© AFP / by Olivia HAMPTON | A woman takes a photo of the Kingdom of Colors exhibition, an immersive visual experience from French filmmaker Thomas Blanchard and artist Oilhack in Washington DC
WASHINGTON - 11 November 2017: After hurting his wrist, artist Oilhack started mixing paints, oil and soap in a bowl, experiments that eventually morphed into brightly colored moving seascapes in a collaboration with fellow Frenchman Thomas Blanchard that Apple used to promote its iPhone X.
In their US debut, the pair, who form the WeAreColorful collaborative, are bringing an immersive experience -- filling the main gallery space at Artechouse, a Washington venue marrying art, science and technology, with 270-degree projections of their liquid mixtures.
Varying hues, ranging from deep blues to hot pink and sparkling gold, ripple across a surface, spill onto geometric shapes and drop dramatically on flowers like milk or heavy smoke to the beat of a dreamy electronic soundtrack from Leonardo Villiger.
The shapes seem huge in the projections, towering far above visitors, but Oilhack and Blanchard in fact worked on tiny surfaces sometimes no larger than two inches (five centimeters), shooting with powerful 100mm macro lenses.
"What we film, you can hold it in the palm of your hand," Blanchard told AFP ahead of the show, which opens Friday.
"A lot of people thought we were filming in swimming pools and said, 'What's with all this waste?'"
Hours of mixing acrylic paint, glycerophtalic oil-based paint, liquid soap, bleach and canola oil were distilled into a 15-minute sequence.
The oil's reaction to the paint forms small beads that come undone in what the artists describe as "explosions."
- Lace-like explosions -
"It's very ephemeral," said Oilhack. "It opens up like lace… When the music picks up, that's when we show the explosions."
In one portion of the video, marbles and prisms dramatically shift very slowly while colors spew out onto them.
To create the effect, the artists used strings attached to stones to suspend small wooden shapes measuring just a few millimeters, then injected liquids into the space. The resulting projections are very soothing.
"For a few minutes, we forget our problems," said Blanchard, who gave the rights to one of his videos to an Australian children's hospital, where staff said it calmed the sick children.
The artists hail from the city of Lyon, the French creative center that also served as homebase to Adrien M & Claire B (Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne), who created the interactive abstract landscapes for Artechouse's inaugural June-September show.
Artechouse co-founder Sandro Kereselidze calls technology a "fresh, new form of art."
"Is it performance? Is it fine art? It's like the Chinese curse, 'may you live in interesting times.'"
To take the psychedelic experience to another level, evening visitors can virtually augment their drinks at the bar in the mezzanine, which overlooks the projections and the guests experiencing them below, lounging on benches and comfy gray poufs.
Cocktails topped with an edible wafer stamped with a colorful swirl come alive with the venue's smartphone app, showing smoke or bubbles of color lifting out of the glass.