The Studio of Eric Valosin

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Drawing on the Horizon

Earlier this spring the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey invited me into an interesting, challenging, and uniquely spontaneous exhibition. What the individualism of baseball is to "team" sports, this show was to collaboration.

Each artist in Drawing on the Horizon was tasked with a 30 inch mural responding to two stimuli: the artist(s) who installed earlier, and the consistent horizon line circumambulating the room. Each artist gets one day to install. Only one artist installs at a time. Installations were scheduled one after the other throughout the entire duration of the exhibition, yielding an ongoing, cumulative, in-progress state.

Panorama of the room upon my arrival. My space would be between the painting and the blue tape line on the right.
I really enjoy the idea of collaboratively drawing on each other's practices and influences (pardon the now overwrought pun). It feels honest and generous, not pretending there is some absolute vacuum in which creativity happens, or that your work is entirely your own (or anyone else's). It's an embodiment of the relational truth and postmodern theology my artwork routinely inhabits (ex: see my collaborative work with John Spano and Christine Romanell, for example).

My strategy was to create a large QR Mandala (an extension of my Meditations series), pulling in formal elements from the prior artists' work. 

The QR code, when scanned, would take the viewer to an interactive panorama of the room prior to my portion of it.

To do this, I tapped into a lesser-known social media platform called Fyuse. It isn't doing to well as a social media platform, but the technology it uses is really something interesting. 

Fyuse basically tried to be Instagram for panoramic video/gifs that are tied to the phone's gyroscope. As you pan the phone back and forth, it pans the image back and forth respectively, as if scanning across a horizon while looking through a viewfinder.

I coded a placeholder destination for the QR code on my web space ahead of time so that I could embed the Fyuse link once I was ready. Then I grabbed my ruler, charcoal, pastels, and went to work.


Gridding out the code on the wall probably took the bulk of the time, but I always find drawing the pixels to be just the right balance of tedious and meditative.

I also spent a significant amount of time studying the other artwork, discerning the compositional through-lines and trying to distill out of them a mandala form. I pulled from the colors and gestures of the works beside me, and echoed the line quality of some of the geometric portions of other works before those. I also tried to continue the angles created in the piece before me, and break up the floor-to-cieling verticality that had arisen in my corner, but without being too abrupt.

Here were some of the other moments that came before me, to which I'd endeavor to respond. The mural began with the painting of the girl in the dress, and then expanded outward in both directions with each subsequent artist:

The state of the room upon completing my section.

The (Virtual) Horizon...

Then it was just a matter of uploading the panorama using the Fyuse app, and getting the embed code for my website.

That much was easy. I ran into some issues though when I realized the resulting image had all kinds of proprietary borders and was sized very inconveniently (and wouldn't respond to typical html tricks for resizing an embedded piece of media.)

Luckily I was able to go in and strip out the border and caption related HTML to get just a pure image. Then I had to get a little tricky and, instead of resizing the image, resize the browser window immediately upon loading, so that it would essentially digitally zoom the image to fit the screen. Every new project feels like a test of my technological unorthodoxy. Not having a coding background, everything I've learned has come as the result of trying to solve an artistic problem, and every triumph, however small, seems monumental in the moment.

With that in working order, I was ready to clean up and let the remaining artists do their parts! (You can refer to the video on my website to see it in action, or scan the code in any of the images here for yourself!)

I returned at the end of the show to see what had come after me. The next artist, Mina Zarfsaz (also an alumnus of Montclair State University's MFA program!) continued the virtual/physical theme by incorporating green screened video elements


Here are a few of my more well-formulated responses to a few of their curatorial questions, which were later compiled into a statement for the exhibition:

 How did you respond to the horizon line in your work? 
• The horizon line became a demarcation of color within the drawn QR code, separating the red above from the green below (pulling the colors from prior works on the wall).  
• In light of my mandala-like imagery, the horizon seemed reminiscent to me of the phrase "as above, so below" and became a way to compound the aerial perspective of a mandala with the horizontal, linear perspective of the horizon line. 
• Scanning the QR code with a smart phone brings the viewer to an interactive panoramic image of the other artists'  work, panning through the image as the viewer tilts his/her phone. This continues the horizon line even into cyber space, and creates an odd dislocation between the physical space and the now superimposed digital version of that same space. 
What connections did you make between your work and the work previously created on the wall before you?  
• As noted above, scanning the QR code with a smart phone brings the viewer to an interactive panoramic image of the other artists' work (without my own). In that way my work becomes theirs, and theirs mine. 
• I continued compositional themes established elsewhere - color palettes, angles, lines/gestures, and imagery like roots or perspectival vectors.