Exploring Magritte from within: when VR and paintings meet

Screenshot: "Re-creation of René Magritte's Paintings (Unreal Engine 4 DEMO)" by Ali Eslami
Screenshot: "Re-creation of René Magritte's Paintings (Unreal Engine 4 DEMO)" by Ali Eslami

A video that allows viewers to step inside the paintings of Magritte has been generating buzz online, at a moment when intersections between art and virtual reality are increasingly abundant.

The Belgian surrealist painter provides the perfect backdrops for artist Ali Eslami's project, which uses the video game software Unreal Engine 4 to create a virtual reality tour of Magritte's paintings as they might be seen from the inside.

A particulaly impressive effect sees Eslami allow seemingly natural light to flow in from the paintings' windows.

Watch: www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJMTEQZPltQ

Examples of virtual reality colliding with art -- and specifically paintings -- have been making their way to the mainstream, and in February Los Angeles venue De Re Gallery opened what it billed as the world's first virtual reality art show. A VR app was created by immersiv.ly featured the work of artist Gretchen Andrew, who wore Google Glass to gather footage as she painted.

Among higlights: an X-ray tool that allows viewers to examine the underdrawings on her oil paintings.

Viewers can view the augmented content at virtualrealityderegallery.com, or, for best results, visit that page to download it for the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift.

Earlier this year, New York University student Ziv Schneider created the Museum of Stolen Art, a VR experience with the intention of helping the public recognize -- and therefore potentially recover -- artworks that have been reported as missing according to Interpol and the FBI.

The virtual museum -- with opening 'exhibitions' "The Looting of Afghanistan," "The Looting of Iraq" and "Famous Stolen Paintings" -- is said to be "on its way" to being officially released.

Watch a demo: vimeo.com/115512764

Consumer availability of virtual reality is just getting off the ground, and more projects like this are sure to follow as headsets such as the Oculus Rift get a full release. For artists themselves, that will mean access to tools such as Tilt Brush, a paintbrush app that "paints the space all around you."

See a preview: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFWw6hGIKmc