Video painting

Video painting

Video Paintings are a form of ambient video art presented via projectors, LCD or other flat panel display and wall-mounted in the same manner as traditional paintings. Content in this emergent form is designed to work at all times as either a highly aware foreground experience, or as passive background pieces of art. There is no sound accompaniment, it is only video. The concept of video paintings borrows from Brian Eno's idea of ambient music in works “must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting."

Like traditional paintings, video paintings hang on the wall to be viewed or passed over - depending on individual viewer preference in the moment.


Flatscreen technologies such as plasma, LCD, DLP and the up and coming OLED displays, are on the cusp of exploding in terms of marketplace penetration. Currently, the market offers both existing hybrid (video projection boxes) and true flatscreen technologies, and video art projections using cutting-edge projection technology. Even as these devices are being steadily introduced to our domestic and creative cultural spheres, more revolutionary technologies are being developed and implemented. Bill Buxton (University of Toronto, former chief scientist for Alias Wave Front and Silicon Graphics) maintains that gel, thin film, and painted surface video technologies are the inevitable next step in this development. Massively large scale moving images, beyond anything we have experienced, will be part of our everyday lives. As a result our domestic (and public) visual spaces will be profoundly transformed.

There are several artists and designers who are producing video paintings and ambient art that is intended to repurpose the blank space of an idle flatscreen. In addition to this there is an ever increasing number of companies specialising in video paintings to varying degrees. Companies such as Plasma Window, Vat19, Digital Hotcakes have all contributed to this growing phenomenon often providing the archetypal classical ambient video paintings. These companies and increasingly other artists and companies are expanding the availability of this genre. Ambient Digital Art [(] have evolved the concept to more specialised markets including bespoke personalised service additionally with expansion into the realm of generative art.

TransLumen Technologies [(] was founded in 2000 and applied for patents on imperceptibly different images or Subthreshold Extreme Gradual Change (STEGC) also called Fluid Stills® Art Illusions. These patents were subsequently awarded and additional patents filed. TransLumen creates and provides ambient video DVD’s, HD and custom installations. They specialize in ultra-slow-motion technology and video painting.

The Artscape Project ( aims to bring the openness of the real world into our everyday lives and public spaces.

The origins of Artscape can be found in 2001 when the first video paintings were shot. The video paintings were filmed with a fixed camera and contained no edits. Between five and twenty minutes in length, the video paintings were naturalistic incorporating layered movement and abstract framing. In 2003, technology was developed enabling the video paintings to be combined into collections in such a manner that they flowed intelligently but did not repeat. Unlike the original video paintings, the collections did not loop however long they played allowing the collections to be installed permanently in architectural spaces.

The founder of the Artscape Project Hilary Lawson describes how through Artscape ‘we can use technology to bring the movement of nature into the city… to change the space we inhabit and make it more emotionally satisfying.’ Several artists have participated in the Artscape Project, among them: Sanchita Islam, Hilary Lawson, William Raban, Tina Keane, Isabella Inghilleri and Alex Bettler.

The Artscape Gallery was launched in 2004 and the first public installation took place in the UK later in the same year. Since 2004 a growing number of artists have become involved in the project exploring the potential of the video painting and the collections that can be built from them.

Artscape video paintings are filmed in a single take. The camera is held stationary. Video paintings contain no edits or subsequent manipulation. The Artscape video painting is non-narrative. There is no dialogue, no sound. In contrast to the film and video tradition which has been dominated by the provision of meaning and understanding, the video painting aims to escape our cultural and perceptual closures freeing the viewer to play in the openness of the visual image. The abandonment of narrative enables the video painting to explore the character of experience. Through the video painting the artist leads us into a way of seeing which has no determinable meaning but which carries a unique emotional hue. Video paintings challenge us to let go of the endless search for closure or understanding and approach instead what it is to experience the world.

Jim Bizzocchi (, an artist and Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University's School of Interactive Arts and Technology, describes the new form: "Ambient video will emerge as a supremely pictorial form - relying on visual impact and the subtle manipulation of image, layer, flow, and transition. It sits in the visual background of our lives - always changing, but never too quickly. It does not conquer, it seduces. It rewards attention, but never commands it. Rather, its aim is to support whatever level of attention the viewer cares to bestow in the moment: a passing glance, a more intentional look, or a longer and deeper immersion within the dynamically changing experience of an ambient video world." Bizzochi must be credited with advancing the academic study of this phenomenon from his earliest papers on streaming video and other academic papers on video paintings.

NomIg. ( were among the first to create video paintings with their 2001 piece ‘Ad Infinitum’. Working as audiovisual artists, the NomIg. duo questioned what would happen if the concepts of Eno's ambient works were applied to the visual domain. As a result their works place paramount importance on fluidity of movement; an absence of direct cuts/edits; and the removal of a linear time experience for the viewer. Their video paintings are centered around near-imperceptible movement where the works cause the viewer to question whether there is any movement at all. Upon a passing glance the work appears to be still - it is only after a returning glance or concentrated awareness that the motion of the piece reveals itself. Their work takes a fleeting second and expands it into a timeless contemplation of the moment. To achieve their extreme slow motion NomIg. have heavily researched and developed editing techniques which layer and blend frames while not succumbing to the artifacts of the standard digital slow motion process (jerky movement, blurry content). The actual duration of their paintings often exceeds 3 hours and are regularly produced in 1080p HD format. They are seamless loops.

In 2003, while curating the audiovisual component of the New Forms Festival (, the nomigs met Bizzocchi and quickly formed an alliance. Bizzocchi's "Rockface" was used as the intermission piece during the aforementioned audiovisual evening in place of traditional intermission background music thereby playing with the conventional structure of the ambient paradigm. 2004 saw NomIg. and Bizzocchi team up to curate a video painting exhibition at the 2004 New Forms Festival.

Believing that this infant art form needs to develop a strong community, NomIg. developed a dedicated video painting & ambient video resource ( in an effort to grow the video painting community as well as offer a resource for those looking for information about video painting in general.

2007 sees NomIg. continue to advance the video painting form with a newly developed slow-motion technique; artistic manipulation of the display device itself; as well as the integration of the display device into sculptural works.

Visual artist Jeffers Egan ( has been working with the video painting medium for some time, producing works described as references to Rothko and Pollock.

Malcolm Daniel (who was involved in the New Forms Festival exhibition mentioned below) has recently started producing a series of work as well. To the rich tapestry of ambient video, Malcolm Daniel adds commentary on culture and society with his Video Paintings. Filmed on location in India, Malcolm’s works speak to the integration of society and spiritualism that is so prominent to the region. The cultural significance of this relationship is explored through layering and slow motion effects which serve to foster an ethereal and meditative presence for the viewer.

An early pioneer of the ambient video art movement and video painting is Douglas R. Siefken. His first public exhibit of the Fluid Stills® artform was sponsored by SONY on 02/02/02 at the Julia Friedman Gallery in Chicago. Doug is a founder and Chief Technology Officer of TransLumen Technologies, LLC. Their Fluid Stills® Art Illusions are a new genre of art merging with technology. The art imbues each digital frame with the integrity of an independent artistic still that cohesively changes over time without any visible or detectable change as that change occurs, creating a serene, temporally streaming subthreshold ultra-slow motion video composition. This tranquil and harmonious art form obviates the visual noise and environmental disruption presented by some other digital art alternatives. Doug has a version of the Chicago Skyline series that was installed at the Hotel Cass, Chicago in August of 2007. The piece is running on an 80” DLP screen in the main lobby. In 2008 Chicago’s Mayor Daley was flanked by two images from that series on large screens at a luncheon. []

One of the early participants in the growing ambient video genre, Detourdvd ( have been designing ambient video since 2003. Slow moving videos, with no audio track play in infinite loops, the Detourdvd Collection references modern design themes, with some titles available in a choice of color palettes. With sales of flatscreens soaring (Keepmedia [] ), and with the new, sleek screens on display instead of being hidden away in an armoir or closet, more people are searching for sources moving art to display in their homes. As Jim Bizzocchi says, "We believe artists will use the flat-panel displays as frames for "video paintings" -- slow moving but highly pictorial works of televisual art that explore light, shape, texture and motion. The next decade will be a rich test-bed for new forms of domestic visual art."


One of the first gallery exhibitions of this emerging art form was at the Julia Friedman Gallery in Chicago sponsored by SONY on 02/02/2002. Doug Siefken had three images from his VCD based “mask” series. One image “Geisha” was projected on a large screen while the other two were on flatscreen TV’s. These images were inspired by Irving Penn and Ed Paschke. Another early gallery exhibition of this emerging genre took place in 2004 at the New Forms Festival ( in Vancouver, BC (curated by Bizzocchi & NomIg.). Featured works were mounted on walls on large plasma displays in the middle of the festival’s larger new media gallery space. A bench was provided for the public to rest from the larger gallery tour as well as to contemplate the video painting exhibition. Other exhibitions include the Cimatics '04 festival ( which presented the works of Jeffers Egan and the 2006 Common Wealth Games which is presenting an exhibition by NomIg., Bizzocchi and Malcolm Daniel. Artscape have exhibited in spaces across the UK, and in May 2007 were invited to show their work at the Hayward Gallery in London [] . The last exhibition of the Artscape Project was the "Openness" installation at Sketch Gallery, London. In this show, the Artscape Project took advantage of the layout of the exhibition space and its array of twelve projectors to literally cover half of the gallery in video paintings.

ee also

*Video art

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