Light Years: Jurassic Coast presents a three-dimensional temporal world that can be dynamically viewed from different angles and at different times of day. This world evokes a contemplative atmosphere based on real and abstract elements, but also offers some playful elements such as the sound of the wind and waves. Created with a mixture of techniques that combine painting, drawing, computer animation and immersive virtual reality, this interactive installation recreates a segment of the Jurassic Coast a UNESCO world heritage site in Dorset, England.
All the images of Light Years Projects that make an appearance in the digital artefact are painted in the studio. Starting with a prepared wooden panel on which the entire development of an image takes place, each one is a subtle relief constructed of large flat poplar panels. Many layers of paint are applied which are then scraped down and overpainted so that the intermingled strata echo the multiplicity of memories that inform the work. The complex physical construction of the panels reflect the accretions of memory that have helped Jeremy to build a mental image of the place he is trying to portray. The painted surfaces have been inspired by visits to boat-yards, where the patina of hulls are examined for their shape, colour and, above all, surface properties. The hulls of ships which, when they are repaired, vary abruptly between glossy smoothness and weathered roughness. Casts of fossils are made from research at the Natural History Museum and embody their own, now irretrievable history.
These painted panels are endowed with transparency in the virtual space; that is, they are able to interpenetrate without an optical destruction of one another. Transparency however implies more than an optical characteristic; it implies a broader spatial order. Transparency means a simultaneous perception of different spatial locations. Space not only recedes but fluctuates in a continuous activity. The position of the transparent planes has an equivocal meaning as one sees each figure now as the closer, now as the further one.
Painting is a process of finding out, and landscape can be its thesis, the catalyst to map out our universal view of the world. Painting like science cannot discover the same things twice. It is therefore compelled to take those directions that the still undiscovered and unexplored dictate. It is these directions that my visual art work is following at the moment.
One of the virtues of the visual arts is their ability to capture and encapsulate feelings, memories and opinions and preserve them beyond their fleeting instant. Interactive installations offer the additional feature of being able to bring the viewer into the work as it develops. Unlike still paintings or sculptures, interactive installations unfold in real time.
Everything a painter does in the studio, mix colours, create shading and blend elements into formal arrangements involves spending hours working on an image, and then the artist would show only the finished static piece. Jeremy thought that the physical nature of the juxtaposing of planes and lines could be used as structural elements in an interactive artwork. The elements themselves could be used to create their own form of poetry in a virtual temporal space. Kandinsky said ‘Artistic composition has two elements. The composition of the whole picture. The creation of the various forms which, by standing in different relationships to each other, decide the composition of the whole’
Unlike painting, digital media can create the illusion of time-travel, in which the viewer has the illusion of entering some other place and period through a virtual window. The act of time- and space-travel is purely speculative, encouraging daydreams and reverie. Travelling in this manner is an imaginative act, an act of memory and reflection. The new variable is audience choice, which can take users in unpredictable directions and combine elements of the artwork in unpredictable ways. That is why interactivity calls for a greater commitment to planning, to usability and to making elements work together, more than communication has ever demanded before.
All the vistas of the location in Light Years: Jurassic Coast can be touched or reached easily by ‘floating’ ‘walking’ or ‘sailing’. Just as you move about within a picture with your eye the sensation that you have here is one of being enclosed by order and yet at liberty to navigate within it. The immersive environment represents one moment, continually. Painting shows one moment. It is how we perceive the world to be. The characteristic of reality is that it is made up of frozen moments or discrete fragments of time perceived one after another, like the continuous interaction in this scene.
The rendering and navigation software that drives the installation consists of custom routines that Anthony developed. The serene three-dimensional objects and environments portrayed in Light Years: Jurassic Coast were built with a variety of modelling and image mapping techniques. The rendering of these objects and environments happens in real-time as the viewer moves within the landscape. The resulting shapes and colours in the environment are the result of real-time calculations of how sunlight and ambient light reflect, scatter, and refract through the luminous atmosphere. To add to the mood, simulated weather systems come and go, night follows day and seasons change in real time.