February Event: The Geranium Project (R&D) Exhibition

Ian Latham; ianlatham1959@virginmedia.com; www.ian-latham.com/blog

Artist Builds Virtual Worlds in Empty Doncaster Shop

Ian Latham, right, with visitors to the geranium project. The installation is in the background

Release Date 06/01/2020

Ian Latham presents his Arts Council Lottery Funded Project ‘the geranium project(R&D)’ – a combination of installation and Virtual Reality used to create an immersive experience exploring the translation of reality into art through drawing. The installation includes spoken word and film alongside Augmented Reality and traditional painting and sculpture. The Virtual Reality environment takes the participant through a series of gardens made from photographs and drawings accompanied by poetry, sound and film. The project can be experienced in around thirty minutes.

Open, by appointment, from Monday 10th February to Saturday 15th February, or you can drop in between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm on Wednesday 19th February, Friday 20th February or Saturday 21st February. The Geranium Project is exhibited at 13 Scot Lane, Doncaster, DN1 1EW. This empty shop is rented through Axisweb, a national charity that provides studio spaces for artists.

This exhibition marks the culmination of the first stage of the project which began in June 2019. During the past six months over one hundred and twenty people have called into the shop to experience the installation and try out the virtual reality using a HTC Vive headset. The project has been assisted by local creatives Wayne Sables and Mike Stubbs who have been mentors and Iain Nicholls, an established virtual reality practitioner from Barnsley, all of whom have exhibited Internationally.

Ian Latham, BA Fine Art , MA Creative Technology, Senior Fellow Higher Education Academy, is a digital sculptor. After a long career in FE and HE he retired in 2018.

He has worked with organisations such as the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims

of Torture, Oxfam, Doncaster Museums and Archives, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Responsible Fishing and the Wayne Sables Project and the Cooper Gallery, Barnsley. Ian makes paintings and sculpture based on real and remembered landscapes that are presented together to suggest non-linear narratives, he works with computer based 3d modelling to create virtual environments reflecting the superimposition of memory over place. He has exhibited throughout the North, there are paintings currently on display at Joro restaurant in Sheffield, and had previous exhibitons, solo and group, at

DARTS in Doncaster, the Contemporary Gallery in Barnsley, the Ferens open in Hull and the Keighley Open. He has also shown work in small galleries like the Brevon in Doncaster, Artscreative in Chesterfield and at Granary Wharf in Leeds.

To book a slot to see the installation and try the VR please use the form ‘Book the Geranium Project’ on the black bar at the top of the page. If you have any difficulties contact the artist, Ian Latham, by email; ianlatham1959@virginmedia.com, or telephone 07596619792. You can call into the studio at 13 Scot Lane without an appointment but bookings will be accommodated before drop in visitors.

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On Monday I was back in the studio checking things over and with the intention of working on my 3d models. I forgot to take the disc with me so that went out of the window.

garden painting

One of the garden paintings displayed in the gallery

I took some pictures of the paintings I have on display downstairs and had a look at the VR model, I tried enlarging the sky domes I put on for the last run through but they were awful so I’ve taken them out and am working on some other options.

I also wrote a press release over the weekend and sent it to Doncaster Free Press, Sheffield Star, Yorkshire Post and Doncopolitan. Doncopolitan will put it out through their social media channels so I know I’ll get some traction there, the other press is a fingers crossed affair and unlikely to lead to any publicity. I posted the press release to LinkedIn, a-n (artists newsletter) and Axisweb sites under events and onto the local doncastercreates website where it is now sitting on the front page. I’ve emailed six or seven organisations regionally today and have a few more to do. I also sent the press release to bbc radio. I don’t expect a response from any of these outlets, the bbc have an automated response saying we might use it or we might not, but if you don’t ask you don’t get.

On Monday evening I got a reply from the Doncaster Free Press and they will be running a piece in the paper, as things stand they’re sending a photographer next Tuesday afternoon to take pictures for the piece. I got a lot of traction on LinkedIn, including new local connections and interest in viewing the piece.

On Thursday I had a visit at the studio from Marcus and Tim who are associated with the Doncaster TedX organisation. They suggested that I could showcase the work at the TedX Youth conference in April, and potentially have some involvement with TedX in October. We also discussed several other options for this piece and the installation as a stand alone piece. The Hexthorpe Park idea I had also got some traction with Marcus and he’s going to connect me with someone who might be interested in collaborating.

Luke came to the studio and with his help I managed to get the animated garden working, he also managed to get the AR element for the installation working, we now just need to finalise the interior and the installation will be finished.

Friday I started by painting the interior of the new installation, I got the first coat done before my meeting with Mike Stubbs.

one wall of the new installation drawing

one wall of the new installation drawing

The meeting was interesting and quite challenging. Mike commented on my blog that he wondered about my ‘philosophy’, and couldn’t pin it down, so this meeting went over some ground around this. Essentially he complimented the blog on its detail and comprehensiveness but questioned the lack of any discussion placing my work in an ‘art’ context. He believes that a clearer understanding of where you want to place yourself as an artist improves your work. He also gave me a list of artists to look at who he felt I might want to position myself against (not ‘counter to’, just relatively) and I’m pondering.

I shot a short video in the new installation, where the drawing has to be very bold and busy to aid the AR, but its incredibly dark.

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Over Christmas I continued work on the VR element of the project. I’m working towards the AR animated birds for the installation and the photographic gardens using paper tied into knots.

bird knots drawing

bird knots drawing

This drawing is A1, charcoal, pencil and pastel and I’ve made a couple of 3d models and animated a short section.

bird knot models

bird knot models

I also tied a few pieces so that I can try out using them as an AR trigger.

I went into the studio for the first time on Friday 3rd January and met with wayne, details of this meeting follow.

Discussed current progress of work, what needs to happen next and what help wayne could give in achieving that.

Outlined the plan going forward.

  1. Tidy up current iteration of Geranium VR – skies, edges, tunnels, etc.,

  2. Introduce animated sections to painted garden

  3. Introduce animated birds to photo garden sections

  4. Finish spoken word sections, quotes and explicatory texts for tunnels, gnomic utterances for gardens

  5. make birdsong soundtracks for drawn and phot gardens

  6. Work with Iain Nicholls on build for VR space

  7. Work with Luke Roberts on AR birds for installation

  8. Finish rain section for installation, run PIR off tower PC if necessary

  9. Organise press release for Invitees week beginning 10th February 2020

  10. Invite appropriate people (get the invites out by end of next week 10/01/2020

  11. Get feedback from Kim & Luke for report etc.,

  12. Plan the next steps – meet with Mike Stubbs, Wayne, Luke & Kim to propose and develop next bid for funding

Wayne agreed to email me introductions to key people in Doncaster.

In discussing the next steps for the project wayne proposed several people it would be worth contacting in Doncaster Council, Doncaster Archives, Barnsley Museums etc.,

Two things particularly need establishing as part of the future display of the object, firstly the entrance to the space can be remade for each location it is placed in, and secondly that the photographic elements of the VR space provide potential for a number of future works utilising archival photgraphs and contemporaneous images. Hexthorpe Park springs to mind.

I need to put the press release information out onto my Linked In page, through Twitter, send to Doncopolitan for Facebook, onto the Doncaster Creative wotsit, onto a-n, Axisweb etc., as well as the blog and send it to Doncaster Free Press, Yorkshire Post, The Star (Sheffield?) and anywhere else I can think of.

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A week that promises to be fraught started with me getting to the shop early and installing the new white cloth projection screen for the installation. At firt it didn’t work too well but with the back material hanging behind it, it functions pretty well.

It did highlight the need to address the video, video with high contrast works much better. I then had to rush home.

Monday afternon I workled some more on the painted garden for the VR world. I also started to write up the text snatches to be recorded for the gardens and the installation.

Tuesday I continued to work on the painted garden, worked on the new videos and began to write this weeks blog so it doesn’t seem so thrown together. I got the open event advertised through Axisweb, but although I’d agreed an advert in doncopolitan (a local mag) I don’t think it has happened.

Wednesday was spent finishing off in the studio, sorting the hang and titling the paintings.

Thursday I made the labels and voted!

So Friday morning I rewired the sound system for the installation and set everything up for the open day.

On the day I had two visitors so in the afternoon I worked on putting some mist between the sections to make the transitions less stark.

On the Saturday I had no visitors at all, unless you count the man who was looking for the Junk Food Project who haven’t been at the address for two years or so. I worked on the VR section and got a lot done, finishing the mist, adjusting some scale and normal issues and introducing colour to the painted garden. I also made separate skies for the different sections and did some height adjustments to floors and so on.

 

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Another truncated week spent sorting out the space at the studio and organising the VR space at home.

The video shows how far I got on Wednesday with the installation, I’ve got until Thursday next to sort it out to a finished state.

I should be working on getting an exhibition together in a few days, instead of which I’m studying procrastination. Yesterday I spent time clearing the garden, today I cleaned off the yard and washed the car. I have at least four ictures to frame for the exhbition and hang next week, all the labelling to be done, and I still need to title the pieces. I’ve got two drawn gardens to put together and import to the VR that I need to be working and I’ve still got to work out the transitions between the gardens when I’m there. The projection needs to be resolved for the installation and I’ve should really change the video and work out the sound. Additionally I’ve not yet bottomed the PIR for the raining section of the installation. All this needs to be resolved in the next four days!

I’m rounding this post off with a few shots of the space as it stands today.

View of the Gallery

View of the Gallery

Progress of Drawings

Progress of Drawings

There are a combination of drawings and paintings which have informed the content of the installation and the VR world. The user should be able to recognise the paintings inside the VR space, how far that works remains to be seen.

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Late again with the blog post. My excuse is the febrile nature of the world currently and the difficulty ignoring it. On Monday 25th I had a catch up meeting with Wayne Sables about where to take the project next. I am determined that I’ll have a new set up completed for a weekend event after the election!

These videos give a sense of where the project is and where it’s going.

The major thing to do with the physical installation is to get some light into it wirhout interfering with the projection, so on wednesday I got some Christmas lights and installed them along on wall.

I worked out that my issue with the VR world gardens having the same textures was because they were copies, essentially Unity appears to ‘instance’ copies as a default. I had to reload the gardens as separate files to maintain their differences.

I made a layout drawing to help me position the gardens so that the world functions as a circle, the idea being that you follow the succesive gardens and end up back where you started.

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After a desultory effort at last weeks blog due to a truncated week this week was better focused and, eventually, more productive.

This is a better photograph of the drawing begun last week, I’m hoping to be able to interpret this into a 3d model for the hedges in one of the garden versions. The main thrust of the week was developing the interior of the installation upstairs while preparing for an event in mid December where the new installation and the VR need to be presented.

I spent Monday doing some work on the drawing and installing the projector for the new installation. I’ve raised the height to limit the shadows now that I’m not having the revealed texts, and need to limit the width of the projection to the eight foot square backcloth that you will be able to walk through. Doing this on a shoestring means that I’ve used a drip cover I had as the projection screen, after testing I’ve had to paint the centre of it white so that the video shows up better. The next stage is to limit the space, making the environment more oppresive and confining. This will limit the audience to two or three at a time, but that will (may) allow for the ‘player’ to leave the installation and enter the VR world.

Alongside this we had a heavy frost on Tuesday so I took the opportunity to photgraph the garden and on Wednesday I adjusted the VR to make the frost garden. The two pictures below show scenes from within the ‘frost garden’ in VR.

colour adjusted garden

Frost Garden in VR (the ground is icy now)

On Friday I worked on the installation, using the ‘Snow Line’ scultpure to build up one side of the installation.

Composite views of the new installation

Lit view of the new installation

Lit view of the new installation

The installation is taking shape now and I’ve created a couple of niches where some interactive elements will be installed – I need to introduce some lighting and at a low level and the sound needs significant work.

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Just started to write this weeks blog and realised I didn’t post last weeks!

This is a very bad photograph of a drawing I started on Friday. I missed most of the week as I was away for a few days. So all I had time to do was hide the gaps in the installation and give it an extra coat of paint.

This is an equally bad video of the installation in its current state.

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The video shows the work I did on the virtual environment last week. I reordered the layout of the gardens and made a pathway from one drawn garden to the other. I altered the 3d model of the new garden, with the splashes, to use high poly models in unity for a better finish. It still needs work and more coherence. I’m thinking now of having alternative routes through the space and denying the ability to return.

building the new installation

This is Monday morning’s work on the new installation set up. By the end of the day all the panels are up, the next stage is to paint it all and attach the screen to the bar at the back. The idea is that the viewer enters the space, explores the alcoves (which will be sculptural) with the video projected to the back as before, and can then leave the space through the video, replicating the experience in the VR world. I’m also building a model of the studio so that is the space you begin in and then you view the installation in VR as in life but passing through the video takes you to the new spaces.

On Thursday I painted the new installation with an undercoat and worked on the VR world, but only after bailing out the buckets on the top floors.

I tried out making a photographic garden with all the planes mapped as videos, I don’t have the processing power.

I had to remove the videos because of the continuous glitching.

After Thursday the VR space looks like this…

The positive thing about the experience on Thursday is that it helped me resolve an idea for the arrangement of the gardens. I’m now thinking of four gardens, possibly arranged seasonally, which gives me a target for the modelling and textures I need to make.

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This week has been about rebuilding and thinking. I’ve decided not to attend the VR section of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, even though its just up the road in York, because I don’t want to get over influenced by anything I might see. Equally I’m not at all interested in FPS or general RPGs. I think I need to solve the problems I have now rather than find new problems to further cloud the issues I encounter.

One of the key things I found during my open events was that the piece lacks coherence for an audience, there is no target so there is nothing that guides a user through the navigation. If you’re not going anywhere in particular it’s difficult to know which way to go, or what to be drawn towards.

The list of things I need to do begins with the rebuilding of the installation and the need to make textures for the VR environment. I began by taking the space apart this week.

Installation piled up in the studio

I then laid out the new arrangement and cut some wedges to position the panels on Monday.

New installation layout

It doesn’t seem a lot to have achieved in a week.

Alongside this I did some work on the VR space but won’t have video showing the changes until next week.