Music and art have long been a magical pairing. Finding the right soundtrack for a painting requires as much finesse as finding the right wine for that special meal. Russian-born, Canadian artist San Base takes that dynamic duo one step further by adding cutting-edge computer technology to make the image literally dance to the music. San Base: Supernatural, from Microcinema DVD, allows you to sit and watch this tremendous trio unfold before you in the comfort of your own home.
Trained as both a cybernetics engineer and a painter, Base stumbled on the idea of his “Dynamic Painting” technique while painting over old paintings thanks to a shortage of canvas during his days in the former Soviet Union. Base noticed that he subconsciously painted in a way that remained in harmony with the original painting. Painting the same image over and over with subtle differences, Base felt he had attained another dimension in his art—the dimension of time. Base then put his computer engineering training to work and harnessed the power of technology to truly achieve a sense of movement over time in his paintings.
San Base: Supernatural features six of Base’s Dynamic Paintings paired with New Age-style music. (You can see short excerpts of some of Base’s work here and here.) Each Dynamic Painting plays out in seemingly infinite combinations over the course of fifteen minutes or more. The overall effect is one of surrendering yourself to the moment—slowing down and allowing the experience to slowly wash over you. Base offers his work as an outlet for meditation, as almost a religious experience that can relieve anxiety and stress. Imagine the Yule Log video, only trippier and infinitely more interesting.
The first Dynamic Painting, April, which is set to music by Alberto Zin, begins simply enough with trees framing mountains and water in the background. The trees move and the water ripples as the skies slowly change color. The trees and mountains subtly change color in concert with the skies. The overall effect is almost Impressionist. Rather than paint a haystack one hundred times ala Monet to explore all the possibilities of light and atmosphere, Base paints it once and allows algorithms to do the rest of the work.
Oasis and Welcome to My Dream, bothpaired with the music of Roman Surzha, shift from Impressionism to Surrealism. Dalí-esque landscapes leap into motion, minus the ants and melting clocks. The abstract shapes suggest roads, mountains, and plains but twist and contort into whatever your imagination makes of them. Welcome to My Dream, accompanied by Surzha’s ominous music, seems more like a nightmare as haunting figures grow out of nothing to loom above the dreamscape.
Kostya Eqvaro’s music sets the stage for the final two, most spiritual Dynamic Paintings, Creation and Supernatural. In Creation, soaring, almost cosmic music calls us to witness a recreation of the moment of creation, a Big Bang of color and light rippling out from the center to fill the void. Supernatural comes back to Earth with an opening scene of totem-like figures standing on an island shore with other islands in the distance over an expanse of water. Imagine the enigmatic heads of Easter Island rising up and slowly dancing to piano music beneath Technicolor skies. As with Creation, Supernatural strikes a spiritual chord without asking you to sing the hymn of any particular denomination. The god in these Dynamic Paintings has no name and isn’t even the ghost in the machine of computer technology, but the god that stirs within us when our senses unite in such synesthetic moments as San Base’s paintings offer.
In an age when video art and animation art seem to have exhausted their potential to say something fresh, San Base: Supernatural harnesses computerized animation in the name of painting to say something new by speaking to our ancestral needs for spirituality and harmony.
[Many thanks to Microcinema DVD for providing me with a review copy of San Base: Supernatural]