Diana Lynn VanderMeulen
Softer Artist Portrait
My name is Diana Lynn VanderMeulen. I'm a Toronto based artist and I work in quite a few different mediums. I consider my practice to be a collage-based approach to installation art sculpture, digital media, and currently I'm mostly working with Unity Technologies to create environments and atmospheres, which can be experienced as still images, as exploratory, VR, and AR experience and videos. Through my practice I draw connections between materials that are super synthetic, elements of product packaging, party supplies, plastic.. things that really surrounded me, in my childhood and still now. Combining that with really fantastic moments in nature that are a little bit harder to find. So, you know, experiencing something super small, like a beautiful insect wing or a flower petal, or seeing the images from the deep sea, outer space, I am trying to create an environment that sort of meets in the middle and really amplifies the idea of this fantastic other world.
Before I started working in 3d, I had been doing quite a lot of event installation. A lot of them were DIY for local music shows, or festivals, different branded installations and murals, things like that. And I felt totally exhausted and that my work was physically draining and I was working on such short timelines. I felt like I didn't have time to come up with any new creative ideas. SoI took a class through Trinity Square Video. It's a gallery and workspace in Toronto and I took a class to learn how to use unity, I took an introduction to blender and I took some resolume workshops for doing live visuals and it really inspired me. I feel the best creatively when I can work just between many different types of ways of making at the same time.
So when I can work on things that are physical and in a physical space and then go into a digital space, I find that those really inform each other. These ideas have really flowed from different ways of making throughout the years. So, sometimes it's been really small iterations like collages or paintings, sometimes a bit larger with murals, street arts, sculptural installations, sets for photo shoots, and moving into digital with,filters, AR apps, video loops, and then back into installation by installing the video with an installation. My work kind of self references in a lot of ways. Within my unity projects, I'm using documentation to texture the landscapes and objects that are created within the scene. So I'll take documentation of these event installations, of the collages, paintings, small sculptures, and texturize the elements to really connect back with the other work that I'm already making.
And that's important to me because, you know, working in so many different mediums, I feel like it's very important for me to have some kind of consistency of the theme and of the visual idea in my work. I've always felt that I kind of work best when I'm really surrounded by what I'm working on. Like whether it is collage or a digital piece, it really doesn't work for me to just have nothing around me or a clean slate. I really like building off of what's there. So you'll see in my unity landscape, it's extremely hectic. I'm sure that pretty much anybody who is trained in this program would just think this is a total nightmare.. which to me, sometimes it can be too, but I find comfort surrounding myself in what I've already made. And I think my insecurity with using the program really helps me feel comfortable knowing that, you know, I have already made something here and I can keep building off of that instead of starting fresh every single time.
Something really exciting about that, every time I leave the program and come back in, I can see things in a new way. I can kind of zoom around the landscape and see different angles. So I can see how the nature elements are affecting my camera, zooming in through the water, going through fog or moving plants. I feel that's really inspiring and that's actually usually how I end up finding the stage of the work, or where the cameras should end up, it's not usually planned in advance. I don't normally set up the camera then build the scene around where the camera is sat. It's more of a building and sensing and an intuition based relationship with the program.
I think that having that vulnerability of not necessarily knowing a program, from the kind of technical standpoint that you would need to approach it, if you were an actual game designer, I think that really works for me in a way, because most of my practice - outside of the computer as well, is really about exploring and trying and failing and finding the success in the errors of the work.
Thank you so much for taking the time to explore my practice. I just can't wait to see all of the beautiful work that comes out of the softer community.