A Hidden Narrative

Virtual Reality Experience

     For my Masters of Fine Art (MFA) Degree exhibition titled: 'Beyond The Canvas', I used various different types of computer graphics software to create a virtual version of one of my oil paintings. I used software for modeling and texturing as well as using photogrammetric methods to capture the more detailed part of the painting – the fireplace. Special attention was given to ensuring that this object turned out as detailed as possible. It would have been extremely difficult to recreate its intricate detail within a digital sculpting programme, therefore, I chose ‘photogrammetry’. Photogrammetry is a method used to create three-dimensional CGI models from photographs. This is a cutting-edge technology that is being used within the ‘computer graphics’ industry to create highly detailed renders of real-world objects. Once the objects were created and textured I imported them into ‘Unreal Engine’ which uses real-time rendering to render the scene. The project was exported as a .exe file which was then run on a high-end PC through the ‘Oculus Rift’ virtual reality headset. The reason for creating this work was not so much about giving the viewer ‘agency’ but rather giving them a ‘sense of presence’ by creating something ‘experiential’, something that had depth.



     At the conclusion of my BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art Paint I left college with more questions than answers and one of the main questions that I had was, are ‘static images’ still effective among all of the other forms of image-based media that surround us now? At that time, I was questioning painting and noticing its limitations. Static imagery often times presents the viewer with dynamic narratives that are not so easily deciphered and it is this issue with the transferal of ideas through a painting to a viewer that has led me to search for a new way to release the narrative without the worry of it being missed. By bringing painting and virtual reality together like I did for my MFA show it allows a dialogue between the past present and future to open up and some interesting concepts arise. Concepts such as; ‘Immersive storytelling’, ‘sense of embodiment’, ‘experientiality’, ‘existentiality’, ‘agency’ and ‘simulation theory’.

     By temporarily putting down the brush and picking up the digital pen it has broadened my understanding of what a painting is and how it exists “off” the canvas. When we think of painting we think of oils and not pixels in space. I feel that this combining of knowledge across traditional and digital mediums put me in a position of great benefit where I can explore and aim to find new and exciting ways to tell stories visually and furthermore I can give the viewer a chance to slip into the world and experience the work in a whole new way.

What Lies Beneath: The Mind's Eye by Darragh Dempsey

Niall MacMonagle

July 24 2017 2:30 AM

When artist Darragh Dempsey's father, a carpenter/builder, came across a beautiful but broken ornate French sandstone fireplace, he could see, in his mind's eye, that same fireplace restored and glowing.

"My dad, a bit of a MacGyver, rescued the fireplace from a skip, put it together, and Italian slate from a pool table that was in the house when we were growing up but had ended up in the shed, was cut up to become hearth and cheeks."

Dempsey grew up in Sandyford where all houses came with fireplaces but not like this one, which is now in his sitting room. Having spent two years studying engineering, Dempsey, always a sketcher, dropped out of college and began painting.

He spent every other weekend in their holiday home in Rosslare, "made from upcycled materials, another one of my dad's projects. All electricity from a generator, no TV", Dempsey spent hours drawing and playing pool and "both gave me a good understanding of perspective and measurement".

This painting tells a fictional story that draws on cinema and remix culture, a topic Dempsey chose for his MFA thesis at NCAD. He calls it The Mind's Eye and "the title, of course, is an anchor to bring the viewer's attention to the power of the imagination".

Many of the objects are "movie tropes in a narrative about a man who is losing his sight. On the floor is a photo book with an image of two figures holding hands; the fire is burning out; the snooker cue and the red, glowing cue case belong to the pool table story".

And who is the figure in the painting? He looks uneasy, anxious and is hanging on to time?

"He's a fictional character, losing his sight and played by Father. He is remembering his past. I leave it up to the viewer to decide how he is feeling... I try to keep my work as ambiguous as possible."

Winner of the Thomas Dammann Junior Memorial Trust Award, the Don Niccolo D'Ardia Caracciolo Award and RHA gold medal, Dempsey has gone beyond painting and has created an immersive, virtual reality Mind's Eye. Put on the headgear: you are in the room, feel the heat, a breeze from the unseen window. You reach out, you touch time.

And as for stuff you'd find in a skip - never pass one by.

(See 'A Hidden Narrative' Virtual Reality Experience, YouTube)


'Hero Asset'

Ornate French Sandstone Fireplace created through the use of photogrammetry.