Lossy, the latest show from artist Rachel Rossin, a VR fellow at NEW INC, is a series of paintings and virtual reality installations exploring the relationship between the physical and the digital. As the show’s title suggests, the featured work examines principles of loss and entropy— specifically as applied to data compression degradation. “From a technical point of view, I am making paintings inspired by lossy algorithms (i.e. mesh decimation, polygon-reduction, JPG compression) and using these algorithms as a narrative thread and metaphor for entropy,” Rossin explains.
Inspired by Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation and Robert Smithson's Entropy and the New Monuments, Rossin has created a complex world of landscapes, abstracted figures and still lives, which blend together as if they were imploding in space. To highlight the relationship between virtual reality and painting, Rossin plays with physical space to create context for both creating and showing the work.
According to Rossin, the visual language for both the paintings and virtual reality pieces starts as physical oil paintings that are then translated into virtual environments through use of photogrammetry. Rossin then manipulates the captures in Unity, warping them by isolating gravity and game physics to specific areas. These algorithmically altered planes are then re-interpreted back in the physical world via painting and airbrushing. The paintings are then taken back into virtual reality as 2D textures wrapped around the original 3D meshes. "The ability to use game development software truly opens the possibility of using reality as a medium,” says Rossin.
Rossin, a self-taught programmer, began experimenting with creative coding at the age of eight. In Lossy, Rossin brings virtual reality and painting together for the first time in her practice. According to the artist, “I was really happy with my Virtual Reality show at Signal this past January, but the world was self-contained. The challenge of extending the world out into the physical and then into paintings was very real, but essential to my practice. I’m glad to say that I’m mostly satisfied with the outcome.”