Alex Vlair - Meet the artist

On real time VJing, inspiration and “Sentient Elements”.

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@enter.artPUBLISHED 20TH NOVEMBER 2021

With enter.blog meet the artist, we aim to inspire people to observe and create art and music by meeting with the amazing creators you find on enter.art and enter.audio. In this week's artist highlight, we’re getting to know Alex Vlair - a fantastic 3D Visual Artist and VJ (video jockey) from Canada. 

We first got introduced to his works by another great artist from the featured gallery - Jujulien. We’re very excited to have him on board, and  can’t wait to see his work evolve on enter.art in the coming times. In this article we take a dive into Alex’ works and inspiration, as well as the process of his current series “Sentient Elements”. And of course, a bit about his love for using Notch!

Alex is interested in the possibilities of real-time content to free people from their screens and bring them out into the real world; and is keeping a keen eye on the ever-diminishing gap between real-time and pre-rendered 3D graphics quality. He is passionate about music and especially the relationship between visuals and sound. He indulges in this by doing work on music videos, creating visuals for concerts, and live VJing. When it comes to VJing, Alex uses Notch to create unique 3D scenes that he then manipulates in real-time to the music. 

His personal work gravitates towards dark, dream-like themes with an underlying hint of ancient and esoteric symbolism. He strives to capture a sense of a deeper coherent meaning for humanity which strongly contrasts what we often find in virtual worlds. 

Sentient Elements

For his latest NFT series "Sentient Elements", Alex explores the idea of the classical elements as if they are at once material objects to be put on display in an art gallery context, and sentient beings that form the building blocks of reality as we know it.

Looking towards the Vedic tradition, we can see how the "chakras" were mapped to the human body in such a way that demonstrates two forms of being; the physical and mental. The Root, Sacral, Solar-Plexus, and Heart chakras correspond to the physical world and the classical elements of Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind. Although not typically recognized as elements, the subtler, "Mental" chakras follow the same paradigm, and so could be seen as elements of reality similar to the original 4; Ether, Spirit, and Pure Consciousness.

Although the chakras are used to describe the human body, the terminology of the elements allow us to find it in the natural environment.

Through this lense, it seems there is an underlying element of sentience in all planes of existence. 

In this series, these sentient elements have been isolated and put on display for our viewing pleasure.

The first 4 entries in this series are available now, and the last 3 will be released in the coming weeks.

“Sentient Elements” - 4 out of 7 in the series is now available on enter.art. Keep an eye out for the final three in the following weeks..

“Sentient Elements” - 4 out of 7 in the series is now available on enter.art. Keep an eye out for the final three in the following weeks..

The fluidity and ease of the NFTs is stunning. How was the series created?

The NFTs were made in Notch, a program that is used heavily in the Events industry for creating real-time 3D visuals. Although I use Maya more often than Notch when working on commercial projects, I chose to use Notch here for the ease of creating simulations like fire, smoke, and liquids. 

Working in real-time means I can iterate and fine-tune the simulations more rapidly. Compared to rendering with Arnold in Maya, working with real-time does mean there is a sacrifice made for image quality. However, Notch has recently introduced raytracing functionality which allows to bridge that quality gap a bit more. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I first started creating 3D work at the Alberta University of the Arts in Calgary where I was born and raised, and then followed that up with a 3D animation course at Les Gobelins in France. I came back to Canada and started working here in Montréal in the movie industry, but quickly realized I wasn't satisfied with specializing in one role and creating one form of content. I started teaching myself how to do everything else in 3D; 3D sculpting, modelling and texture work, lighting, etc. I started taking freelance contracts, mostly in the events industry. 

Almost ironically, I loved the idea of creating work that encouraged people to get outside into the real world, away from their TVs and computers. That lead to me finding Notch, which is a great tool for creating such work. One of the highlights of my career so far was creating and performing live 360 visuals for a dome here in Montréal. The S.A.T. (societe des arts technologiques) has an 18-meter dome where they host all sorts of events, from immersive movies to concerts. I was hired to create live visuals for a concert of 3 different artists. I designed 3 unique 3D environments for the dome, within which I performed my usual VJ sets. The 3 environments were designed with the sound of the artists' work in mind. This was the perfect unification of all my interests; immersive content, live performance, positive social environment, and 3D visuals inspired by and set to music. https://www.alexvlair.com/portfolio/domesicle-2020/

When I discovered Notch about 3 years ago, I quickly formed the habit of creating quick real-time 3D "sketches" to improve my skills with the program. I would pick a music track that I found inspiring and then try to create a visual representation of what I was feeling in the music. I started accumulating these short abstract 3D animated video clips set to music and would just share them on instagram for fun. I soon started using what I learned to create live visuals, but I never lost the taste for creating these short loops. 

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How do you combine working with sound and visuals?

Outside of creating 3D content for the advertising industry, I also create content for live events and do some VJing myself using Notch. I pursued this interest not only because I like the idea of getting out of the house and performing my work, but because I have always been fascinated by the relationship between visuals and sound. Music and Sound informs so much how we interpret visuals, and I find it really exciting to see how small adjustments to the sound composition changes the impression of the work. 

For this series I am arranging my own sound compositions, however I generally derive great inspiration from music. I love working on music videos for this reason as well. In the near future, I will share work on the enter.art platform that features original compositions by various musicians that I have worked with in the past.

Can you tell us about your journey to the NFT space?

When I first heard of NFTs last year, it seemed like the obvious thing for me to do. I was creating these short bite-sized 3D loops anyway, and it seemed to me that the NFT ecosystem had a taste for exactly that kind of work. I figured I would be creating this kind of work anyway, and if I could reach a new audience and generate more interest by giving the opportunity for others to collect and share the clips like trading cards, then I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

 It's also a great way for people to invest in my artistic growth; as I get better at communicating my ideas through my work, and as my work becomes more well known, the NFTs that I have made will increase in value and reward my early supporters. That thought also motivates me to create better work and reach more people. 

My goal is to create work that makes people feel good and invites them to engage more with life in a positive way. There's an infinite number of ways to get closer to that goal, and I'm excited to continue exploring them and sharing my efforts with everyone here on enter.art!

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Follow Alex Vlair’s previous and upcoming works:

https://www.enter.art/artist/alex_vlair
https://www.instagram.com/a_vlair
https://www.alexvlair.com

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