Oberon Onmura of Second Life Arts and Entertainment [SLANE] has a write-up of "All Rules Disrupted ... The Chess Revolution", an intriguing new installation by avatar artist Shellina Winkler, a giant-sized play on chess themes which evoke comparisons to 20th century surrealists. Click to read more! - Hamlet
Shellina Winkler is a well-known artist in Second Life who just got done with a nice vacation in Palermo. Lucky girl. Her newest work, "All Rules Disrupted ... The Chess Revolution", is an installation, roughly 80 square meters, based on the iconography of the game of chess. It opened last week at Nordan Art [click here to teleport] and can be seen through July 2.
I'm going to admit up front that there is a lot of art in SL that doesn't interest me very much (Shellina's work doesn't fall into that group!). But even so, I always look for evidence that the artist cares enough to make all the edges mate, to get the surface textures right, to make the scripts work, and so forth. Even in work I don't particularly like, if it looks as though the artist is making an effort toward some kind of "perfection" in execution, I can go along with just about anything. Perhaps because she wanted to become an architect when she went off to university, Winkler has always been one of those artists who obviously cares about the details, and from my point of view in looking at art, the details are everything.
I think of Shellina's art work primarily as gallery-based, as opposed to installation or performance-based. In fact, she has her own gallery - The Knot - where you can see her wide range of object-oriented work.
Images of the game of chess aren't unexplored in art. In fact, there was a famous exhibition in 1945 in New York's Julian Levy Gallery, "The Imagery of Chess", featuring stars like Calder, Duchamp, Man Ray, Cage, Breton and Tanguy. Surrealists seemed especially attracted to the game's design - that nice grid of squares with all those potentially bizarre characters stomping about. And the middle period Modernists, of course, could relate to all the angst created on the chess battlefield. For us virtual world residents, the chess board offers another kind of three-dimensional virtual world, self-contained and focused on battle. Much fun.
In Winkler's installation, you'll see a "board" of dislocated black and white squares, with sleek, stylized "chessmen", designed by the artist. She told me that she conceived the chessmen, created in her unique style of "prim squeezing", as glass soldiers having internal armor of stainless steel. There are pieces piled up on one section of the board, apparently discarded, perhaps bruised in the last game. On a vertical section of board perpendicular to the main surface there are more pieces, in motion this time, playing out an endless chess game where no one ever wins.
Shellina tells me that she chose chess as a theme because it is known primarily as a game of rules, and along those lines she has created a nice tension between the vertical and horizontal elements. The vertical board is a puzzlement, since its pieces are moving about, perhaps even according to the rules, but in the "wrong" directions. By contrast, the horizontal plane is disjointed, with pieces lying about, as though the final match was so brutal that the players broke everything apart in disgust, destroying the rules in the process. Thus the revolution?
For me, what makes this installation work so well visually is the scale, which is large but not overwhelming. The chess pieces are a bit larger than normal avatar size, so you can almost relate to them as new friends. The scale, the stark color scheme, and the clean lines work together to create a powerful visual experience. Kudos to Shellina for using the Second Life environment to create another entrancing work of art.
Oberon Onmurais an artist in Second Life and a member of SLANE.