A video of a landscape: trees dance as what might be wind sings. The sound becomes more intense, revealing itself to not be wind but rain, though the image does not at first reflect it. It carries on, and as the branches move, they blur, as if they were never video but rather paint that has not dried and cannot withstand the added water. It shifts from photographic clarity to an impressionistic style that mirrors Monet, then further still, until the once crystal clear image is just a series of abstract colors.
Such is the exhibit “Pleasant Places” by London-based artist Quayola, which seeks to explore the tension between the real and abstract; bringing attention to the role of technology in modern art, paying homage to Vincent Van Gogh. After visitors to the exhibit experience the trees in front of them fading into abstraction, the video switches to a “behind the scenes” glance; the video is removed, and all that’s seen is the overlay that creates the blur on top of a black background, then just static spots of color like fairy lights on a black and white version.
The exhibit simultaneously draws viewers into a nature scene while pulling back the metaphorical curtains; it immerses us just long enough to shatter our feelings of serenity, and in doing so, reminds us that nothing artificial can entirely replace the natural world.
Find out and see more of Pleasant Places on Quayola’s website.