At Espace St. Denis, Lasting Impressions unfolds in an atmospheric movie theatre, complete with a menu of drinks and snacks that contribute to the show’s Parisian atmosphere, as if you are sitting in one of the quaint cafés depicted in the impressionist paintings. Multiple movie screens wrap around the sides of the theatre, creating a truly immersive experience.
Lasting Impressions offers a dazzling highlight reel of famous impressionists, including Van Gogh, Monet, and Pissarro. This exhibition stands apart from the slew of other impressionist showcases that are popular today by showing 3D renderings of the artworks. While the use of 3D may sound gimmicky, it counteracts the flatness that often plagues digitally rendered and projected art pieces. Using this technique is a clever response to the impressionist style, which relies on dynamic movement and depth to convey emotion.
The show is divided into two parts. The first, in 2D, explores Paris as the epicentre of the impressionist movement beginning in the late 19th century. As jaunty music and a restaurant ambiance permeate the background, vintage footage of bustling Parisian streets is projected, interspersed with artist introductions detailing their upbringing and involvement in the Parisian art scene. The showcase also highlights some lesser-known women impressionists, such as Marie Bracquemond, Eva Gonzales, and Berthe Morisot.
After a brief intermission, the second section begins with an audio introduction by the great-granddaughter of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Sophie Renoir. Guests are then prompted to put on their glasses, and the 3D show begins.
The massive wraparound screens combined with the expertly crafted 3D makes for a mesmerizing experience. The size of the screens allows for an unprecedented view of the immense detail that went into these works. The slideshow lasts 50 minutes, with each painting on display for about half a minute. There are a total of over 100 paintings shown, ranging from famous masterworks to relatively unknown paintings.
Dylan Pierce, who made the 3D effects for the show, is the key to Lasting Impressions’ success. Masterworks, such as Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and Degas’ The Rehearsal, float serenely across the screen with amazing depth and movement. Monet’s Water Lilies was especially entrancing; the water in the painting was digitally manipulated to make rippling waves. The 3D elements lend themselves especially well in this scenario, making the water seem transparent and the bottom of the lake far, far away.
Only an experienced producer could match this show’s ambition. Rubin Fogel, a producer responsible for a host of Montreal concerts and shows, helped organize Lasting Impressions. In the introduction to the show, he called it “one of the most exciting projects that I’ve been involved with in the 45 years I’ve been in this business.”
Accompanying musical pieces were carefully chosen to fit perfectly with the art. Selections varied from lively instrumentals to sombre classical pieces to moving vocal performances. For example, the gentle melodies in Debussy’s ”Clair de Lune” worked harmoniously with the soft, glimmering view of Van Gogh’s Starry Night to create a transcendent experience at multiple sensory levels. Additionally, Adam Fisher’s tribute to Van Gogh, “Vincent,” was especially impactful when overlaid with some of the visual artist’s other works, such as The Bedroom and The Church at Auvers.
This display does a much better service to its impressionist paintings than other non-physical showcases have. It still, however, possesses some of the unavoidable limitations of digital art. The texture and visibility of the brushstrokes, visual elements that are considered a cornerstone of the impressionist movement, are completely lost. Additionally, the viewer cannot see the light interact with the canvas as it would if they were walking around the real-life painting.
Viewing the paintings in this exhibition is no substitute for viewing them in real life. With that being said, visitors are still bound for a completely unique, ambient, and compelling experience at Lasting Impressions.
Lasting Impressions is on display at Espace St. Denis until March 12.