My interest in virtual reality has always been couched in how the medium can be used artistically outside of video games. A lot of the early artistic exploration came through some form of interactive and immersive narrative, but the possibility for more has always been there. Virtual space populated with 3D models at a time of 3D printing allowed for a lot of possibilities. Particularly with Google’s early release of Tilt Brush, a 3D immersive painting tool. As soon as that became available artists have been creating in it, but they have also been limited by the inability to easily move those 3D models out of programs like Tilt Brush and refine in preparation for 3D printing, the translation from model to print rarely being one to one process.
Artist and painter Jonathan Yeo has been on a similar path. Virtual reality and tools like Tilt Brush gave the classically trained artist the ability to explore sculpture in relation to the medium he was most familiar with, painting. Using light field scans of his own face for reference, Yeo could sculpt in brush strokes to build portraits that resemble, in a way, his method of painting. Large blocking strokes brought to life in three-dimensional space.
Working in the virtual reality space gives a great deal of flexibility in the tools and process of creation. Combine that with the options available for outputting 3D models and the ability to translate the digital into physical options opens and even wider arrange of materials and techniques. These process truly exemplify the exploration of process and medium, each allowing another stage of translation. In Jonathan Yeo’s case, the decision was made to render his ephemeral sculpts as 3D prints and then cast into bronze with the help of Pangolin foundry. In bronze, the sculpture finds its final translation in a material that imbues a sense of finality and permanence.
“As someone who has always wanted to work in three dimensions but never learnt how to do it in the traditional way, it is exciting to have helped create a new process which could probably best described as a hybrid of painting and sculpture. The reason to use self- portraiture was to demonstrate how you could employ 3D scanning to look at yourself in a way that hasn’t been possible until now. What’s exciting is that the combination of this, along with the latest virtual reality and 3D printing technologies, is potentially a new way of making sculpture and one that might inspire other artists from a range of disciplines to have a go too. I hope these pieces not only show how artists can make use of new technology in unexpected ways, but also offer a speculative glimpse of how we all might use them in the future”
– Jonathan Yeo