Frameless at Marble Arch, London - the UK’s first permanent large scale digital art experience.
By Theresa Thompson, Timeless Travels' Art Correspondent
At Frameless, a “multi-sensory, multi-artist large scale digital art experience” that has just opened at Marble Arch, London, one of the many inspirational quotes they use really speaks to the event.
It’s Wassily Kandinsky’s, and it says it all: “Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and…stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?”
And walk about you do, walking into whichever of the four themed galleries you choose to start with. From then on, it is total immersion, visual and aural, in some spots semi-tactile too: iconic paintings shifting and morphing digitally around you, flowing over walls, floors, ceilings - flowing over you too - to a soundtrack of specially commissioned music.
To stop thinking helps. Or maybe limiting it to just the one question: “Which one is this?” as you work out which painting is being projected. “You won’t simply be looking at paintings, you’ll be in them,” says the publicity.
“This is a place where art comes alive,” they also say. So, speckles and dots dance over you from Paul Seurat’s painting of Mont Saint-Michel, leaves migrate from Claude Monet’s and Berthe Morisot’s gardens to drift around you and cover the floor where you can kick them just like in autumn, and Vincent Van Gogh’s broad brushstrokes seem to grow even broader as you watch them encircling you. Across in The World Around Us gallery, a mighty volcano erupts in the Bay of Naples lighting up the islands; a few moments later in another sequence, you’re in the middle of an almighty storm, lighting flashing fearsomely, horrendous waves crashing, a fishing boat in peril, and music to match.
The organisers want people to let go, to watch in awe and wonder. But whether you know what the paintings you’re experiencing are, is another matter. For example, the two I described in the last paragraph were Joseph Wright of Derby’s Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the islands in the Bay of Naples, painted between 1778-80, and Rembrandt van Rijn’s Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee, his first and only seascape, painted in 1633. Maybe this doesn’t matter; these are immersive galleries after all, intended to offer a totally new experience of art; it is left to the individual to find out more. This is a spectacle: hugely colourful, sometimes melodramatic, sometimes jazzy, and sometimes soothing; encouraging an emotional response to art.
A panel outside each gallery lists the works alongside thumbnail pictures. Inside, the works are shown on a loop and the order in which you see them doesn’t match the list outside, so at first it can be a bit of guessing game deciding what painting those dots or strokes or colours are part of. Which is quite fun in its own way. You can take as long as you like in each gallery so it’s possible to watch it through again if you’re intrigued by something, as I was once or twice. I kept missing seeing Munch’s Scream, so I kept popping in again to try and catch it. At long last I did and disappointingly, decided it wasn’t one of the best.
With some of the 40 masterpieces by 28 artists chosen for this show, there’s always the option, of course, if they are in London collections, to go across town to see them for real later. For example, Joseph Wright of Derby’s Vesuvius eruption is in Tate Britain’s collection. Unfortunately, however, Rembrandt’s biblical scene of Jesus and his disciples caught in the storm at sea, his first and only seascape, painted in 1633, was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts in 1990. Unfortunately, seeing it in reproduction is now the only way of seeing it at all. So, highly dramatized as it is here, full of wild motion, crashing seas, fear, is perhaps a bonus.
The works that lend themselves best to this sort of experience are the surrealist and abstract works. The Beyond Reality gallery offers ethereal music and a plunge into the dreamworld: Venus floating by on her shell, Dali’s melting clock, tigers creeping through the jungle...
Things calm down over in the Colour in Motion gallery where stillness and harmony - and colour - such colour! – are the watchwords. Every brushstroke, every splash of paint from Impressionist, post-Impressionist and Pointillist artists, looming larger than life. Waterlilies, leaves, spring, summer, setting suns in artworks by the likes of Monet, Signac, Seurat, Morisot, Robert Delauney, and Van Gogh.
In the gallery titled The World Around Us, 360-degree land-and-cityscapes from artists like Canaletto, Cezanne, Monet, Turner, enswathe you. Sadly, for me the day I went along, Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog, 1817, wasn’t showing in the loop, so I waited for it in vain. I was looking forward to being enveloped by the mists on that rocky mountain top, subsumed within that quintessential Romantic artwork.
Or maybe I’d just prefer to see the actual painting? Yes! But that one is in Hamburg, Germany. And yes, I probably would prefer to see all the actual paintings, but this is fun too and will appeal to a wide audience including families and anyone seeking new digital art and cultural experiences.
The works that lend themselves best to this sort of experience are the surrealist and abstract works. The Beyond Reality gallery offers ethereal music and a plunge into the dreamworld: Venus floating by on her shell, Dali’s melting clock, tigers creeping through the jungle - respectively, Thomas Lowinsky’s 1922 The Dawn of Venus; Dali’s The Persistence of Memory; Henri Rousseau’s The Dream, 1910 - as well as Hieronymus Bosch’s phantasmagorical The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych, 1490-1500, which I thought was one of the best here as you really do start to examine its eccentric components.
Finally, into abstraction. Leave your thinking brain outside and go in and get blown away. It’s safely psychedelic! The Art of Abstraction gallery introduces some pioneers of abstract art as you walk through works by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Hilma af Klimt, Paul Klee, and Piet Mondrian, and find yourself mesmerised by a maze of colour, by blobs and strokes and circles dancing all over the place to glitzy music.
I’d suggest buying the exhibition book, it’s not big and it gives background to the various themes of the artworks, and also explains about the technology and choices made in the creation of this innovative exhibition.
Frameless hopes to become a world class attraction, and located in the heart of Marble Arch, at the west end of Oxford Street with shops one way and Hyde Park the other, it is as well placed as it could be to become a ‘must-see’ new style of cultural landmark in London.
Open permanently from October 7th 2022.
For tickets and information see: https://frameless.com