Enter : Canvas

an interactive oil painting exhibition

Piercing the surface of the canvas

Enter : Canvas enables visitors to step inside the painting. Created by artist Michaël Zancan, a painter best known for his intricate, thought-provoking, figurative oil pieces, this installation blends digital technology and traditional art so that people can experience the image beyond simply viewing.

Michaël developed the software and reworked his paintings digitally to create this exhibition. Visitors can actually enter and investigate each scene. They can experience the painter's emotion, concept and imagination behind the stunning image, while controlling their interaction through a 3D encounter.


To instill movement, dimension, and volume into his paintings, Michaël Zancan designed an innovative technique, for which he programmed dedicated software.

First, the digitized paintings are separated in many layers for depth dimension. Each foreground element is cut out and removed from the image, then the part of the image initially hidden behind this foreground element is reconstituted. The software assembles these pieces in space. 3D meshes applied to each graphic element define volume.

The computer code is used as a creative medium in itself, to bring the image to the realization of his original idea.

From the initial viewpoint, the image looks identical to the 2D painting, but when the visitor moves and the viewpoint deviates, the image reveals its depths and dimensions.

Video / Exhibition in Montreux, Switzerland, April 2014

Enter : Canvas was unveiled at Polymanga's 10th convention as part of Michaël Zancan's solo show, which featured 15 original oil paintings and a number of original drawings in a 1200 foot² room.
The work Martin's Painting was video-projected, while Things Unsaid could be viewed with a tablet.


1 - Interactive video-projection

The setup consists of a full-HD video-projector, a bundle with infrared LED projector / camera / computer, and speakers.
Visitors facing the screen quickly understand their movements trigger position changes inside the projected image. Music adjusts depending on the part of the scene being viewed, adding to the experience and ambiance.

2 - Augmented reality tablet app

The setup requires the painted image ( which can be either a print or the original painting ). A stand placed in front of the picture holds a tablet on which the Enter : Canvas app is running. A sign invites visitors to use the tablet for watching the picture. By moving back and forth, panning and tilting the tablet, people can enter the scene, zoom in for details and view animations.
This version is even more intimate than the video projection, and has great impact. It is also simpler to install.


Martin's Painting

Oil painting on canvas - 40"x32" - 2010

The painting owes its title to a protagonist in Vladimir Nabokov's novel, Glory, in which the young Martin would walk every night inside a small watercolor above his bed, depicting a path going through the forest. It was an homage to put the book in the painting and an attempt to add depth through mise en abyme.
Martin's Painting symbolizes wanting to follow a direction without knowing where it leads.
One can learn a lot by painting a forest.

Things Unsaid

Oil painting on canvas - 34"x45" - 2003

The fruit of a full year's labour, Things Unsaid conveys a sense of isolation, perspective and space. During its various exhibitions, viewers have reported a love/hate feeling about this painting as well as a sensation of attraction close to dizziness.
Enter : Canvas lets viewers experiment further with these reactions.
For the artist, the titanic digital rework of Things Unsaid underscored the commitment and persistence the original had required.

Queen of Technical Nonsense

Oil painting on canvas - 22"x18" - 2005"

The history of this portrait, across its different versions, is paved with provocation and seduction. Drawing attention in an almost hypnotizing way, the steady, beautiful, flawlessly cold character personifies technology torn between command and loss of control.
With a composition of concentric movement that swirls around the eyes of the Queen, it conveys an invitation to enter.

Queen of Technical Nonsense is currently being transformed into a 3D image.


Michaël Zancan is a painter and a programmer from Bordeaux, France. For 12 years he has been producing figurative oil paintings, in a style that borders symbolist, surreal and fantastic genres. Michaël has gained recognition among large online artistic communities for his technical skills, attention to detail, and his commitment to oil paint. His paintings have been published in a number of fantasy art books and magazines.

Meanwhile, he has pursued a passion for creative programming, which started at a young age and blossomed in the 90's demoscene. In 2004 he co-founded the Bordeaux-based interactive design studio 2Roqs, whose installations have been exhibited around the world and awarded prizes in contemporary art festivals.

Painting and programming were disparate activities that the artist initially felt the necessity to separate distinctively. The installation Enter : Canvas suddenly solves the dichotomy by letting traditional painting and technology enhance and complement each other.