15 Thyssen paintings, a Madrid palace and the talent of Filip Roca: this is ‘Hyperflow’


Filip Roca dresses the buildings with lights. He paints his facades with colors, but he doesn’t do it with spray, but with light bulbs. He considers himself close to urban art and his installations share scenery and transience with this art. But he does not do graffiti, but videomapping. He creates light compositions that he then projects onto real surfaces—usually buildings—for 3D effects.

Roca began in his native Belgrade studying animation. From there he went on to work in film and television and from there, to be an art director. His career was developing in leaps, changing disciplines and learning something new at each stage. He started in videomapping for commercial and advertising reasons. This art is expensive, it cannot be done without having some entity behind it that finances it. But he got bored. It was then that, in another leap —this time even geographically— he decided to settle in Barcelona, ​​to focus on personal projects.

In 2015 he participated in an international videomapping festival in Girona. It was his first author’s project. “That festival was crucial for my career”, recognizes the artist with perspective. “I won the first prize in the professional category. After that, I got enough trust and support from the mapping community. It was a way to start a solo career as an independent artist.”

After the festival, somehow, everything started to flow organically. Every year he received more commissions from festivals around the world. He projected on a baroque building in Prague, on the Protestant church in Debrecen, the Parliament in Bucharest or a historic building in Pittsburgh (USA)…

His latest installation is projected in Madrid, at the Palacio de los Duques Gran Meliá. On this occasion, Roca starts from 15 works from the Thyssen Hiperreal exhibition: The art of trompe l’oeil to create a mutant painting that climbs up the building’s façade. We asked the artist about the peculiarities of this project.

How does video mapping work? One easily imagines the process of creating an oil painting, but it takes a little longer to imagine how to work on something like this.

The most basic explanation would be that you can turn any object in the physical world into a screen. The projection of light on a physical object creates a new dimension and changes the perception we have of it. The first part is more technical. You have to find an object that you want to map, scan it and turn it into a 3D object thanks to digital software. The second step would be to create a projection plan and calculate the technical equipment, the number of projectors you need for a project, the sound system… This equipment can be quite expensive, especially if you need more than a couple of projectors.

Once you have that covered, you can get started with the audio and video production of the actual artwork. The last step is to do the physical projection work, do the projection warping making sure everything lines up nicely with the physical object. And that’s it. It’s actually not as complicated as it seems.

You say it is very expensive. Is sponsorship from brands or public entities always needed or can you do it on your own?

Yeah, let’s just say it’s an expensive hobby. Normally, these events are promoted by sponsors or financed by the Government.

In this case, you have the help of a hotel chain like Meliá and a museum like Thyssen. What can you tell me about the Hyperflow project?

We had little time to create this project, so I had to work fast. In addition, the work had to be related to the exhibition Hiperreal: the art of trompe l’oeil at the Thyssen. Therefore, I decided to use 15 frames from the exhibition to connect them to each other and generate a completely new work. They emerged in a generative system that was later used to sculpt the façade of the Palace of the Dukes. The idea was that it should not be too obvious, but that at times the original paintings could be distinguished and recognized.

Could videomapping be considered a modern trompe l’oeil? Where do you think this discipline is going?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I’m not so sure. Mapping is a relatively new discipline. In the beginning, I think the quality was higher than now. He had a more artistic approach. As it became more commercial and spread to the masses, I think the quality went down a bit. A fireworks effect is sought rather than an artistic approach. But still, there are some outstanding projection artists. I think we will have to wait a little longer to see how this all plays out in the future.

Your installations are ephemeral, ethereal, do you feel sorry for not having something fixed and physical?

Yes, in that sense it is very close to urban art. However, it can also be referred to as place-specific public art. Indeed, when it comes to projections in the open air, they are exposed for a short time. I like that. You have something special for a couple of days, and that’s it. Then, later, you have a video documentation of that work, which has its own life on the internet.

So it’s still there, not in physical form but digitally. There are also some examples where there is a permanent outdoor projection. I know there is one somewhere in Hungary, made by one of the pioneers of mapping, Laszlo Bordos. So as mapping evolves and gets into museums and galleries, I think it’s becoming more of a physical form.