A video painting is created by recording footage from a stationary digital camera for an amount of time, anywhere from three minutes to a half an hour or longer, theoretically. The scene can be anything in the real world, as represented in Artscape Gallery’s collections, and vary from urban curbs and storefronts to country sunsets and ocean whirlpools.

The installation at the Surrey and Borders Partnership treatment facility. Here, the imagery is looped on a flatscreen. The collection at UCLH is back-projected and runs for 12 hours before repeating the images, but in a different sequence determined by software that matches the videos’ characteristics. “We tend to use projectors,” says Klina Jordan, director at Artscape Galleries. “For one, it is easier to create larger images, and also because the quality of the light feels a bit more natural than a screen.”

“The main thing that sets us apart from other moving image work, like television and film, is that we use a stationary camera shot, so it is framed more like a painting—it isn’t panning around,” says Klina Jordan, the director at Artscape, which represents a group of artists exploring the new medium. Video paintings contain no edits or subsequent manipulation and show the real world in real time. The unexpected restraint of the video painting offers a deep tranquility and immersive subtlety.

Cascade by Tina Keane

Artscape’s healthcare installations—one at University College London Hospital (UCLH) and another at a Surrey and Borders Partnership treatment facility—are based on “biophilia,” a long-standing theory that says humans, having evolved in the natural world, have a hardwired affinity for plants, animals, and scenic landscapes. Viewing scenes from the natural world has restorative, calming effects, and video paintings may be able to increase these effects by more accurately displaying nature’s tempos.

“The curator at UCLH, whose responsibility it was to make sure the pieces were suitable for a healing environment, met with me, and we went through the various work in our library,” Jordan says. “We were obviously looking for more calming pieces with more of an upbeat, sunnier, colorful vibe than the more moody pieces some of the artists might make.”

Distance by Alex Bettler

The development of healing images in video paintings is what sets them apart from their static counterparts, or even television and film media. A video painting has very gradual development, with some pieces being so subtle that the movement may go unnoticed on the surface of the consciousness.

“Being out in a field is more calming than being on a city street. It’s the whole surrounding experience; it’s not just a visual thing,” explains Jordan. “I think one of the reasons we feel more relaxed in nature is because it is constantly changing and doing things as another living entity. It’s not so hard and closed and rigid, and it’s not unnaturally fast or noisy. But even if there’s a real tempestuous storm then somehow it’s refreshing. It’s not demanding on your inside in some way.”

Taking the theory of biophilia as truth, and if a static image of a tree has calming effects, can we presume a video painting of that same tree with leaves gently turning or a bird coming to rest on its branch increases those effects?

Night Edge by Hilary Lawson

Artscape Gallery plans to answer this question and propel this area of research forward into the realm of video art. Near the end of 2008, Artscape and researchers at the University of Surrey will conduct a clinical trial at the Surrey and Borders Partnership treatment facility. And in the following weeks, Artscape will be conducting a patient and staff qualitative survey at UCLH.

“This is quite exciting for us, and I think this is why some established researchers from Surrey are interested in getting involved, as well. There is evidence that natural imagery has a beneficial impact in healthcare environments and that if you can view nature itself in such a place that also helps. But nobody has done the in-between thing, that is to display nature captured by man and created by man, but actually moving and looking more like the natural world.”

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