artnet Asks: Scarlett Raven and Interactive Art

Put down the Pokemon and look at some augmented art.

Copyright Scarlett Raven, 2016. Courtesy of Washington Green Fine Art.

Calling all British Pokemon Go fans: can’t wait for the official version of the app to transfer across the pond? Worry not, you can still get your augmented reality fix via the art world. While Americans were busy trying to catch Charizard near New York Penn Station, British artist Scarlett Raven was using similar technology to create interactive art—the first of its kind. In her exhibition “The Danger Tree,” Raven uses an app called Blippar to make her paintings come to life. Blippar allows Raven’s audience to see the intimate process behind her paintings: her brushstrokes forming, her thought process, and even her mistakes. Though Raven acknowledges the potential discomfort that this level of honesty brings—she holds nothing back, even when she scraps a canvas—she wants her work to have as much integrity as possible, and hopes it will give her viewers a unique immersive experience that makes each painting feel like an event.

If you’re in the Greenwich area of London during the next few weeks (and find yourself tired of throwing pokeballs), be sure to stop by the exhibition as it runs until the end of the month. If not, you’re in luck. Raven was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss “The Danger Tree,” her various inspirations, and how she sees “Augmentism” transforming her work.

Describe your creative process. What kinds of patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
I take my dog Dali with me everywhere. She’s my soul mate. We have a morning walk on the beach and then we walk to the studio. I always take her on a lunchtime walk outside the studio. It helps me to think about what I’ve done that morning. It can be easy to lose hours in the studio and never get any proper distance on the work. I drink a lot of coffee. And I love playing music while I paint. It helps me leave my baggage at the door and get completely wrapped in the movement, the subject matter and feel of the painting.

Scarlett Raven, Black Poppy. Courtesy of Washington Green Fine Art.

Scarlett Raven, Black Poppy. Courtesy of Washington Green Fine Art.

Tell us about your exhibition, “The Danger Tree.” Why should we come?
It’s the world’s first augmented reality fine art exhibition. I’m inviting people to view painting in a completely different way. I have been developing a process called Augmentism. Each painting in “The Danger Tree” has augmented reality elements which allow the viewer to view not only the work itself, but also the layers beneath the finished painting. You can stand in front of the artwork and watch not only the paint strokes, but also my thought processes that brought that painting into being. What I hope I’ve created is not just an event, but a series of immersive experiences, with each painting becoming an event in itself.

How did you get involved with Augmentism?
I’d been experimenting with documenting my work for a while as the process, for me, is as expressive as the finished artwork. I wanted to invite the viewer to be able to come with me on that journey. It’s very intimate and risky as it exposes my mistakes and mind set, which for any artist is deeply personal and uncomfortable at times. But it’s important to me to be honest, and for the integrity of the artwork, that I can share my creative choices. I wipe entire paintings when something doesn’t feel right, and then paint right over them. In the past those marks, those decisions, those uncertainties, would be hidden, lost forever but now they have a life. I spent so many years hiding behind my work. Now that I feel it is important that I step forward and present it in the most complete and honest way that I can.

How do you see your work evolving after this?
I’ve made a huge leap already in the last two years. Through embracing technology, via a simple app, I can now allow the viewer stand in front of my paintings and watch how they were created. I’ve found a way combining the oldest and most analogue form of art of there is – painting – and combing it with the most advanced medium of the digital age – the pixel. I want to straddle the millennia: a prehistoric form of expression can now be viewed through the lens of 21st century technology.

I have to thank my friend, digital artist Marc Marot, for helping me make that leap as he introduced me to that world and its possibilities. From the simple documentation of my paintings, I now employ all manner of techniques and it’s changed the way I work forever. My paintings were already very sculptural, but Augmentism means that I now also think in terms of sound, graphics, narrative and moving image. I have even introduced poetry into my paintings.

The creative anchor is always the paint. For “The Danger Tree,” I mixed soil in with the oils, an element that physically connects the work to the subject matter. The soil was sent to me by my father, who brought it back from a personal pilgrimage he made to France three years ago, to honor those that had died during the First World War. He died himself not long after he made that journey. That became the start of my own journey towards creating this exhibition. With all my paintings, I want to continue to connect the past with the future.

Scarlett paints Dulce. Courtesy of Washington Green Fine Art.

Scarlett paints Dulce. Courtesy of Washington Green Fine Art.

If you could own any artwork, what would it be and why?
I grew up fascinated by the works of Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh. They unlocked something within me that led me to the place I am now, but, given the choice, I’d probably opt for owning work created by a child. I think they are so strong and honest in their intentions, like little miracles. As far as I’ve come, I’d love to be able to paint and draw again for the first time and just watch in amazement at the marks appearing like magic.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Right now is definitely the highlight of my career. Especially the last two years creating this exhibition. I’ve spent a lot of time collaborating with Marc on the augmented side. The process had seen us spilling out our hearts out with no inhibition. It’s been a fruitful and emotional journey creating “The Danger Tree” and to see it now all coming together is beautiful.

Scarlett Raven, Dulce et Decorum Est. Courtesy of Washington Green Fine Art.

Scarlett Raven, Dulce et Decorum Est. Courtesy of Washington Green Fine Art.

Scarlett Raven’s “The Danger Tree” opens in London on July 1–31 at Riverside Unit, New Capital Quay, London SE10 9FR. 

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