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Traveling Through Painted Worlds

Eric Friden | 19 Jul 2013 18:00
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The resulting video is a fly-through of the modeled environment; a journey through a large crystalline structure filled with shapes and colors, realized with the large, chunky polygons of late 90s 3D, but with sharp textures that show signs of a paintbrush operated by a human hand. Suspended among the sharp edges and soft colors are frozen splotches of paint and errant brush strokes, as if someone had once slipped with a brush or spilled a paintcan and the mistake was preserved beneath the surface layer of the painting. The 2011 exhibition "Space Oddity" was based on this video, with the video itself running on a loop on a big television screen, surrounded by the inevitable next step of Rohwetter's artistic process - paintings and collages based on interesting details of the three-dimensional landscape.

As might be expected from an artist that works in virtual spaces, videogames are a big source of inspiration. "I started out wanting to make a game myself, but on the way I got so fascinated by the concept of virtual worlds that I stayed there," Rohwetter says. "The relationship between 2D and 3D is fundamental to painting, since it always, or more or less always, has the component of being illusionistic; you can paint something that looks three-dimensional in a two-dimensional medium. You have this in games as well, and it really strengthens the illusion. There is so much focus on this 2D-3D problem in games, since what you see on the screen is still just two-dimensional pictures, but at the same time it's not."

I got so fascinated by the concept of virtual worlds that I stayed there

When I ask her about her relationship with videogames, she is quick to admit that she very rarely plays them herself, and after spending a half-decade working in them, Rohwetter still seems uncomfortable around virtual environments. She still sees herself as an outsider, a painter using computer graphics to examine and expand her own art; and it's not by accident, Rohwetter feels that it's a benefit to remain an outsider, if not to her then at least to us.

"Watching my boyfriend play games, I suggest 'go there!, try this!' and he says 'no, but, that's not the thing that you should do!' And yeah, of course it's not, but I think it looks interesting up there!" she says, barely containing her laughter. "I'm really not into the logic of games, so I can use them in a kind of 'deviant' way."

Rohwetter continues, "it's like when you are in another country as a tourist and you see things that you wouldn't see if you were there everyday. Since I'm more or less an idiot in 3d, that brings me a kind of freedom to use it without being limited."

You can find a lot of Maja Rohwetter's art, in English, on her website.

Eric Fridén is a Swedish freelance writer that writes most comfortably when it's about the people on and just outside of the periphery of videogames. His English-language work can be found on Kill Screen, and on his personal webpage ericfriden.com.

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