Landscapes from Virtual Worlds

James Barnett makes fauvist paintings of picturesque videogame environments. "I don't paint things. I only paint the difference between...

James Barnett makes fauvist paintings of picturesque videogame environments.

"I don't paint things. I only paint the difference between things." –Henri Matisse

In 1905, a group of young painters brought an unexpected display to the third Salon d'Automne in Paris, which was becoming a premier venue for new developments in 20th century painting and sculpture. Led by the 35-year-old Henri Matisse (one of the Salon's founders), the collection of canvases were so simple in their designs and so offensively bright in color that one critic labeled the artists as "fauvres" or "wild beasts." Inspired by cave drawings and children's paintings, the movement was short-lived, barely lasting the decade, but was immortalized for its examination of color and its naked, passionate approach. Fortunately, the field has one more entrant-James Barnett.

Bored after the collapse of the internet economy several years ago, the Arizona resident was looking for something to pass the time since work as an information architect had dried up. So he and his friends decided to throw an art show in a friend's basement. They bought black turtlenecks and wine and painted whatever they thought would make sense. "Every single painting sold," Barnett says. The modest success of the "opening" turned Barnett on to painting and, more recently, photography. But while flipping through a book of the aforementioned Fauvists, Barnett had a realization. The pastoral compositions of painters like Matisse and Braque found a correspondent in something he already knew: videogames.

Barnett has been playing games for years, but now, he had a new direction. He had just bought a new video card to play the newest rounds of games and was amazed at the compositions he saw inside those virtual worlds. "The afternoon stuff in Call of Duty was just beautiful," he says. "You just sort of wander around." And wander around he did as he searched high and low for the proper landscapes to turn into paintings.

Barnett calls his work "fauxvism"-partly as a nod to Matisse and his ilk, but also as a play on his own self-taught status. He was attracted to the style for its use of color. "In my head, Matisse is a sort of cartoonist. There's an outline and color in the outline. There's not a lot of modeling and it's pretty flat colors." But applied to the verisimilitude of videogame environments, the result is something both familiar and eerie. The wreckage town of Megaton from Fallout 3 and the Brooklyn Bridge of Grand Theft Auto IV take on a new tone through Barnett's eyes.

What's fascinating about the work is the potential it has for videogame developers. Many are deeply interested in creating virtual worlds that look exactly like the present one, but in fact, a layer of abstraction adds new depth to videogame environments. Barnett says the big problem is that videogame art directors sublimate their own voice in pursuit of realism. That's a mistake. "I like a cocktail napkin drawing better than a mirror. I like the energy where you can see the painter's hand as opposed to the still image."

Jamin Brophy-Warren is a freelance writer living in New Haven, Connecticut. He is a former arts and entertainment reporter for the Wall Street Journal, a contributor at Slate, and editor of the forthcoming gaming magazine Kill Screen.

Images courtesy of James Barnett

via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet