Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — The first time Robin Wu saw the warm colors of sandstone and the vast American West skies, it was through the window of a tour bus…as the landscape swept before him.
The British visual artist, now based in Chicago, USA, is known for his stunning images of remote landscapes, using drone lighting, haloing rocky peaks, or writing symbolic letters in the sky, as signals from a supernatural entity.
However, Art Lowe was always just a passion project, while he was focused on a music career especially as he is one of the four members of the synth-pop group Ladytron.
“(Photography) started as a hobby that consumed all the time,” he explained in an interview with CNN. But since the band took a break in 2011 after releasing five studio albums (they released their sixth, self-titled album in 2019, and seventh album, “Time’s Arrow,” this month), he’s started a new career from scratch, adding that “others have done their own solo projects, made their own music and released their own albums,” and confirming: “This was my solo project.”
Wu’s photos are characterized by a mixture of the photographer’s classic personality that combines light and landscapes, as he interweaves them to take contrasting images. It often starts with dark evening light or pitch-black night colors, then strategically lights up parts of the scene with consumer drones. In one image, a brilliant horizontal line hangs over a glacier in the Peruvian Andes, revealing the brilliance of the ice in contrast to the darkened sky. In a different animation, Wu simulated an electrical storm in Joplin Valley, Utah, but with perfectly straight strokes of light instead of the intense flashes of lightning.
The artist’s 2018 photobook, Lux Noctis, is held in the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art collections in New York City, and has photographed commercials for Apple, Audi and Google, as well as DJ and music producer Zedd.
Last summer, Wu revealed a massive project for National Geographic, a cover story and multimedia piece about Stonehenge that illuminated the mysterious monument with his drones.
In November, one of his NFT video loops, a 4K video loop titled “An Irresistible Force”, beat its high estimate by more than 25% during an auction organized by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, selling for HKD 441,000. (about $56,500 USD).
“I didn’t allow myself to dream about what I’ve achieved now,” Wu said. “I just wanted to be able to make a living from artwork and photography,” he continued.
Wu was always drawn to remote wild places in search of solitude. His parents emigrated from Hong Kong to the UK before he was born, and he grew up as an introverted child in Liverpool, he says, and did not like school. He was fascinated by science fiction films that blended the alien world with everyday life, such as Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which featured Devils Tower in Wyoming as a location to conduct communication with the outside world. Unfamiliar with the American terrain, Wu explained that he initially thought the Butte, the national monument, was a fictional geological entity.
The film’s images of remote desert scenes mixed with eerie lights provided formative inspiration for his work. “The idea of these seemingly impossible lights, ingrained in my mind, how they move across the sky, sort of like search lights in a very ordinary (American) landscape,” he said.
He embarked on his first filming trip across the US in 2013, nearly a decade after he left Ladytron. The photo series included vivid views of the Grand Canyon and the South Dakota Badlands, as well as a time-lapse of Devils Tower at night, among the star trails.
Two years later, Wu discovered the impact that drone lighting could have on the natural world while working on an outdoor car shoot.
“I flew the drone over some of the cliffs, and I was completely mesmerized by the effect it had on the landscape,” he explained. “It made the cliffs glow, getting into areas that would be impossible to light artificially.”
Wu tailors drones to suit his needs for any given shot or project. He explained that his first iteration, when the technology was still in its infancy, was a “huge” eight-propeller drone with homemade lights that only illuminated for eight minutes of flight time. He next used a 3D printed arc with a hot LED light, but gave him an extra two minutes in the air. The technology he’s using now gives him a little more space, with half an hour to fly outside, take pictures and come back, but he’s had to learn to work within the confines of each group.
“I am less worried now, because I have destroyed many drones,” he said. “In the end, they are just tools,” he continued.
After developing a series of still images such as “Lux Noctis” and “Aeroglyphs,” which experimented with ghostly lighting and geometric shapes in the sky, Wu found himself wanting to incorporate movement and sound into his work because of his background in music. He began creating 15-second video loops of his images, showing rays of light forming patterns, or showing the moon arching across the sky, to the beats of the electronic music he produced.
He explained, “These (works) were largely experimental and had no ultimate goal. They were just things I did for love and out of love,” pointing out, “I couldn’t license them, I couldn’t print them…so there were just, a pile of marks.” Like on my Instagram page.
But in January 2021, Wu found a way to make it an intrinsic part of his career when he was introduced to the art of NFT. He minted his first “non-fungible token” in the market establishment two months later – an “aeroglyph” of bright lines forming a rectangle over a cliff on the seashore. It sold for 30 ETH ($45,000), a portion of which was donated to the National Park Preservation Society and the AAPI Community Fund.
Later that year, he was commissioned by Web3 Obscura to produce a new set of images, titled Variable Aeroglyphs, which took him to the Badlands of New Mexico for a 20-hour shoot that resulted in 55 images from the same spot, each with different lighting conditions and patterns. . Wu also experimented with rendering work in different ways, from animation, to AR experiences, and mapping moving images onto physical prints.
“It’s very much a hybrid medium, so I’d like to broaden that horizon further, and think about the ultimate goal of my work. Do I create a beautiful piece of art for people to look at and appreciate, or do I create an experience for people to share,” he said of the experience.
Wu leans toward the latter as he continues to experiment with the form his work takes, but no matter the medium, his view and approach to the natural world remain consistent.
He noted, “A lot of people always say my work is another world, that’s the first word that comes to people’s mind when they think of my work, but I’m not trying to create a weird-looking image, I’m trying to show that this is our planet. There are so many new ways to see it.” Which can renew your view of him.”