I thought I knew what video art was all about. Mostly a darkened room with a screen showing a loop of something tedious. Sit there for an age waiting for it to become interesting in some way only to find that it starts again. That has been my experience to date.
I was therefore completely blown away when I walked into the opening of “Digital Generation” at the Old Big School Gallery at Tonbridge School. The school is currently staging this exhibition in conjunction with Fidelity International. Fidelity is a financial management company – specialising in Unit Trusts, Pensions and the like. They have an art collection which decorates their offices worldwide, and a curator, Edmund Hubbard, whose job it is to select and site that art.
This collection is truly stunning. To start with the screens are presented as works of art. They are framed , often in wood, and sited on the walls to give them the presence they deserve. Some of the pieces like the one by Yang Yongliang in the image above, fill an entire wall. This piece initially looks like a traditional Chinese painting. Then one realises that the waterfalls are moving. A closer look reveals that the classic landscape is actually made from a montage of images and video of modern origin, showing cityscapes and construction. Everywhere there is subtle movement. The crazy bridges which interweave through the scene have tiny cars moving on them. If you watch for long enough then a little surprise event happens.
A collection of bird images by Dominic Harris are reminiscent of the moving paintings in a Harry Potter film. The screens used are incredibly high definition, and the detail on the birds is hyper-realistic. What’s more they sense the presence of the viewer as they are approached, and this alters the behaviour of the animated birds.
I could go on, there is work by ten artists, but the best thing, if you can, would be to get to Tonbridge School before 6th March and have a look. The exhibition is open to the public at weekends from 12:00 to 16:00.