Company Post

Électro-Acrylique Sends the Physicality of the Painter's Brushstrokes to the Dome

Électro-Acrylique is a live, electronic-acoustic hybrid performance developed in the immersive fulldome theater of the Society for Arts and Technology (SAT) that is a creative blend of abstract painting, interactive digital art and live sound making. The participants are sound designer Fred Laurier (Pfreud), visual designer Fred Trétout and percusionist painter Alec Stephani.

Attached to the back of the canvas are eight piezo microphones that reverberate to various degrees as they capture the passage of the brush on the canvas and ensuing vibrations of the canvas according to the intensity of the artist's creative impulse.

All the music and imagery of the show are created from these canvas signals and the imagery captured by the camera pointed at the canvas. If the painter doesn't touch the canvas – nothing happens!

We spoke with Fred Trétout who was kind enough to discuss the project and provide a breakdown of how it all came together.

The first sounds picked up by the microphones are sent to the sound designer who modulates, transforms, and organizes them into sequences creating a musical 'composition' which will in turn influence the pictorial composition.

Similarly, the visual designer first captures the entire canvas with the video camera and then can isolate areas, colours and shapes. These are then transformed using TouchDesigner into a myriad of two and three-dimensional shapes that are projected into the immersive dome.

The performance successfully seeks to demonstrate that not only can the two universes (hi-tech: electro-acoustics and low-tech: brushes and canvas) co-exist, but that they can be merged into an enriched and interrelated movement where there is no compartmentalization.

Fred Trétout: The role of TouchDesigner in the project was crucial. During three workshop residencies in the Satosphere, Alec the painter and Fred the sound designer could see my concepts in realtime which enabled us to evolve together really fast.

I got the raw audio signal from the 8 piezos microphones from behind the canvas, and Fred also sent to me the final mix and the signal from his modular synthesizer. I had a Canon camera to get the live feed of the canvas which took some crucial pictures with insane resolution. Because my output was 2048*2048 in fisheye 210° - it was very important to get a crisp picture.

At the beginning I made a big UI of numerous parameters, but it was not fun to play with live, so I used a NovationZeroSLMII midi controller with an Xbox controller to manipulate my fly-through camera and give some kicks.

I used TouchDesigner 099 while it was in beta because I really wanted to use PBR shaders!

We performed 7 shows in total. The last one for the VR Summit during Symposium IX at SAT was recorded in realtime in VR so people could see us performing on their phone and talk with us.

From the Artists' Concept Statement:

"It is a sort of artistic intermingling based on the interactivity of two completely different forms of art that are fundamentally twin in their creative process. Music, like painting, works in successive layers and in the placement in a space, be it bi or multi-dimensional, of distinct elements that form an ensemble in a constant search for balance.

Usually, a painter attempts to begin, shape and finalize an image, and here, it may change radically during the process. It is the same for the musician who usually tries to structure and compose a piece according to identifiable precepts. But here, as part of this performance, there is a part of unknown in what will happen during the process. Even two well-experienced artists can expect the unexpected.

It is a decompartmentalization of the individual artistic modus operandi that obliges each artist to explore and discover his art applied on a completely different creative form. This goes beyond the simple performance of improvisation where usually one bases oneself on its tools, its experience and its first references in order nevertheless, to control the situation. Here, the two artists will have to let go and free themselves from their creative reflexes. The share of risk is greater."


Fred Laurier (Pfreud) |Sound Designer

DJ Pfreud has been active in Montreal's electronic music scene since the early 1990s both as a DJ and a musical advisor. In recent years, he deepened his knowledge with studies in sound recording and manipulation and worked in sound post-production for film and television. Pfreud currently focuses on music production and sound design and can be heard on Laika's decks every Friday night!

Fred Trétout | Visual Designer

"I studied video games / virtual reality, moved to Montreal in 2009 and specialized in motion design and projection mapping, and I know the video, VFX and scenographic production pipeline very well. I teach digital art to licensed students, I am in permanent technological watch, real time has as much interest for me as the prerendered I like to create interactive installations." We will add that Fred is one of the pillars of Montreal's TouchDesigner community and that we have been infatuated with his work since the amazing Interactive Spoka! Read more about Fred and his work on the Derivative blog: Fred Trétout's Interactive Facets

Alec Stephani | Painter

Born in Geneva Alec is multidisciplinary artist who enjoys painting as his most exploratory and liberating mode of expression. Alec studied at the Arts Décoratifs in Geneva, then worked as a publicist graphic designer. Arriving in Montreal in 1989, Alec plunged into various industrial design projects, from which he drew a taste for mechanics and machines. It was during this period that he began to paint more intensively. Since the age of 13, Alec has been a keyboard player at several training venues in Geneva and Montreal. He is also a composer.