A Retrospective Of Computer Game Art Of The ’90s

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Some see computer games solely as an interactive adventure, viewing the imagery simply as a method of furthering gameplay. Others, however, take time to appreciate its beauty. For those who fall into the latter category (and even those in the former), Unit 24 Gallery is presenting a retrospective exhibition of works by visual effects artist, supervisor and director Olaf Wendt.

The exhibition showcases images from a number of his projects executed in the 1990s, including record covers, a tech-noir action adventure game called “Burn: Cycle” and Virtual Nightclub, an interactive music experience, as well as a more recent award-winning short film “Performer.”

“I started creating ‘worlds’ when I was 16 years old back in the ’80s. I was using a mainframe computer at the local university in Germany to draw cubist arrangements of solid volumes on a Teletype. At the time, I was gaining inspiration in equal measure from abstract expressionists and ‘Tron.’”

Wendt then moved to England to attend University at Oxford. His work continued as he started, designing visuals and images. “This was the first time that artists could finally lay hands on tools that let you rip. The digital wave was crashing through music and the visual arts, making it possible to create windows into this world that I had only ever glimpsed between the curtains of a silver screen – a world that seemed inaccessible and remote before.”



The frame of reference for Wendt was always film. “Now you could let your audience loose within a world, a world with its own visual language.”

The new forms of games at that time were called interactive movies, which included storylines and characters.

Digital media have evolved rapidly over the last two decades. The early 1990s became a watershed moment, bridging the 8-bit pixelated graphics that dominated the ’80s with the ubiquitous sophisticated, detailed visuals of today that immerse us on the web, in games, on TV and in film in a non-stop orgy of continuous, omnipresent digital tools and devices.

The work shown in this exhibition represents this turning point. It may be hard for young people today to understand it’s groundbreaking nature and imagine the limitations and challenges.

And looking back this work presents a stylistic and thematic unity not found in much of the present noise. It is very much of its time – retro if you will, its roots and influences clearly visible; but also pointing forward to a new understanding and use. “For me it became a fusion of constructivism, expressionism with a dose of the surrealists of course, drawing also on the new emerging visual forms in architecture and design,” Wendt explained.

Wendt currently lives and works in Los Angeles as a visual effects designer and supervisor. He’s worked on films include “Real Steel,” “Gulliver's Travels,” “Act of Valor,” “Dylan Dog,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” Paul Verhoeven's “Black Book,” among others.

Wendt just joined the 24 Design group, which is a brand-new project by Unit 24 Gallery and focuses on bringing together a group of 24 artists and designers from around the world to create design objects. 24 Design is an international platform for collaborative creation for artists working across mediums. 24 Design limited editions will be available in our showcase based at Unit 24 Gallery in London and soon also online.


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