Monday, April 22, 2024

Victoria artists team up with Malahat Skywalk for AI-generated art exhibit

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having an impact on almost every industry — sometimes to its detriment, sometimes to its benefit — and the arts sector is no exception.

Two Victoria artists have put their heads together and used AI to reimagine what famous Canadian painter Jean Paul Riopelle’s art may have looked like 100 years after his birth. 

All across Canada Artists are honouring the legacy of Riopelle in different ways to celebrate his success as one of Canada’s only painters to ‘breakout’ and become an internationally renowned artist. 

Riopelle was Quebec-born and lived from 1923 to 2002. He is best known for his abstract, nature inspired painting style — especially when he threw tradition out the window in the 1950s and began painting with only a palette knife, laying his paintbrushes to rest for the remainder of his career.

‘Within the Four Walls of the Wind, I’m Listening’ – 1947

BC’s piece of this celebratory pie dubbed the Riopelle Dialogues Program, will be here on the island. The exhibit was created by Laura-Beth McDonald and Juan Ramirez and will be displayed at the Malahat Skywalk from June 13th to September. 

The two long-time collaborators are a part of a local collective of artists who work under the name ‘artBiin’. Ramirez is a Colombian-Canadian software developer, designer and musician known for his digital collages and interactive installations, while McDonald is a visual artist focused on establishing connections to community, which she does regularly at her day-job with Esquimalt Community Arts Hub (ECAH).

The duo utilized Midjourney, an AI created to generate images based on written prompts, to have students and Vancouver Island-based community groups collaborate to create Riopelle inspired artwork — a perfect blend of their respective disciplines and inspirations.

“[Juan] and I have been working together for about three years,” McDonald told Victoria Buzz. “We’ve just been doing projects that involve art and technology, but are also very accessible.”

Ramirez and McDonald previously collaborated on an NFT program, where they learned about what they are and created them together with 11 other artists, built immersive installations, built a light and sound responsive tunnel which was installed at Light Up the Hills in Langford, among other projects.

“We want to use AI because it’s actually a really accessible tool,” McDonald explained. “It allows people to create art if they don’t have any formal drawing or painting skills.”

“We love that [accessibility] angle and we also just thought it would be really weird to make an artist’s style of artwork using AI — its like looking into the future.”

The images they’ve created with these groups are now being blown up to larger than life proportions and they will soon be displayed for visitors of the Malahat Skywalk to appreciate all summer long. 

“It’s kind of this weird, AI-generated art, but it’s in nature at the skywalk on the Malahat, so it’s a very strange project but it’s going to be super cool,” McDonald exclaimed.

Automatic Landscapes (Courtesy of Laura-Beth McDonald and Juan Ramirez)

McDonald says the Malahat Skywalk was just as eager as her and Ramirez were when they proposed holding the BC portion of the nation-wide art celebration at their location.

In total, there will be seven or eight pieces, as McDonald and Ramirez are still finalizing what will be on display, throughout the Malahat Skywalk trails.

“They’ll all be in really unique locations as well,” said McDonald. “One is called ‘the gathering space’ and it’s this beautiful, enclosure amongst trees, another one’s on a knoll, and they’re very much embedded into the landscape.”

Celebrate the life and legacy of Jean Paul Riopelle and the two locals who are reimagining his work at the Malahat Skywalk from June 13th until September.

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Curtis Blandy
curtis@victoriabuzz.com

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