28 Candles, Detail, 48 x 36” / 121.92 x 91.44 cm, Acrylic and Oil Pastel on Canvas, 2003
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Ang INK’s 30th anniversary exhibit opening which took place online. That was something special and I’m glad I was able to make it.
The opening made me think a bit about how ‘the current situation’ kind of ‘forced’ exhibits to go online ~ I mean, online exhibits were already starting to become a thing even before ‘the situation became current’ ^o^
With the world starting to open up again (or some of it, anyway) I can’t help wondering whether online exhibits will be here to stay (they’d better, since I’m going to have one next year ^o^**), and what people think of them. For what it’s worth, here’s what I think of them, having had one of my own already and participated in one or two.
I discovered online exhibits in art class last year.
Coco's Cocoon, Detail,12.75 x 17.75" / 32.385 x 45.085 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2013
~ I guess it was easy for me to take to online exhibits because I grew up in a (video) gaming family ^_^
I remember the first one I ever went to by one of my classmates who does fabric sculptures (among other things). I remember being blown away by being able to, you know, ‘walk around in the gallery’ and look at things.
I got in from a link on Instagram, and even on my relatively low-tech phone’s screen, I was able to pick up on the navigation fairly quickly (who says you don’t learn anything from video games lol). On top of marvelling at her work, I immediately saw the potential of exhibiting online.
Ironically, they didn’t talk about online exhibits much in art class, itself. If I remember right, it was a classmate who pointed out a platform and someone else asked our *teacher* what he thought of online shows.
Interestingly, he didn’t seem to encourage them much, like he thought they were worth looking into, but I don’t recall him being all ‘Go for it! Everyone get out there and mount your own shows online.’
In retrospect, this reticence seems a bit strange given how we were taught to do online studio visits and encouraged to look for alternative exhibition venues like pop-up shows.
In fact, he advised me, personally, to continue to pursue onsite gallery shows. He didn’t actually do this to dissuade me from doing online shows; he said this to encourage me to continue doing exhibits in general, and I plan on doing just that ^_^
In any case, all this rather gave me the impression that ‘online shows don’t count’, or something.
That art class I took also had curators, dealers and similar personages speak to the ‘class’ every week or so. One of the curators, I remember, talked about how online shows can never replicate the experience of being in a gallery and seeing the work up close.
(Heck I had a classmate who didn’t like framing things under glass because the glass got in the way or came between the viewer and the work ~ what more a glass or plastic screen, right lol)
Personally, I can’t but agree with that one curator. If my fuzzy memory serves me correctly, that curator was from LA and was heavily into site-specific work (as in not necessarily in galleries; think ‘empty lots’).
In case you haven’t noticed already (and which I’ll gamely admit), my challenge has always been photographing my work, so it matters very much to me for people to be able to see my work in person. My horrible photos didn’t used to bother me as much, before, because I always figured people would be able to really see my work in the gallery, anyway.
Obviously, doing online shows kind of makes that a real issue for me, haha.
The thing about scanners.
Lla Lla Land, 12.6 x 9.45" / 32 x 24 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2020
~ I scanned this piece before shipping
My knee jerk reaction to that was to create works small enough for a scanner. Because of my difficulties with photography, scanning seemed to be the only way I was able to guarantee images that were good enough for the internet alone. As in online was going to be the only place people would see my work, and nowhere else.
But see, I know one Italian artist whose mindblowing watercolours could fit handily enough into your average scanner, but she insists on taking pictures in a lightbox because she says scanners don’t do her colours justice. This, I concede, does happen, and as much as possible, I kind of would rather not ‘edit’ or ‘adjust’ things if I can help it.
Back during my dino-advertising days, I remember my best friend art director telling me during a shoot that it was crucial to take photos as perfectly as possible so that you didn’t have to retouch so much afterwards.
As little as I knew (and still know) about photography, I kind of understood the logic behind that ~ for me, at least, it wasn’t so much about efficiency as it was about purity.
The other thing about scanners is how I like to make relatively large things ~ and drum scanners cost a fortune. Thank heavens I found me a scanner that *frankensteins* sections of a larger scanned work together, so I no longer have to inveigle my digital artist friends to stitch up my scans. (The last friend I asked to do this, I remember, I had to take out for ramen ^_^)
It’s just, I kind of don’t see myself scanning, say, my larger works of about 3 by 4 feet (about 91.44 by 121.92 cm), if you know what I mean.
So I must just learn to take better pictures, is all ^_^
The thing about zooming (nope, it’s not what you think).
Musical Bears, 12.6 x 9.45" / 32 x 24 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2021
~ I remember the tiny (for me) details on this one were hard on the eyes ^_^;
The first thing for me, about online shows is the ability to zoom ~ as in making things bigger (not the meetings or group calls, lol).
Zooming into fine details is FANTASTIC, for me ~ especially now that I’m having to wear specs in my weak-eyed old age. I simply LOVE being able to see textures and tiny things a lot better than I could even when I didn’t have to wear glasses ~ but this ability that online exhibit goers have (or ought to have) is, for me, quite the double-edged claymore.
See, I’m something of a perfectionist-slash-detail freak and I shudder to think of the time I’ve probably wasted on getting things exactly right (for me). I know it probably doesn’t show in my work but, I’ve literally agonised over the curves of my blobs or the placement of my hairs, that kind of thing.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but, now that my eyes are starting to go and I find myself having to make works that are smaller than I’m accustomed to ~ I can’t be the 100% sure I’d like to be of having gotten things exactly right.
I guess I need better glasses (or learn to work with the ones I’ve got), but I can’t help making smaller things because I’m having to ship abroad now and right now smaller is easier. (At least, until I can better manage shipping relatively larger things).
So I find I’m just a liiiittle more conscious of my detail work knowing that the people seeing my work online are able to zoom in and really look at things, more than they’d be able to in a gallery. (That is, if my work interests them enough to push them to do so ~ I just like to be prepared for that eventuality ^_^;)
The thing about navigation.
We can’t assume everybody grew up playing first-person shooters or Super Mario 64, you know what I mean?
Like it was a bit awkward I guess when I invited my mom to my first online show this year. As you can see above, the ‘gallery’ came with a sort of ‘recorded walkthrough’ (or ‘playthrough’, if you like ^_^) where you could just watch the thing take you all around the exhibit in case you ‘didn’t have the gaming gene’.
I’m not sure whether people were able to stop and zoom into things along the way. Depends on the gallery, i.e. the exhibition platform.
I’m no expert on online exhibits and, as with all my blog posts, I can really only speak from experience, but so far I’ve seen how platforms vary in complexity~ sophistication would probably be a better way to put it. There’s the overall ‘look and feel’ of the ‘gallery’ itself and the ease of navigation.
Some online galleries look straight-up like something out of an early 2000’s video game complete with rendered trees and interiors, while others are a bit more ‘no-nonsense’ allowing you to focus more on the work being exhibited. Some galleries are also a lot easier to ‘walk around in’ than others.
Incidentally, I find some galleries that do come with all the bells and whistles (doors that open, ‘outdoors’ you can actually ‘explore’, terrain, flooring, sky and so on) a bit distracting. I end up spending time ‘playing’ with the thing rather than looking at the art, which, if it was my work ‘on the walls’, I might find a tad disheartening. (Like, are you here to see my work or play Counter-Strike ^o^; )
But I guess it’s up to the work to be, arresting enough for people to focus on rather than the gallery ~ or is it? Or maybe I just haven’t been to enough online galleries myself to be over the ‘let’s play with the video-game-ishness', yet.
But one thing I do know.
My Joe's Walken, 36 x 36” / 91.44 x 91.44cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2019
~ This piece was in my first online group show
It’s true (at least for me): Online shows will never be the same as onsite shows, as in shows that are actually in a gallery. The experience of being right there with the art and seeing it (and even listening / touching / smelling, even tasting ~ just basically interacting with it) just isn’t the same as basically, seeing it on a screen. (No matter how much you’re able to zoom in.)
It’s just that online shows have made it possible for artists to get their work seen by a LOT more people ~ or just putting your work online, period (whether that’s on social media, your website, or elsewhere on the internet). Like my relatives over in Canada, or my classmates in Europe or the US can now ‘go to my exhibit’, you know what I mean?
Exhibiting your work under the auspices of a gallery outside of your own country is so much easier, so much more possible, now. It’s exciting! Like maybe people in London, let’s say, would never have been able to come to all the way to a gallery in Manila to see my work on the walls, but they could at an online gallery, right?
It’s not the same, to be sure. And maybe now that the pandemic is just about over in some parts of the world, maybe this won’t seem to be as big a deal as it does to me, at least. As I write this back here, we’re still doing what we gotta do to keep new variants of the virus under control (i.e. still masking x shielding up in public, avoiding crowds and all that).
And I guess, I understand where my art class might be coming from (this is pure speculation on my part, now) ~ like, you could easily pay for an online show or put one up yourself. We’re repeatedly told at art class that we should never have to pay for a show (I gather they tell us this, primarily, to protect us from scammy, faux art fairs and stuff like that).
I kind of have to ask, though: Does putting up your own exhibit without any involvement from a gallery or a dealer, somehow make it ‘less’ or ‘not legit’?
Like I’ve seen some famous artists put up their own shows without a gallery (as far as I can see, or, doing it under their own galleries). Can you do this only if / does that ‘only work if you’re famous’ / blue-chip / Picasso-level…you get the idea? ^_^*
It’s true that more and more artists are ‘doing things for themselves’ without going the gallery route and that this is something that had been going on even before the outbreak ~ but that’s not something I wanted to discuss here.
I’m just saying that online exhibits have opened up a lot of awesome opportunities for the people who make art and the people who appreciate it. I’m grateful for these opportunities and I’m looking forward to taking them as they come as part of the ‘new chapter in my art career’.
In connection with this, I’d very much like to hear what you think about online exhibits ~ whether you’d been to any, what your experience of them was like, and if you hadn’t, whether you’d consider going to one. One last thing I will say, though about online shows ~ sky’s the limit on the virtual hors d’oeuvres ^o^;
* Interested in any of the pieces in this post?
Drop me a line to let me know
and I'll let you know if it's still available,
or how soon I can make something similar just for you.