Artist George Burchett Bridges Realism And Augmented Reality With His ‘Mother-in-Law’ Collection

In the resounding space of A+ Works of Art gallery, artistic visions sprang to life, beckoning visitors in Kuala Lumpur to explore a world of creativity and innovation. International artist George Burchett presented his debut collection, Mother-in-Law, within these inviting walls––an innovative art exhibition that bridges reality and imagination, as real-life sculptures find their mirrored counterparts in an immersive realm of augmented reality. A globetrotter with a lineage steeped in journalism, Burchett melded diverse cultural influences and decades of pioneering technology use into each of his sculptures, infusing them with narratives inspired by life experiences, literature, formal studies and living history.

This creative journey first began with a simple iPad sketch. Over the past two years, the collection had blossomed into a large number of distinct artworks crafted collaboratively with NIYOS, under technology entrepreneur and experienced art collector Adrian Jones’ leadership. Each artwork unfolds across four dimensions, intertwining physical, digital, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) realms. The creative process is meticulous as Burchett translates his hand-drawn sketches into tangible 3D sculptures using advanced 3D colour printing inkjets over at his studio in Hanoi. Crafting each sculpture entails dedicating a week or more, implementing primarily carbon-neutral thermoplastic polyester known as PLA. NIYOS’ high calibre of AR and VR technology are then added as an enchanting dimension, enabling these figures to effortlessly traverse between real and virtual worlds. 

The Kuala Lumpur exhibition unfolded with an orderly presentation, showcasing three exclusive installations reserved for museum collections and a limited selection of individual pieces available for purchase. Among them stands 1965, a collection of 24 artworks that combined pivotal historical tapestry of Southeast Asia in 1965 along with Burchett’s personal experiences. These artworks gained its depth from Burchett’s own upbringing in Phnom Penh, a time when Cambodia endured significant political and social changes. 

Next in line, we have From Hanoi With Love, an ensemble of 64 artworks ingeniously arranged in an 8×8 format––these were Burchett’s initial creations. The methodical craftsmanship involved 3D printing at a smaller scale using earlier monochrome technology, followed by an intricate hand-painting. Completing this triad is Indian Goddesses, an assemblage of 15 artworks that artfully breathes life into Indian mythology figures. 

Collectors of each artwork will acquire an assortment of four separate versions. This includes a 3D sculpture, a digital rendition of the sculpture, a 2D representation on cold-pressed 100% cotton paper, and a high-resolution 2D digital form. The 3D sculptures, standing at an elegant 48cm height, offer two versatile options––they can stand freely as it is or housed within hand-inscribed presentation boxes that were custom-designed for this project. Certain exclusive editions are fabricated on handmade Vietnamese giấy dó (mulberry paper). 

This collection serves as a resolute testament to creative ingenuity and interconnected narratives, showcasing an optimal integration of art and technology. George Burchett and Adrian Jones spoke with Robb Report Malaysia, shedding light on the intricacies behind MotherinLaw, and the exploration between two different realms. 

George Burchett and Adrian Jones

How do you decide on the specific cultural, historical or mythical inspirations for each Mother-in-Law artwork? 

Burchett: The original 8×8 3D printed and hand-painted creations were Hanoi housewives in their everyday pyjamas observed from my studio window during lockdown. When the sculptures became AR avatars and started travelling the world, my mind also started to travel in space and time. It then became a fascination to me where I was able to turn these figures into completely different personas. I have poured out a wealth of accumulated experiences from living, studying and working in various countries, which allowed me to produce infinite manifestations of Mother-in-Law. In fact, it’s quite exhilarating to have that kind of artistic power and freedom. 

Collaboration between creative fields can be transformative. Can you share a specific insight gained from working alongside George? 

Jones: Artists like George use primitive forms to create artworks that resonate with us on a deeper level. Despite appearing deceptively simple, great artists have incredible intuition on how to use them to convey feelings and fulfil their creative visions. On the other hand, technologists get excited by new capabilities but can be inclined to introduce complexity.

George was well-aware with the possibilities and constraints that might arise from creating rapid prototypes spanning different mediums and technologies. Bringing all these elements together was about maintaining the balance, without losing any simplicity of forms. I think it’s important to have an incredibly close level of communication and understanding of the possibilities, while not compromising the artists’ aims and values. 

Your project spans different mediums and technologies. How do you think your art reflects to the rapidly changing world of art and technology? 

Burchett: I discovered digital art when we bought our first desktop in 1995. I was immediately seduced by its technology. The first breakthrough in terms of physical art was when Epson released their first inkjet art printer using archival inks and papers. Epson sponsored my first digital art exhibition at the Alliance Française De Sydney in 2002. It was titled To The Birds Who Died For France, and seeing my digital artwork transition from a computer screen to a mural-sized physical piece was truly amazing and beautiful. Now, Mother-in-Law exists in different spaces simultaneously, with infinite possibilities. As an artist, I find that incredibly exciting and inspirational. 

Can you briefly touch on the technical challenges you encountered while developing the digital components of this project, and how the team overcame together? 

Jones: The main challenge was to bring these original creations into the AR and VR worlds, as we needed them to be in fully 3D digital formats but still entirely crafted by human hand from a creative point of view. What accelerated this project was George’s son, Graham, who is both technically and creatively skilled. He has a wonderful complementary working relationship with his father, so the two of them were able to produce the fully digital versions by hand that were needed. 

It was also a steep learning curve to understand that full colour 3D printing is nothing like pressing print on your computer. To achieve the essential goal of producing the highest quality artworks, we had to engage in extensive learning, skill-building, and dealing with failures and rejections, given the intricate nature of the technology. Things like humidity and choice of printing filaments have a huge impact on the outcome and success rate. 

Beyond this project, are there any other themes or concepts you’re eager to explore in your future artistic endeavours? 

Burchett: Art has always been an adventure, a journey of discovering, learning, experimenting, and so much more. This project has taken me to places I had never been before, and I would like to continue this journey and travel further, together with the advances of 3D printing and other related technologies. We started with one colour, then five, and now we have 3D printers that can be printed in 16 different colours. All this happened within a period of two years. The possibilities are exciting and infinite. I am not someone who plans far ahead, so who knows what will pop up next? In fact, Mother-in-Law was totally unexpected. Something else may surprise me along the way; I’d be surprised if it doesn’t. 

This project offers collectors an immersive digital experience alongside physical artworks. Can you share your perspective on how this duality enhances the collector’s connection with the art? 

Jones: You artwork is always with you. The highly realistic 3D digital forms are constantly accessible, instantly ready to integrate into photos and videos captured through the AR App. The reaction to the App has amazed us when we first showed it during Art Basel Miami. People want photos of their Mother-in-Law with friends, celebrities, next to famous landmarks, inside museums, and so on. 

As an AR App user, you can position, scale, and rotate your identical artwork on the screen within a three-dimensional real world environment, just as if you had brought your physical sculpture with you. As a collector, you also become a creator, in a way that you can’t with other art. Meanwhile, your physical sculpture remains safe and protected.


Photos courtesy of A+ Works of Art

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