architectural visualisation / design / digital art

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Et in Arcadia Ego

The Harbour of Marcuria – tribute artwork

In 2010, while still a student, I was sharing my first artwork tribute to Ragnar the Red’s old video game, ‘The Longest Journey’. The art piece depicting a fantasy harbour on the alien planet of Arcadia was looking worse than the original, with the piers and the surrounding water rendered in Artlantis and the ships photoshopped in. I had posted the artwork on this blog along with the following Foucauldian quote: ”Ships are the main reserve of imagination. Civilizations without ships lose their dreams, espionage replaces adventure, police replaces corsairs.”

Since I was a kid I have been drawn to the contemplation of beauty. However, growing up in a Puritanical denomination, I had conflicted views about pursuing an artistic path. My religion did not include anything resembling a ‘Via Pulchritudinis’ and taking the faith seriously led its practitioners on very different, non-artistic routes.

As an architecture student I was slowly leaving all that behind, as I was beginning to explore and conceptualise different paths to beauty. Regardless of how I attempted to make sense of it, either through the lens of the Romantic notion of the Sublime, through Schopenhauer’s ‘will vs representation’ or through Michel Foucault’s essays on heterotopia, I always associated beauty with a sense of nostalgia. In the case of this painting, it is the nostalgia for a virtual place marked by otherness, evocative of a mythopoetic realm.

I felt nostalgia because I had played this game as a child with my younger brother; starting with a demo in which I was stranded on a ship in the middle of the ocean, continuing with a cracked version of the full game in which I would get stuck at various points in the game, wandering the streets dozens of times, looking under every nook and cranny to find what was preventing me from advancing to the next stage. All this effort made it all the more memorable when my brother and I would finally get past the hurdle and discover the next area in the game.

The harbour of Marcuria was one such area that filled us with awe. It served as a transit hub towards destinations yet unknown, capturing the complex mix of excitement, longing and expectation such places entail. (As a side note, Tom Waits’s songs evoke this pretty well). After a period spent on the Tolkienian world of Arcadia, I would return to Stark, the dystopian cyberpunk police state controlled by ominous corporations. I would get stuck there once more, making the longing for Arcadia even stronger than before. After many years, the memories of these virtual places had become my own, inspiring my architectural projects and serving as cornerstones of past encounters with beauty and the sublime.

Venice, Newport – tribute artwork

Replaying the game as a young adult partially ruined the experience. The dialogues were a terrible throwback to the bland pop monoculture of the 90s; the worlds contained a bit of every possible genre – amalgamating Tolkien’s high fantasy and Harry Potter’s sorcery, presenting them side by side with a cliché cyberpunk ripoff of every iconic film in the genre, from Blade Runner to The Fifth Element. The sequels even tried introducing Steampunk elements on top of the high fantasy realm of Arcadia.

The most pernicious aspect of the game, however, was its ideology. Ragnar the Red studied philosophy at Oxford; most likely partied hard, enjoyed the Bohemian lifestyle with his mates, all of them destined for glory; saw the colleges and steeples that had inspired Tolkien and Lewis, went for a pint at the Turf Tavern where a few decades earlier Bill Clinton ‘did not inhale’ weed. He no doubt associated the beauty and the sense of unlimited potential the city entailed with the social progressivism that was slowly tightening its grip on higher education in its long march through the institutions. The story these ideologues were selling to the hyped-up freshers and sophomores flattered their egos and convinced them they were on a holy mission to decolonise the world and reoffer it to mother Geea. The entire ethos of ‘The Longest Journey’ franchise reflects this desire to trigger change through storytelling, to shape the minds of the new generation through the power of dreams that can transform reality. If the activism feels tolerable in the first game, towards the end of Dreamfall Chapters (the last sequel) your hot feminine character will be running around in the same familiar lycra pants knocking on doors, trying to convince strangers to vote for the Marxist party in the upcoming election. Once you see this with adult eyes, it kind of ruins the entire experience. The story is the most Manichaean, over the top propagandistic device meant to teach you the goodthink we now are so familiar with.

It might seem paradoxical that someone with an entirely different worldview would continue to look at the scenes depicted in a game like this and still feel the same longing and inspiration. Yet here I am, making more digital artworks inspired from it. The Pravda has not ruined the aesthetic experience and aside from the immense political shitshow and unrest we have been witnessing over the past decade, I still believe that Via Pulchritudinis is, perhaps, the most worthwhile endeavour we can participate in.

The beauty of ‘The Longest Journey’ can be redeemed. The left calls this ‘subversion’ and the past years have made us believe that only progressive artists can pull it off. And it is obvious that the fantasy worlds which inspired the game were by no means created by comrades of Ragnar the Red. Tolkien was a Burkean conservative, a royalist and a devout Catholic. Philip K Dick, the godfather of Cyberpunk, was anti-abortion, anti-Malthusian and received death threats from feminists. The most fertile fantasy minds of the 20th century held many reactionary views, they were hardly progressive, and even those who were, judged by the standards of today their work would be considered wrongthink. We are all familiar with the subversion of every fantasy genre, every movie franchise, slow at first, then ever more aggressive and accelerating, and the komissars certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with their parasitical approach.

Redeeming art for the right need not be parasitical. In many cases, it can simply mean reclaiming a story, stripping it of the inversions and putting it back on its feet, in tune with Cosmic Symbolism. With a little effort one can see that ‘The Longest Journey’ has picked up quite a few perennial truths from its primary sources. And even when subversive tropes sow confusion and demoralisation, most often they hardly touch the scenery in which the action takes place – the beauty of which relies on visual perception rather than a storyline or philosophical assertions; and the visual sphere is much harder to corrupt and distort.

Even when the story, atmosphere or legendarium were conceived as woke from the beginning, there is a way to redeem them for the right. The Catholic (and Orthodox) church has been doing it for centuries and they called it ‘transfiguration’. When an area was Christianised, instead of destroying or ignoring ancient temples, sacred groves, thermal springs that had been dedicated to old gods or spirits of the land, the Church would reconsecrate them to God and patron saints. The aim was not to eradicate the sacred site, but instead to purify it of its potential harms, maintain its character, harness its healing properties and offer them up to the highest Good. By consecrating or ‘transfiguring’ it thus, the place or person remained itself even more than before, just like Christ became even more himself after the Transfiguration, radiance and glory upon the high mountain.

The images I made over the years depicting scenes from ‘The Longest Journey’ represent my own attempt at doing this – recognising elements of perennial beauty and sublime and immortalising them in my own artworks. This is by no means a childish, Manichean inversion of the goodies and the baddies. Yes, the ominous corporations of the Cyberpunk land of Stark are not the good guys. Yes, untrammeled free trade is not ‘deus ex machina’. No, you don’t fix these issues by reducing the Sacred to an impersonal ‘balance’ and deifying yourself as a saviour of mankind, without the need for a divine exemplar. And no, you do not find balance by worshipping the Great Mother as a supreme goddess. Those philosophy professors were poisoning your mind while taking advantage of the organic depth and harmony of a place like Oxford, where every single element of perennial beauty was imagined and built by men with whom you have almost nothing in common. The antidote to this endless subversion and parasitism does not lie in polemics or dialectics; it lies in the pursuit of beauty. While the spiteful caste spirals down into its ugly technocratic quest for radical autonomy, somehow coupled with equality but also chaotic nature-worship, the differentiated man preserves pockets of beauty which will serve as seeds for future artistic revivals.

Venice, Newport – tribute artwork

On Art, Beauty and Religious Experience

Artists create dispatches from ecstatic realms. They offer people a sense of a lived experience in the realm of the timeless – the mythopoetic. Read the rest of this page »

Image

ArchVis Portfolio

Click on the image below to access the portfolio.

Archviz Portfolio

8. ArchViz Theory – The Off-Modern Way

In the previous article we have split nostalgia into three categories: longing for traditional communities, nature’s eternal return and flâneur’s love at last sight. In this particular one we will continue to examine the phenomenon while dealing with the fashionable criticisms of our contemporary society.

Many critical theorists regard the melancholia and mourning for ‘integrated’ ancient civilisations to be signs of weakness or mystification of past ages based on the fantasies of modernity. If we were to travel back in time to those ages, they argue, we would become nostalgic for the unique advantages of modernity. However, no one disputes the traumatic rupture with the past and the amnesia caused by the Industrial Revolution. No one debates that emerging technologies like the internet and social media continue to accentuate this rupture and induce a series of negative manifestations varying from anxiety, depression, a sense of meaninglessness and existential angst – symptoms that were completely alien to past cultures. Read the rest of this page »

7. ArchViz Theory – A Gentle Introduction to Nostalgia

Our site’s description page states that ‘our images have been appreciated for their distinct nostalgic and melancholic aesthetic.’ It is also obvious that the studio’s name and visual identity draws inspiration from Norse mythology. “Wyrd” is an Old English word for ‘fate’ or ‘personal destiny’, which also corresponds to the Old Norse “urðr” of similar meaning and a rich mythological substrate. Read the rest of this page »

Foxfield

Foxfield
My latest artwork done for Stygian Fox’s ‘New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley‘ for the Call of Cthulhu RPG, featuring an aerial view of the fictional town of Foxfield, Massachussets.
For the creation of this I used Michele Botticelli‘s ‘City of Arkham’ 3D buildings pack among other things. Render + matte painting and post processing.

City of Arkham

Arkham

My latest artwork done for Stygian Fox’s ‘New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley‘ for the Call of Cthulhu RPG, featuring an aerial view of H. P. Lovecraft’s fictional city of Arkham, Massachussets.
For the creation of this I used Michele Botticelli‘s ‘City of Arkham’ 3D buildings pack among other things. Rendered and post-processed. More images coming soon.

 

Bridge Pavilion in Greenland

I created this image in January 2016 as part of Forbes Massie Studio. Project by Ri-Eg Architects (competition entry).

Greenland_Pavilion_Cafe

Acton Gardens ArchVis

Acton Gardens

I created this 3D visualisation in the summer of 2015 as part of Forbes Massie Studio.

“Acton Gardens is one of the largest residential regeneration schemes in London, which is transforming the 52-acre site of the former South Acton estate into a vibrant new urban quarter. When complete, the scheme will deliver over 2,500 new homes, with approximately 50% affordable housing and a large proportion of family sized accommodation, along with enhanced transport links, retail and community facilities and extensive public open spaces” – source

Knole Park in April – Digital Painting

Knole Park

I painted this on my ancient Bamboo Tablet, using as a reference a photo I took in the beautiful Knole Park a while ago.
‘The Malediction Fields’ cover art served as a source of inspiration for the colours and mood.

Full size: 5000×5000. For full resolution previews Read the rest of this page »