Digital art can be off-putting and even sterile for many people, even experienced artists, but using it to bring the most famous traditional works of art to life is the ideal way to reshape how many can see the medium. I recently visited the Frameless exhibit in London, and came away inspired and in awe.
I step into a cavernous room, music plays, lights dazzle and I'm wrapped in Gustav Klimt's The Tree of Life. I'm disoriented and lost as swirls of paint envelop me and the mirrored room projects what feels like hundreds of surreal leafs; I have a sensation of the floor moving beneath me and the walls shifting as Klimt gives way to Bosch and Dali. I've never felt closer to a work of art before.
Lockdowns may be a vague memory but there was a time when we had to make do with virtual online art galleries. Now life is getting back to normal there are art exhibits that are trying new things, which can be a weird NFT exhibition but it can also be an immersive digital art experience, like Frameless.
There's no actual art on show, which is odd, but my first seconds in Frameless are a genuinely profound experience. Frameless is a permanent digital immersive arts experience held in London that fills its sizeable 30,000 square foot venue with digital interpretations of 40 famous works of art from 28 masters, including Canaletto, Cézanne, Dalí, Kandinsky, Klimt, Monet, Rembrandt and Van Gogh.
Digital art reimagines the classics
Each of the four themed rooms are dedicated to exploring how art can be experienced rather than simply viewed. In my first room, 'Beyond Reality', art is projected around the entire space, wall to wall and floor to ceiling. A mirrored floor and pillars give the art no breathing room; I'm in, and reflected in, The Tree of Life, and it's breathtaking.
This initial room also contains art from Salvador Dalí, Edvard Munch and Hieronymus Bosch; and when Max Ernst's The Fireside Angel grows from the walls and spreads across the room, it's quite unsettling. Frameless is pitched as a gallery where "where art breaks free" and it's hard not to agree.
Each room in the Frameless exhibit has a curated approach to eking out the emotion and meaning of the art on show. No room is alike but the aim is always to put the viewer into the painting. If you've ever looked at a classic work of art and just didn't get it, or bemused to yourself "I just don't get it", then Frameless is here to encourage you to feel something, anything. Or just kick around some virtual paint.
This can be a physical sensation. Stepping from the surrealist meringue of The Garden Of Earthly Delights (minus the rude bits) and into the Colour In Motion room I get to playfully interact with the art. Pools of coloured digital brush strokes lay on the floor and a quick kick sees these flakes of colour dance across the floor, merge and spread up the walls. The more vigorous the kick the greater the clash of colours. As if to prove a point a small boy charges past me chasing imagined, digital paint, swiftly followed by a huff-puffing woman.
This use of advanced motion tracking technology is gleefully impressive and gives me a chance to interact directly with the art. A pattern of large brushes strokes on the floor move and sweep up the walls to begin building what becomes Robert Delaunay's portrait of Jean Metzinger, a patchwork of raw colourful brush strokes combine to form the famous painting.
Frameless works because each work of art is interpreted and remade in an immersive way. I feel closer to these paintings than I ever thought possible. In the case of Robert Delaunay's famous portrait, the art is torn down to its raw elements before being reassembled and cast three stories high.
Frameless is an audio visual-feast, where music and sound mix with animation, often everything combining in a physical and gestural way. On occasion the music will change with the actions of people in the rooms.
The room titled 'The World Around Us' uses a unique six-sided projection to wrap me in the art of Rembrandt, Claude Monet and Turner; I feel as if I am physically standing in the Avenue at Chantilly as painted by Paul Cézanne. My sense of space is lost and all I can see are the impressions of paint and light.
When the room fades to black and Joseph Wright of Derby's Vesuvius In Eruption bursts into life as the strings of Night On Bald Mountain sweep and fill the space I audibly gasp. Then Rembrandt's The Storm On The Sea Of Galilee bursts across the walls, floor and ceiling, a 360-degree animated painting with crashing lightning overhead and surging waves. I feel like the sea is physically breaking around me.
Art gets dramatic
If all this sounds too intense then a room dedicated to the greatest abstract artworks is the place to relax. Where other rooms at Frameless rely on spacious voids to fill with complex artworks, this smaller space, layered with ceiling high transparent canvases, is intimate and consuming. The art of Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian (amongst others) is projected into these filmy walls; it's animated and creates layers of depth into the room.
The coloured blocks and geometry of Paul Klee's Castle And Sun pulsates in time to the music. As I look away from the art, in the gloom, couples and groups of people are strewn around the edges of the room, on the floor and in corners, just enjoying the mesmerising moment.
It's hard not to feel inspired by Frameless. The mix of digital art techniques on display relaunch familiar old masters as immersive worlds. After seeing Van Gough's layered brush strokes up close, the size of my head, I get a whole new appreciation for his genius.
In a world of fast-paced media and instant AI art Frameless slows down the experience of looking at paintings and draws out the emotion from these classic works of art; it leaves me wanting to race home and unpack my drawing tablet. Surely, that's what great art should do? Inspire.
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