roxkstudio across the bridge to the west of Sinful Retreat – but I’ll save that for another day.

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Sinners and Saints in Second Life

Sinful Retreat: Sinners and Saints

The Sinful Retreat Sinners and Saints exhibition opens at 12:00 noon SLT on Saturday July 10th, featuring the work of an incredible 50 artists across two regions through until September 2021.

First announced in February 2021 (see: Sinners and saints, a new arts challenge in Second Life), the exhibition is in many respects the spiritual offspring of the great Art Challenges sponsored and hosted by the University of Western Australia and their partners (both in-world and out-world), and organised by FreeWee Ling and Jayjay Zifanwe on behalf of UWA.

In the wake of the UWA Gratitude Art Show back in November which Chuck Clip curated alongside Mariposa Upshaw, we here at Sinful Retreat and Angels Rest decided to carry UWA’s torch onward into the future in the form of occasional themed art shows. Sinners & Saints Art Show is our first show which serves the dual purpose of carrying the aforementioned torch and celebrating the culmination of our first year in Second Life. 

– From the Sinful Retreat team

Sinful Retreat: Sinners and Saints – Morlita Quan

The challenge has been for 2D and 3D artists and poets and writers to submit two pieces, one depicting the side of light (or goodness, or saintliness or The Force, or whatever you might like to call it) and the other the side of “darkness” (or The Dark Side,  or sinfulness or wickedness – again, whatever you prefer to call it). In this, the organisers were keen to emphasize that despite the exhibition’s title, they were not asking artists to think  along purely Christian (or general religious) lines.

Sinful Retreat and Angels Rest are mirrors for each other, highlighting the dichotomy of light and dark in art and humanity as a whole. We thought it appropriate that our first show should reflect that … With submissions from 50 artists and poets from across the grid, and over 20 hours of performances by musicians and DJs, plus poetry and science fiction readings, this show is sure to encapsulate all of us and serve to start some interesting conversations. We cannot wait to gaze deep into the mirror with you.

– From the Sinful Retreat team

The result is an incredibly diverse range of art that is mixed – as noted above – with more than 20 hours of music throughout the event, together with live reading of prose and poetry. The canvas of participating artists could not be broader, featuring name both well-known, and those who many not be so familiar, as well as some those who enjoyed visiting the UWA challenges will likely frin familiar from those exhibitions as well.

Sinful Retreat: Sinners and Saints – Traci Ultsch (l) and Chuck Clip (r)

Just how broad a spectrum of art the theme of the event has provided can be seen in the fact that within the pieces offered, are works that might reflect the nature of human nature – that we can be led by turns by the inner voices of our better angels or our worse demons;  on the broader suffering we can inflect on one another through multiple means, all of which lead to so many displaced and lost people; how our selfishness has led to untenable climate and environmental damage – but has also awakened the need for us to do more to reverse that damage; and more, all mixed with more familiar offerings on the themes of saints / angels and sinning / demons. There are even cosmological pieces drawing on idea of yin and yang, universal balance, and creation and entropy awaiting discovery.

Readings and music will be provided throughout the event, as noted, and the activities for July are now available via the Sinful Retreat website – expect August and September’s activities to be posted at the start of each month.

Sinful Retreat: Sinners and Saints – Meilo Minotaur

Richly diverse, Sinners and Saints will open on July 10th, 2021 with a 3-hour event featuring singers SpiritLed (nnon-13:00 SLT), Semina (13:00-14:00 SLT), and Acoustic Energy (14:00-15:00 SLT).

When visiting, I’d suggest using the local EEP settings and strongly recommend you have Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) enabled in your viewer (Preferences → Graphics → make sure Advanced Lighting Model in checked).  Also note that following the end of the exhibition, selected pieces from Sinners and Satins will be displayed in rotation on Sinful Retreat and Angels Rest.

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