Starry starry night

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Starry Night (interactive animation) from Petros Vrellis on Vimeo.

Occasionally one comes across a piece of work, whether in the world of atoms or the digital realm of bits and bytes that represents a quantum shift of imaginative and creative endeavour; the kind of work that makes one feel very humble indeed. And Petros Vrellis’s sublime, gentle, visionary wonder is such a work. His starting point is Vincent van Gogh’s, The Starry Night. The painting itself, as anyone who’s even remotely familiar with it, is a night scene looking out over Arles with the blue mountains on the far horizon underneath which a swirling maelstrom of stars dance and whirl in a sky that fills two-thirds of the scene and bears down on the town and fields huddled below. One can feel dizzy simply gazing upon it. What Petros Vrellis has done is to turn this iconic image into an interactive work of art in its own right.

Admittedly, couched in those often dreadful and much abused terms, ‘interactive art’ – things don’t sound promising. But Vrellis has the delicate aesthetic sensibilities of the finest artist and as such he’s sought – and succeeded in bringing the picture alive in a way that seems not only natural – but so right that one wonders why it hasn’t been done before. The video shows the painting slowly coming to life; still at first, the painting swirls and daubs grow, swell, glide and pulse with gentle rhythm, light and harmony. And then comes the interaction. As hand and fingers drag across the surface, the vortices organically swell and shift, ebb and flow in response. The magic of Vrellis coding skills is such that movement is not uniformly responsive across the entire picture plane; it’s the sky that responds most freely and fluidly, while the fields and town quietly rock to and fro to a more subtle tune.

And like the original that served as the inspiration, this is a masterpiece.