VR as an Art-Form: Reviewing the "Night Cafe"

Staff Writer By: M.D. McCallum (WarLord720)


VR Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh Trailer


Any artist that has experienced VR is immediately impacted by how it will change art. Not just as new art form but it's impact on art itself. No longer will anyone be standing outside of a work of art but rather inside it. Admiring it from angles Picasso never could have imagined. If Dali could have draped his clock in VR space do you really think he wouldn't? Not all artists embrace every medium but it's the opinion of some that the open minded artists embrace any form that gets their work out into the public as long as their artistic vision remains true. Do we want to reinterpret existing works like Dali and Picasso into VR space so we can look around and into their work or is that artistic blasphemy?

As an example let's take a look at Borrowed Light's The Night Cafe: A VR Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh available free to experience over at Steam for the Vive. Personally I enjoyed the VR experience immensely walking through and around the various rooms of the painting with its characters. It's was quite intriguing, beguiling and immersive. This is not my type of art but it very well could be after this. The glow around the lamps were pleasantly animated and other nice little touches. While this is a derivative work it still stands as great example of what VR can do. Trouble is... I can hear the purists wringing hands and gnashing teeth over something many may see as a perversion of the original work. I can see several sides to this argument and will certainly respect its place in the future dialog of art forms but I just don't see that many negatives.

This is VR space... not a flat painting. It uses artistic license to create a multi-room experience.

Walking through a painting will certainly be more interesting to some segments of the population that don't think much about art since it's not part of their daily lives. VR interpretation of existing works might just make it more appealing but are those people going to go to a VR gallery or purchase VR assets to view at home? Probably not in a lot of cases but that is not the point as they still have the opportunity to experience free VR projects and works of art that will be available. It might just broaden the audience for a lot of different types of art.

Now I'm ignoring the elephant in the room and that is the legal right to interpret an existing work of art. I'm not an expert here and this could be devoted to an entire article of its own but is it any more of a hurdle than existing content creators face? Some works may not be protected others will be negotiated or refused in the manner as business is conducted today for other protected works and intellectual property. That will be a discussion for another day and I'm sure it will be a much debated topic too.

One of the other rooms in The Night Cafe VR visualization by Borrowed Light.

Getting back to the original premise of VR as an art form we might want to consider how we create our own digital art going forward. Do we want it to be viewed only in 2D... only in VR space or a combination of whatever is available? I know from a personal standpoint I'm very glad I try to pay attention to details when working because going forward that detail will be scrutinized inside and out, literally and everyone is a critic. Like any digital artist I want my work to be available on as many platforms as possible that do not detract from my original artistic vision.

Right or wrong... one thing is for sure. VR got this old country boy to not only view and "experience" a Van Gogh type painting but to seek out more Van Gogh artwork to broaden my artistic horizons. That is no small thing for an isolated farm boy in a small town that otherwise may never be interested enough in that type of art to give it more than a brief glance. And we still haven't addressed VR as an art form unto itself but that is a topic for future discussion.

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The Night Cafe: A VR Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh at Steam - Free to Play

Steam Reviews

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M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.