The Art of Immersion: Meet the British Artist Using VR As Her Medium

Every few years, I go visit the end of year degree show at The Leeds School of Art, Architecture & Design, at Leeds Beckett University. It's a great chance to see what the students are up to, and I knew that this year, some of the faculty have taken a special interest in Patches. The show is massive, sprawling over five stories of Broadcasting Place in Leeds, and already the crowds are shuffling through, exploring everything from landscape architecture to fine art.

It's here I meet Stephanie Hayes, an artist who is showing her work tonight. It's a botanical virtual reality piece called Bluebells, created using Patches.

Stephanie is interested in exploring our relation to the infinite, inspired by sacred geometries in Buddhist art. Her own experiences with higher consciousness have been completely immersive, so she's chosen VR as her medium in the hopes of recreating that transcendental feeling for her audience.

"Utilizing digital tools the work seeks to reach a geometric end point with mathematical perfection reflecting sacred geometry. Manipulating images of flowers through a process of splitting and rotating them reminds me of cells dividing within nature; giving them a geometric, mathematical quality yet still holding onto an organic feel. The images are abstract yet still have a familiarity to them."

In front of the installation, there is already a queue of excited people. For most of them, this is their first VR experience, and their curiosity gives a great energy to the space. One by one, they don the HTC Vive headset and step into the artwork, cooing with delight. At one point, spheres in the piece fly straight towards your head, and each person ducks a little. Then they laugh with relief as it calmly envelops them in the next visual.

Leeds Beckett Installation

As someone who knows how much work goes into both the degree show and Patches, it's a delight to see such a display. One after another, people from the crowd are seamlessly experiencing the piece. They are considering the artist's idea, rather than the construction of it. To me, that's just as it should be.

You can see Stephanie's piece below.

(Want to see it in your headset? Try our earlier post to learn about Viewing WebVR in your HMD of Choice.)