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IN THE KNOW: Camberwell students to create a Digital Making Art School for Tate Exchange

Work by Alejandro Escobar
Written by
Sarah McLean
Published date
30 January 2017

This term the students, staff and alumni from Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon who make up the Digital Maker Collective will be collaborating on a series of exciting events as part of Tate Exchange, an annual programme of public events that takes place at Tate Modern’s new Switch House building, that brings together international artists and over 50 partners who work within and beyond the arts.

The Digital Maker Collective are an open group who share common goals of exploring digital and emerging technologies in the context of arts, education, society and the creative industries. For Tate Exchange, they will be inviting visitors to take part in digital experiments, performances, interventions, and conversation at interdisciplinary pop-up gatherings, and explore everything digital including virtual and augmented reality, creating artificial creatures and using microcomputers and biofeedback devices to create interactive objects.

Alejandro Escobar is a student on MA Fine Art Digital, and is a member of the Collective. For Tate Exchange, he will give a talk about the use of Virtual Reality (VR) in his work as well as show a current project which the public can explore themselves through VR.

We spoke to Alejandro about how he combines traditional panting and sculptural techniques with digital technology.


Please can you tell me a bit about your practice and your interests as an artist
I have been a painter for the last ten years: I started by embracing a realistic style but it has shifted in the last few years as I have started experimenting with materials and techniques. My subject is the visual representation of reality, although recently I started to focusing more on how to physically represent memories.
Please tell me how working with digital affects and adds to your work as an artist
At the moment I am using 3D modeling and photogrammetry as essential steps for my practice. As I no longer work on flat canvases, digital technologies enable me to both build 3D sketches and to evolve the end product inside a digital environment – I would say that digital technologies are embedded into my practice.
How did you become interested in digital technologies?
It was a natural thing to me. I started using the computer to display digital photographs that I used for reference, then I started using Photoshop and Illustrator to change the composition and other features. Two years ago I started to use the knowledge I had from my professional background in digital advertising and I explored the use of 3D software as part of my artistic practice. It was then that I became interested in Virtual Reality and decided to apply for this MA. Since the beginning of my practice, I have been challenging the use of regular flat canvases and I have explored making work on many types of surfaces and even objects. Using digital technology has finally allowed me to work on what I call painting/sculptures.
How did you become involved with the Digital Maker Collective? What is your favourite thing you have been involved in with that group?
By chance, Matthew Edwards (Digital technician from Camberwell College of Arts) invited me to join him at a meeting at Chelsea where they were exploring 3D printing. We had been doing that for a time at Camberwell already so I went along and soon became interested in the potential of the group. I started joining regular meetings and even led a couple of introductory workshops for 3D printing and Virtual Reality. The thing that I like the most about the Collective is the opportunity to learn to collaborate with people from different backgrounds – as a painter you tend to be alone in the studio, and I also think that it has helped me to embrace the practice of networking and working with others.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am interested in the representation of visual memory of reality. Although it might sound complex, it has everything to do with the fact that as a realistic painter, you always paint from memory: it does not matter if you are painting from a live model or from an image, you always have to switch between subject and representation so all the information has to pass trough your brain before it reaches the brush. That is how I got interested in how I might represent memory instead of just trying to copy forms and colors from a single fixed image.
The piece I am working at the moment is called Landscape #12. Instead of trying to represent a fixed image of a landscape, I am trying to represent the memory of a walk trough a park. I am creating this painting/sculpture using both physical and digital models. Once it is complete, I will present this it along with a Virtual Reality tour around a large scale digital model built form the same piece.
What do you have planned for Tate Exchange?
 On each of the four dates that the Digital Maker Collective will be running Tate Exchange events, the public will have the opportunity to take part in a VR presentation of my ongoing project exploring painting and VR technology in which I am creating a painted interactive world that people are able to navigate with a VR head set, and on 8 March at 1pm I will also give a formal presentation entitled Painting in VR, which will be an exploration of this approach.
The images in this post show different stages of the process of creative Landscape #12. All images by Alejandro Escobar.
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