Saturday, December 4, 2010

Personal Appreciation of the November Round by Guest Blogger Sayumi Tsunenaga

I am not an artist.
I have no identifiable skills in that area, despite my tag in the SL UWA 3D Art Challenge group reading ‘3D Artist’. It’s the tag everyone gets – I really must ask Jayjay to fix that, because I’d be a charlatan to wear that tag!

I am not an art critic. I don’t own any significant artwork except in reproduction. I have never studied art in any form. But I do know what I enjoy, and I readily admire what others produce. And so anything I write here must be read only as a personal perspective, and your perspective may be very different. If you respond to the works in the Challenge differently, if you would have chosen different pieces to write about, that is exactly as it should be.

There are many in SL who are certainly not charlatans in regard to artistic skills and creativity. Some of them also claim not to be true artists, but I think that opens the question of what is an artist anyway, because whatever label some of them refuse to wear, every single entrant in this month’s round has created art. Wonderful, vibrant art, pulsating with life, colour, imagery and emotion. Let me take you on a tour of some of my favourite pieces – though to be honest, I could have chosen many others almost as easily, and there was nothing displayed that I could not imagine anyone appreciating.

In the photos below I have usually included myself in the image. (To view full-size photo, right-click and open in new browser tab, then enlarge to full-size). This is only to give a sense of scale to the work, because many are massive and some also invite the viewer to participate in the work by entering it or engaging with it personally. And so I have tried to reflect that in my photos, and I am gratified to note that FreeWee Ling has done the same in some of the photos of her complete catalogue of the November Round.

I begin with a couple of pieces that speak to me of my homeland, Australia. One was intentional, that being Jesse Keyes’ Windmill. This is perhaps the most representational of all the works displayed, and is iconically Australian almost to the point of cliché. That is not intended as a criticism though. To stand beneath the windmill, gazing into the placid water of the tank, the sun setting behind as depicted in my photo, is to feel the Outback as many of us Australians so rarely are able in our city-bound existence. This work evokes the soul of Australia, and at this particular moment it is especially poignant for us in Western Australia where we are in the midst of the most extensive drought in historical times. Jesse Keyes has captured and brought to life Australia’s biggest contemporary challenge, the provision of water to our people.

Jesse Keyes Windmill

The other work that speaks to me of Australia, though I don’t think its non-Australian creator necessarily intended that, is soror Nishi’s The Copper Beech. I have met soror just once, and at the time did not realize that she is a major winner of past contests, but I have since come to see that trees form an important part of her creative work. And what a tree this is! It is the branches that evoke Australia to me, as they curve and taper gracefully upward, bearing lightly the almost ethereal foliage which I find much harder to locate in an other-world context. But the branches are very reminiscent of the salmon gums in the Western Australian woodlands, while their colour is reminiscent of a number of white-barked eucalypts. By its scale, to stand beneath this work is to place oneself in submission to nature; and the setting sun playing on the foliage brings it to life in the dimension of colour as well as form.

soror Nishi The Copper Beech

Turning now to an image that would be more associated with Iceland or Scandinavia than Australia, one of the most participatory works displayed this month is Arrow Inglewood’s Ice Ice Baby – it’s cold inside. Facing an agglomeration of indeterminate form from the outside, this unusual work is only truly appreciated once you are inside it, and so the artist has made an explicit invitation to enter. You find yourself inside a gigantic ice cube, in the process of melting so that holes are already appearing in the outer surface, but in the chill depths of the interior a goblet stands, towering above the viewer, apparently some four metres in height. In the glass, whimsically a cocktail stirrer endlessly circulates, agitating the unseen beverage and adding motion to the frozen form of the melting cube. An awareness of cold, of blue light and of the motion of melting ice, penetrates the senses.

Arrow Inglewood Ice Ice Baby – it’s cold inside

The human form is present and active in some of the works displayed, and I have chosen to write about three of these. Kyra Roxan’s Urban Girls could be set in my home town of Perth, but probably is not since the artist is American and was partly educated in Spain. Some shimmering night-time cityscape forms a backdrop to the sensual image of three shapely female friends seen from the rear, embracing and apparently anticipating their planned outing into the urban jungle for a night of entertainment and, probably, seduction. The female form is credibly Latina, and the colouring also, the hair and flimsy minimalist clothing adorning bodies presented in bas relief which are appreciated all the more fully from seeing the work side-on as well as conventionally from the front. The human shapes and adornments clearly owe much to the way Second Life represents these things, but this is to take nothing from the work, which draws the viewer in and makes the female viewer wish she could be a fourth member of the party, and the male viewer no doubt already planning how to discover the nightclub where he may encounter these girls in perhaps an hour’s time, to offer to buy one of them a drink and draw her aside from her friends.

Kyra Roxan’s Urban Girls

(and detail showing bas relief)

Lavitaloca Vita’s The Circle of Life is another intently participatory work. Again, the artist explicitly invites us to enter the piece, and we pass magically through the translucent shell of the world globe, to sit in the very centre of the work, amidst a circle of people of many ages and sizes. One feels that these individuals may be not only male and female, child and adult, but also drawn from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The viewer has a real sense of internationality when seated in the midst of the piece, and the work could readily be adopted by an agency of the United Nations as symbolic of its endeavours. The use of colour and texture to facilitate the play of light within the enclosing shell, and the musical dimension, together with the lotus-postion meditative pose of the viewer (or viewers, as the piece can accommodate several people simultaneously) all combine to create a sense of peace and well-being as well as hope for the future of the human race. The mysterious shimmering spiral in the very centre I have no clear sense about, and welcome enlightenment, but whatever it means to you as the viewer is valid for you. The only thing that comes to my own mind is a representation of DNA as binding humanity together as a continuing species.

Lavitaloca Vita’s The Circle of Life

More difficult for me to penetrate intellectually, though not emotionally or even physically, is the work of another Australian, Ronda Saunders’ From Behind the Mask. Ronda gives us a glimpse into her production techniques in her notes accompanying the work, but its interpretation is left to us. So we attempt to accept the challenge. A human face, a woman in a state of some anger or ferocity, is firstly covered by a mask of itself. Then, continuously emanating from the mask, but ultimately moving in all directions, are smaller replicas of the mask, endlessly circulating in three dimensions from what at first has appeared to be a two dimensional photograph. The woman is not Caucasian – is she Latina? Australian Aboriginal perhaps? The viewer can decide. What is the woman’s emotion? Perhaps she is annoyed at real or perceived racism, perhaps she is shouting to subdue fear… more than any of the others, I am teasing this one out as I write, so forgive me if I am wide of the mark you yourself may establish for interpreting the work yourself. Whatever the interpretation, you are able to enter the woman’s struggle yourself as, coming close to the surface of the work, the emanating masks surround you and you can sense some strong emotion despite your inability to clearly identify it. And what is the significance of the fact that the mask is simply a representation of the woman’s actual face? ‘Behind the mask’ the viewer finds… simply the mask again, but this is the real woman. Shaking my head regretfully, I am defeated by this work and yet sense so much of something undefinable in it that I must write about it and display my ignorance and limitations to the world.

Ronda Saunders From Behind the Mask

Finally, a work which speaks to my own origins beyond the shores of the land of my birth: Theo Republic’s Draco Furore (Italian, ‘Dragon Fury’) draws on dragons which, to me at least, seem to be Asian in inspiration, rearing in conflict against one another, suspended in space as no other-world artwork may be without the aid of any wires or supports. The dragons are massive, formed apparently as if from weathered timber or corroded iron, and interestingly one is larger than the other, the outcome of the conflict perhaps already determined by sheer might and physical dominance. The viewer stands in awe, as one must in the presence of other-worldly creatures… and pauses, realizing that she, too, at this time inhabits another world, one of fantasy and imagination as fully as the world of dragons.

Theo Republic Draco Furore

These are my thoughts. In one sense, they are a work of my own, in another perhaps an extension of the artworks they address. I am given to purple prose and some will criticize me for that, and I do not try to defend myself. If my writing gives you no aid in thinking about these works, you are free to move on and create your own thoughts, your own interpretations… and indeed, you must, because these words are valid for me only. They speak as much about me as they do about the artworks – probably more. So now I will shut up, and simply thank Jayjay for the opportunity to share these thoughts here. (Please don’t attack him too strongly if you think I would be better had I been strangled at birth and not allowed to inflict my ramblings on anyone!) I left publication until after voting had closed so that I would not draw special attention to the works I chose to write about. And in closing I do want to say that I appreciated very much all of the works displayed, but had to choose just a few to write about. Thankyou to all of the artists for making yourselves vulnerable in presenting your works for judgment, and we hope that you will offer us fresh works in the months ahead. I, for one, am excited as I anticipate what I will see on the platform in a month’s time.


  1. Haha very nice Sayumi. S

    ayumi, like quadrapop Lane is an alumni of UWA.

    Jesse Keyes though is from the USA, as is Kyra Roxan .... perhaps she is of spanish extraction, I'm not sure :))

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Jayjay... oh, great to know there are other grads as well as UWA staff involved!

    Don't know where I got the idea that Jesse Keyes was an Aussie; I'll fix that in the entry. And Kyra Roxon is mentioned in her notecard as only having studied in Barcelona, so again, I read too much into it!

  3. Thank you for a very good post.
    It is always possible when viewing art to wonder if one has 'understood' what the artist intended, but really the artist has normally simply intended to provoke a reaction. In voicing your emotions so honestly you have provided a 'truer' account of the piece than any pseudo intellectualisation.
    No artist could hope for a better account of their piece.

    I look forward to reading your future posts.

  4. Very in-depth, substantive post. I was amazed at how eloquently you captured the feelings and intent of my entry.