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Rick Silva Transforms Organic Landscapes Into Digital Paintings And GIFs In En Plein Air

Meet the animated gifs created by Brazilian Rick Silva, who takes his laptop into nature to create according to location and weather.

by Erica Gonsales
Aug 21 2012, 8:26pm

Though he’s Brazilian through and through, Rick Silva’s Portuguese is not as fluent as it used to be. That's because Silva, a media artist, moved from the tropical landscape of Brazil to the US when he was just nine, and he's been living in Canada for the last four years. Now he's getting ready to return to America to teach art at the University of Oregon.

Throughout his comings and goings, Rick stops to behold natural landscapes and recreate them on his computer. His latest work is the animated GIF series En Plein Air—a reference to the act of painting outside. The difference here is that Silva traded in brushes for a computer screen.

Mount Fernie Provincial Park, Fernie BC. 7 pm. 78° f — En Plein Air (2012)

We spoke with Silva to learn more about his views on the relationship between the digital and the organic, his creation process, and the philosophy that guides his work.

The Creators Project: In the En Plein Air series, it's interesting that you put the name, time, and temperature of each place in each image's caption. How is that information related to the composition of the images?
Rick Silva: What I do in this work is a digital version of a technique the French call En Plein Air (painting in the open air). I take my laptop outdoors and react to the landscape and the weather conditions using different types of software. That's why I describe the place, time, and weather in which each image was created.

I read an interview where you say you relate to the way Björk defines her work, a fusion of the organic and the electronic. Why do you suppose so many artists use digital media to express their dialogue with nature?
Artists like myself (and maybe Björk too) see technology as nature. The philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy says: "It is not a question of 'nature.' 'Nature,' as it is most often understood, is an abstraction, as is the idea of man standing before it. What is real is the earth, the sea, the sky, the sand, one’s feet on the ground, and one’s breath, the smell of grass and of coal, the crackling of electricity, the swarming of pixels…"

Lake Louise, Alberta. 2:30 pm. 70° f — En Plein Air (2012)

Antlers WiFi series gif (2011)

Before En Plein Air, you did the Antlers WiFi series, where the organic elements are more evident, with digital augmentation. Are these two series somehow related?
In a way, En Plein Air is a reaction to Antlers WiFi, where I took photos of nature into the studio to turn them into new computer images. In En Plein Air I bring the computer into nature to create GIFs or images.

What are you doing right now? Any exhibits coming up?
En Plein Air is an ongoing project, so I'm updating the website once a week or so. I'm showing some works in the Visual Rhythm exhibition, at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (Colorado), along with Uruguay-born Brazil-based artist Fernando Velázquez.

Poudre Canyon, near Fort Collins, Colorado. 4 pm. 72° f — En Plein Air (2012)

Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, Glacier National Park, Montana. 11:30 am. 52° f — En Plein Air (2012)