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Meet the Artists Behind Tremenheere’s AR App

Last month, we were delighted to unveil our experimental collaboration with Falmouth University which will help our visitors to see art in a new immersive way with Augmented Reality. 

Falmouth University researchers, including Professor of Digital Games Tanya Krzywinska have developed a custom phone-based app using Augmented Reality technology for the Gardens in collaboration with three artists; Penny Florence, Seamus Moran and Jonathan Kearney. In between making the final app tweaks and getting ready for the launch event, we spoke to the artists involved and here’s what they had to say: 

Tanya, how do you think the app will enhance the experience of visiting Tremenheere?

The app uses augmented reality to overlay computer-based imagery and audio over what your phone camera can see. When a ‘hot spot’ is found (using GPS), these things are set in motion in perspective with what you see around you through your phone’s camera. This might be the spoken word, sound, or imagery. The artists have each chosen a different approach to the way they have augmented elements of the garden’s features and used different locations in the garden. Part of the fun of using the app is finding the locations where these hidden elements can be revealed. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt. It was not our aim to detract from the location in any way, but instead, to invite visitors to look more closely at what the garden has to offer encouraging closer looking and investigation. 

One of the great things about the app is that each artist has chosen to explore the use of augmented reality in different ways: Penny’s work offers to interpret some of the pieces of physical sculpture and adds new elements to them that can only be seen using your phone. Jonathan’s work plays with shimmering optics that have originated from photographs that he had taken of the garden. Seamus’ piece challenged our technology to make a virtual scan of one of his physical sculptures on a very large scale, almost as if a huge dinosaur spine appears hanging above one of the garden’s pathways. Working on the app with these artists has been a journey of discovery and exploration; we think that what you will encounter in the garden shows what creative minds can do with augmented reality as another (digital) form of location-based sculpture. 

Penny, why did you choose the area of the gardens you did, and what was the inspiration behind your response?

I would have been happy to write about almost anywhere in these extraordinary gardens! But at the same time, I knew immediately that I wanted to highlight works by Kishio Suga, Caroline Winn and Peter Randall-Page. 

I’ve watched people walk past both the Suga works and the Winn with barely a glance. And if it’s your first visit, I get it! There’s so much to see, such drama in the planting, the landscape, the views, as well as the sculptures. But I live nearby and have experienced some of the wonders that for most of us take a little longer to emerge.

Both Suga and Winn tell us much about the way Neil Armstrong works. This is because they are about a deep relationship with place, plants and imagination. Many of Randall-Page’s works are also in direct dialogue with the South West, and, together with his understanding of matter as continuous, they open up further dimensions of these gardens.

Slip of the Lip, like his Seed at the Eden Project, refers directly to plant forms and to fertility, managing to balance between abstract and figurative art, partly through scale. Randall-Page collides plant and stone and living bodies, and he does so with delight. I never thought I’d find tons of granite to be so sensual and witty! 

Suga has a particular place at the junction between the ancient art of Japanese gardens and the radical intervention of his groundbreaking generation of the 1960s. This actually underpins Neil Armstrong’s approach. Yet Suga is also engaged with the problematics of city life, as we see in his second work, which concerns the ‘hikikomori’, the young men who never go beyond the four walls of their urban homes.

Winn refers to the deep history of contemporary art. The location of her Lunch on the Grass brought Manet’s revolutionary work to her mind. Her daring translation of painterly space to sculptural is disarmingly contained in a small dell. Her understated but remarkable forms play with abstraction, light and water, making trees and geology an integral part of her art. What’s more, she uses ceramic and steel, both extracts from the earth on which plants depend.

So it is that these three very different artists together reveal much of what makes Tremenheere such a magical place, its profound understanding not only of how things grow, but what growth is. Now there’s a thought!

Caroline Winn’s Lunch on the Grass (After Manet) in AR

Seamus, why did you choose the area of the gardens you did, and what was the inspiration behind your response?’

Synaptic Ammonite Torso is made from multiple casts of knots salvaged from dead trees. I have been working with this method of assemblage for many years and have another piece “Fallen” installed elsewhere in the gardens which use this exact method of construction. I discovered that fitting together copies of a particular knot produced an elegant compound curve, producing the “backbone” of the piece. I then added other knots to this, gradually lengthening or shortening various elements as they progressed through the length of the piece to produce the “ribs”. I used a different formula for the front and the back and let the shape form itself as I assembled it. The finished piece was suspended in an aluminium frame.

The piece was made back in 2008 and was shown in the National Sculpture Competition at Bluecoat 2 gallery in Liverpool as part of the City of Culture celebrations, where it won the People’s Choice Award.

I can remember once putting a Matchbox car underneath it and wondering what it would be like to see it on this scale (the actual piece is only about 18” tall). When the chance came to do AR, I jumped at it. Having it blown up to the size of a tree was an unmissable opportunity. I wanted it to be out in the open so that people could walk around it, unlike my other two pieces at Tremenheere which are a bit more secluded in the woods. I chose the open ground bordered by two paths that run from the Sky window down to the palms at the bottom as I thought it would then be visible from a variety of viewpoints and hopefully from a distance too. It was also easier to pick coordinates from Google Maps this way.

Newlyn Society of Artists’ exhibition Engage is currently in the Gallery until 23rd April. It showcases work by artists that have been given support to create augmented and virtual reality dimensions to their own work. 

If you’d like to download the app before arriving at Tremenheere, you can search ‘The Mystery of Art’ or use the following links.

GooglePlay version for Android phones can be downloaded here.

The IoS (iPhone/IPad) version can be downloaded here

Alternatively you can find a QR code at the ticket shed upon arrival.

Feature image by Jonathan Kearney