Modern Surrealism is a cultural and art movement that started in the 1920s. It encompasses all forms, such as art, sculpture, music, literature, film and philosophy. Surrealism is a sandbox of the human subconscious mind. Artists and writers of the movement believe Surrealism to be a revolutionary philosophical movement first, using visual works merely as an artifact. Since we are graphic and web designers ourselves, let us discuss surrealism in its visual form.
Table of Contents:
- Modern Surrealism and How it is Used Today
- Great Art Movements That Inspired Modern Web Designers
- Great Examples of Interactive Architecture for Your Inspiration
- What Mythology Tells Us About Creativity
Modern Surrealism and How it is Used Today
Surrealism artworks often feature the element of surprise with random objects and unpredictable juxtapositions. It developed out of Dadaism during the WWI, centered around Paris, France and quickly spread worldwide from the 1920s onward.
Modern Surrealism: A Brief History
The word ‘Surrealism’ was coined by writer Guillaume Apollinaire in 1917; he used it to describe his own ballet ‘Les Mamelles de Tiresais’ and Jean Cocteau’s ballet ‘Parade’. Surrealism, according to Apollinaire, is ‘truth beyond realism’. In 1924, Andre Breton adopted the word in his work ‘The Manifesto of Surrealism’.
After the World War I, artists and intellectuals were looking for an escape against the harshness of reality. They wanted to reform the world their own way, and Freud has provided them a strong influence; by tapping into the unconscious aspect of our brain. In 1924, the Surrealist group was formed; its principal members being Max Ernst, Joan Miro and Andre Masson.
Artists were very interested with the subconscious; with dreams, hallucinations and trances, as described in Sigmund Freud’s works. The group, along with Andre Breton, made artworks, poetry and sketches under hypnosis & automatic writing. Often they produce surreal, dream-like and unconscious works. In the words of Salvador Dali, Surrealism is said to be the symbolic language of the subconscious; truly a universal language, it doesn’t depend on education, culture or intelligence.
Surrealism Art Techniques
Surrealism make use of several techniques to create the effect and provide inspiration.
- Collage – assembling different elements to create a whole (e.g. The Hat Makes the Man by Max Ernst)
- Cubomania – form of collage wherein an image is cut into squares and reassembled randomly. This technique was invented by Romanian Surrealist artist Gherasim Luca.
- Decalcomania – spreading thick paint on a canvas, and while still wet, covering it with paper or foil. This is removed again, while still wet, and the result of the pattern becomes the base of the finished painting.
- Eclaboussure – the process of placing paints down and the water or turpentine is splattered. The painting is then soaked entirely, revealing random splats and dots once the media is removed.
- Frottage – method of using the pencil rubbings over to a texture surface.
- Fumage – art technique which made use of impressions by smoke of a candle or lamp onto the blank canvas. Also called sfumato.
- Grattage – the process of scraping paint off the canvas to reveal the imprint placed beneath.
Famous Surrealist Artists
Joan Miro is a Spanish Surrealist painter, sculptor & ceramicist. Founder of surrealism Andre Breton considered Joan Miro as the most Surrealist of them all. Miro is influenced by both Surrealism and Dadaism, but rejected any membership to artistic movement during the inter-war years. However, he had plenty of Surrealist influences like the use of automatism in drawing and using sexual symbols in his work.
Max Ernst, a German painter and sculptor, who are among the pioneers in the Dada and Surrealist movement. He invented the Surrealist art technique ‘frottage’ and ‘grattage’, and experimented with many more Surrealist techniques.
Ernst developed an obsession with birds, and these became prevalent in his works. Loplop, his alter ego in his paintings, was a bird. Loplop has also appeared in other Surrealist artists’ works.
One of the most celebrated artists of the movement is Salvador Dali. Dali is a prominent Spanish surrealist painter, known for his striking surrealist work–with his painting technique resounding that of Renaissance art.
His most famous artwork entitled ‘The Persistence of Memory’, 1931. It remains to be Dali’s most recognized work until today. The painting features melting pocket watches, which becomes an unconscious symbol of relative space and time. There is a suggestion that Dali was partly inspired by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. However, when asked if this was the case, Salvador Dali replied that the melting watches weren’t inspired by Einstein, but the perception of Camembert cheese melting under the sun.
Salvador Dali’s works expands to photography, film, sculpture and photography. Dali was highly creative; an unusual and ostentatious character. He has a love for all things gilded, excessive and luxurious. Dali was indeed very eccentric, beguiling the public attention and at the same time gaining ire from his critics.
A personal favorite of mine is a photography work featuring Dali, cats, a painting and buckets of water. It was entitled ‘Dali Atomicus’, and taken by Philippe Halsman.
This photo was shot live, no amount of post-processing or Photoshop has been used to achieve this effect. It took 26 attempts and 5 hours. Philip Halsman would count to four, where Dali would leap into air, and three assistant will throw the cats, another will throw a bucket of water, and Mrs. Halsman held the chair.
Surrealism Today: Her Influences and Legacy
The Surrealism art movement had a great impact in art, literature, culture and even extending to politics. Surrealism is a creative act of effort towards liberating the imagination. It is as dynamic as it is subtle; Surrealism is still alive and growing until today. Many artists around the world are influenced by Surrealism styles, ideas & techniques.
Surrealism taught the world to see art not merely visually and literally; but to appreciate it in a subconscious level as well. Today, surrealism is a familiar form of art that continues to grow globally. It’s easy for artists to show their creativity through Surrealism, because the style provides them more freedom to convey their feelings and thoughts through the canvas. Surreal art can be dreamy or gritty; or it can be optimistic or depressing.
Surrealist web design is just like opening a door and seeing a strange, new planet. You never know what to expect, it’s bizarre but familiar, just like our dreams. New techniques have now been adopted with the coming of the digital age. Photo manipulation is the favorite technique of this age when creating Surrealist art.
Most Surrealist web design make use of realistic, three-dimensional images that are recomposed and rearranged instead of drawn illustrations. This is to create more realistic, magical and strange world. With Surrealist web design, Flash is also a popular tool to use, because it can incorporate dreamy effects, animation and music, making it all the more surreal and interesting.
In next section we will be talking about some other great art movements that inspired us designers.
Great Art Movements That Inspired Modern Web Designers
The first modern designers are, of course, inspired by traditional and classical art. We designers, as a whole, get our ideas of beauty and aesthetics from by viewing paintings, sculptures and artworks from the most powerful art movements in history. Here are among the top art movements in the 20th century that helped shape how we view art and beauty.
Pop Art Movement
The Pop art movement started in Great Britain during the 1950s, whose aesthetic involves isolating the subject, or combining it with other elements for contemplation. Pop art is most known for how it is approached rather than the aesthetic concept behind it, but in simple terms, Pop art makes use of mass-produced items for popular culture but from a fine art perspective. Pop art got its influences from Dadaism and Abstract Expressionism. Pop art makes use of kitschy, everyday objects instead of using lofty subjects found in classical fine art.
The art movement started after the end of the World War II, and coincided with the baby boomer generation. Pop art is influenced by popular culture (particularly American popular culture), such as advertising, comic books and everyday objects. For example, a very popular work by Andy Warhol makes use of a can of Campbell’s Soup. After the war, people had realized how short and fragile life really was. People wanted to enjoy life, so they indulged themselves and wanted more things. Society in general became more materialistic, and that influenced their art. People began to see life less seriously, so humor is now often present in their art.
Thanks to technology, pop art in the 50s had a new medium to play with: silkscreen. Artists now had new art and rendering techniques. Another plus is that they also now had the means to accurately reproduce their work.
Of course, one of the most popular artists of the pop art movement is Andy Warhol. He tried taking Pop Art to another level, from a mere art movement to a lifestyle. Other noted artists of the movement include Tom Wesselman and Roy Lichtenstein.
Pop Art Inspired Websites
Colorful, delectable and sweet pop art inspired website, which is heavily inspired by Japanese ‘kawaii’ figures.
An Idea’s web site is colorful, modern and pop art-inspired, making use of common elements of love: hearts, Cupid’s wings, bow and arrow, x’s and o’s, and more.
His site and works are inspired by the Pop Art movement and Graffiti Art.
Website that is colorful, crisp and with streamlined graphics.
Surrealist Art Movement
The Surrealist art movement was developed during the early 20th century, it is a form of visual art that grew after the early Dadaism movement. It was an art movement that flourished between WWI and WWII. It grew after the horrors of the war and the culmination of the Industrial Revolution.
Surrealism, aesthetically, is art destroying rationalism, but emphasized more on positive expression. Surrealism is a means of combining the conscious and unconscious realms of human experience, the dreams and fantasy found in reality, creating a totally surreal experience. To most artists, they see Surrealism as a philosophical movement first, and the use of art as a tool or artifact. The Surrealist art movement draws most of its philosophy and theories from Sigmund Freud, on the belief that the unconscious, holds the key to the social problems of the real world.
The Surrealism art movement often featured an element of surprise and random juxtapositions of unexpected objects. The art movement brought together great thinkers, philosophers and artists in search for the expression of the unconscious. Of course, this art movement is the predecessor of the hallucination-inspired Psychedelic art movement.
The most notable artists in the Surrealism art movement are Max Ernst, among the founding pioneers of the Surrealist art movement; and the most well-known Surrealist painter of all time, Salvador Dali.
Surrealism Web Sites
Recycled Lifeforms is a place that you can only encounter in dreams. The website is very surreal, accompanied by quirky music and effects.
Agote’s website is a dreamy landscape with creamy textures and beautiful colors.
Domen Lombergar’s website, and his works as a whole, are reminiscent of the works of the great Surrealist artists like Ernst and Dali.
De Stijl Art Movement
De Stijl is Dutch for ‘The Style’. The art movement is also called Neoplasticism, which was founded in the Netherlands in 1917. Theo van Doesburg published ‘De Stijl’, a journal that propagated all the art movement’s theories. Along with van Doesburg, other principal members of the group include Piet Mondrian, Bart van der Leck and Vilmos Huszar.
The main objective of De Stijl movement is to create a utopian ideal of harmony and order. For this, they used pure abstraction for their art, reducing their work to the most essential form and color. Because of this, De Stijl artists only used horizontal and vertical lines, square and rectangle shapes, plus the most basic colors black, white and primary colors red, yellow and blue. The art movement is strictly grid based.
De Stijl art movement is a very different art form of its time, and its influences encompasses everything from the canvas to architecture, furniture to even fashion. De Stijl art later paved way to Germany’s Bauhaus art movement.
De Stijl Inspired Websites
Pixel Slave takes on De Stijl’s grid based design but incorporates a modern take to it; by adding fresh colors and new shapes to their web design.
Another great website that creatively uses De Stijl grid based system, plus utilizing greyscale colors and bright yellow only.
Of course, the website dedicated to the late Piet Mondrian makes use of classic grid and de stijl elements, showcasing the works of what Mondrian is best known for.
Minimalist Art Movement
The Minimalist art movement, also referred to as ABC art or literalist art; is characterized by extreme simplicity, removing all unnecessary elements and approaching art in the most literal and objective way. The art movement started in NYC, United States during the 1960s.
Minimalism is all about reduction and simplicity. The idea of the movement started when artist Kasimir Malevich created a 1913 artwork of a black square on a white background.
The art movement is characterized by simplified, geometric forms on a flat surface. They are often two-dimensional, with precise shapes and lines. They are objective, non-expressive and non-referential.
Minimalism and pop art are actually considered to be the art movements that preceded post-modern art.
Minimalist Inspired Web Designs
Minimalist web designs are simple, beautiful and easy on the eyes. Such is the case for Post Machina’s website, using only black, gray and white hues, creating an interesting contrast and design in the web design.
Omnia shows you us how to do Minimalist web design the right way. You don’t need a lot of color, elements, or text to keep your web visitors intrigued and interested.
Fellswoop’s website is clean and simple. The message is strong: they provide clarity, strategy and design to improve user experience.
Now lets take on some great inspirational architecture.
Great Examples of Interactive Architecture for Your Inspiration
While you need a lot of creativity to create a website or an advertising campaign, design can also be combined with something else: architecture. If you thought following a grid system is difficult, imagine interactive architects prototyping large buildings or interior designs in order for them to interact with people. It is definitely not an easy task.
What is Interactive Architecture?
is a field of architecture and construction featuring objects which change according to how the user interacts with them. The environmental demands of interactive elements are individuals moving or touching them. Some people call it Responsive Architecture, but the term isn’t what’s important. “Intelligent buildings” appeared during the late 90s, when one of the pioneers of this industry, Michael Mozer, coined the term.
Today we will take a look at some fantastic buildings around the world built with user interaction in mind.
As you will see in the images below, the project integrates many fields of interactive LED tiles which are placed into the ground. When people walk on them, they automatically start working and create a fantastic red-light ambiance.
And if you thought this is all, well, you are in for a surprise. Just look at that massive display of lights on the outside of the building which mirrors the patterns of the interactive tiles inside. There is also a built-in video display to show how the building looks from the outside.
Images by Open Buildings.
The project was established together with Ned Kahn, an American artist and with other companies such as Hassell Architecture from Sydney and Urban Art Projects. The Brisbane Airport Corporation was also involved in the development of this great interactive building.
It may not look impressive from the inside compared to the first example, but it is definitely a masterpiece from the outside. The entire eastern side of the building will ripple fluidly with the wind, which activates 250.000 suspended aluminum panels. With the wind in Brisbane changing frequently, the patterns will respond quite fast and the façade will be a direct interface between the building and the natural environment. The most well-known natural feature of the city is the Brisbane River. The building is embellished with rippling lines from the river’s surface.
Images by Open Buildings.
Inside the building patterns of light and shadow will be projected on the walls, thanks to the sunlight which passes through the façade. Considering the fact that the whole façade interacts with the wind outside, this creates a fantastic ambience for passengers in the building and for those in cars and elevators.
This Austrian building simply looks fantastic. It would be enough for it to be called a great piece of architecture. The building was created back in 2003, when Graz was called the European Capital of Culture. The urban identity of Graz has its most important piece right here.
As you can see in the pictures above, one of the façades works as a giant instrument of communication placed right in the middle of the city. The synthesis between urban style, technology and the historic setting of the building is astonishing and the architects seem to have built a masterpiece.
Images by Open Buildings.
Kunsthaus Graz actually hosts a number of museums and meets up-to-date requirements for any kind of cultural setting. One of the building’s most impressive feature is the innovative and cost-effective air conditioning system. The lighting is modern, the security systems are unbreakable to ensure protection of different exhibitions and the underground parking offers space for almost 150 cars at a time. Kunsthaus Graz is hosts all kinds of exhibitions, from contemporary art to photography and new media.
This is not only another beautiful building, but also an astonishing milestone and point of interest for the big city of Singapore. It is a complete entertainment district with theaters, clubs, bars and public space stacked up into a cube-shaped building of 80m x 80m x 80m. Different levels of the building are linked through “tornadoes”, vertical circulation voids aiding people’s movement through the huge construction. And if they weren’t already doing enough, the “tornadoes” also burst out onto the rooftop if you wish to – and there is a lot to see up there as well.
Images by Open Buildings.
What attracts peoples’ eyes is one of the façades, where the interactivity achieves its peak. People can send messages, graphics or images to be projected onto the building. Imagine asking someone to marry you this way. Quite fancy, ain’t it? There are no less than 3,000 modules of deep-drawn polycarbonate covering each of the façades.
If you thought the Canadians don’t have something to show off, you are wrong. They created this bridge that acts as a pedestrian walkway to Maple Leaf Square in Toronto.
The bridge is illuminated in three different colors based of human movement geometry. This transforms a rigid bridge into a fluid entity which attracts many visitors.
Images by Open Buildings.
I assume you always wanted your own constellation when you were younger, right? If you visit London, you will maybe have the chance to own one; not in the real sky, but thanks to 600 mirrored LED tubes hanging above the indoor market space at Covent Garden.
The three-dimensional arrangement of the tubes allows people at certain times to create their own formations within Constellation.
Images by Open Buildings.
I kept one of my favorites for the last showcase piece. This was built on Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland and works as perfect as the world renowned Swiss watch.
It measures 300 feet wide, 75 feet high and goes 200 feet deep into the water. Although hard to believe at a first sight, the primary building material is water pumped from the lake. It is then filtered and shot as a fine mist through high-pressure mist nozzles.
Thanks to the integrated climatic condition reader, which reads temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, the pressure is calculated by a computer which then sends the information up to the valves.
Images by Open Buildings.
Although the blown water doesn’t give shape to anything specific, the building is still impressive and allows people’s imagination to flow. And it looks great.
This was a list of some places in the world where interaction between technology and nature or architecture and technology is the key element for creating fantastic experiences for people. Which one do you like the most and why? Have you visited any of these buildings? Do you have knowledge of another place like this worth mentioning?
In the last section we will go really way back in history and look at what the mythology says about creativity.
What Mythology Tells Us About Creativity
No matter what account of creation you believe you can’t deny the overpowering creativity of the world’s mythologies. The essence of every mythology is to tell a story about how things came to existence and of how the earth and life on it emerged. In every aspect of our lives we learn from all the things that surrounds us, same goes for the stories that have emerged from the inquisitive minds of people. We can learn a thing or two from them, it doesn’t matter even if we are ages apart from those people.
In the most basic sense, a mythology tells us how things came to existence. Although modern science and thinking would easily refute the idea that there is a god named Poseidon who ruled the seas and storms, of how Prometheus defied the gods and gave fire to mortals, the very thought of these primordial events (those which happened at the very beginning) are dramatically original and creative.
Implications in Real Life:
For thousands of years myths inspired people to do things that marvel us which can now be seen in museums and ancient sites. People of old were able to build temples that would make even the most brightest of people today scratch their heads and wonder how such an astonishing structure was built when pulley wasn’t thought of yet, when wheels weren’t available, and all were built to surpass the conditions of time.
Image by: Tatiana Bolshakova
Look at Superman, everybody knows who he is and what he can do. People were amazed by his strength and abilities that are beyond human’s. Doesn’t the very thought of beings with overwhelming power rooted from the world’s mythologies?
Most of the time, what people need to have is just a touch of madness and exaggeration. You are free to create your own story based on how you see the mysteries of the world. Your interpretation, your art.
In every mythology there is a story of how gods and goddesses came to existence, of how they lived with mortal humans. In every story, usually, there are two sides: good and evil. There are peaceful times when gods and mortals coexist in harmony when suddenly a rogue god desiring for more control over the mortals disrupts the balance and wreaks havoc upon the heavens and the earth. Now that’s an interesting story.
Implications in Real Life:
Every piece of art has a story to tell be it a book cover, business logo, architecture, web template, even the photos that you take. Each of them contains an idea, and an art which vividly speaks it well is usually the one that gathers lots of audience. Just look at the Mona Lisa, she has her story combined with mystery.
In mythologies, things and events that people can’t explain are attributed to a higher being. Suppose you and I are cavemen and this is our first time going out of our cave after years of living inside. The sky flashes and an angry voice booms! In our fear we cower and think that someone is making that mighty phenomenon. Someone is responsible, someone incomprehensible! Have we done something wrong to incur his wrath?
Implications in Real Life:
It is one of human’s nature to be inquisitive, to ask questions about things that tend to be mysterious and unknown. When reason can’t explain things, usually we leave the rest to imagination. As a result, we create things that are out of the ordinary, we create things that are original to us and often we leave the audience to decide on how to understand these things.
An art which has an air of mystery endures time. Most people love solving mysteries, they would love to have a peek and interpret things. And in an artwork, there are actually two interpretations: the way the artist interprets it, and the way the spectator sees it.
In the movie Troy, Achilles said “The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now.We will never be here again.”
What does it actually say about being limitless? The gods are stagnant, they no longer change in appearance and they will be that way until the end of time. It is ironic to note that no matter how infinite they may be, their beauty will be the same tomorrow and forever.
The noble thing about being mortal is that you will wake up everyday knowing that you are beautiful in a way unique to everyone, and it evolves. In mythologies, often the gods are surprised by the marvelous feats humans can do whenever presented with challenges.
Implications in Real Life:
Many things have already been made and are still being made. Perhaps the very thought that someday our lives will end gives a kick to that feeling to make a difference, to make the world see your art whatever form it takes. Several years ago almost half of the gadgets that we enjoy today seemed impossible to many, the way we communicate online has dramatically changed too and many things that came from human creativity within a short span of time.
Our lives will end, surely, but creative ideas will transcend time like the ideas of the distant past.
Mythology in Modern-day Technology and Arts
You are standing at a museum amazed by this piece of art when suddenly the person next to you tells how the artist conceived the painting, what the story is behind this male carrying the world, why that man’s carrying a flame, from where did some companies got their products and names, and you will be far more amazed to learn that you’ve just had a crash course of mankind’s creative history.
This is the Titan Atlas who was condemned to carry the Heavens for all eternity. Here he’s carrying Earth.
Prometheus, champion of mankind for stealing fire from Zeus for humans. Modern art for a very longstanding mythology.
Nike is the winged goddess of victory who is swift and strong, rewarding heroes in the battlefield. Yes, this is where Nike shoes came from.
Humans, ever since, have always been obsessed with flying. Daedalus, in Greek mythology, invented wings bonded with wax to fly with Icarus. From that we now have airplanes. I bet you would want to have a jet-pack.
Notable Novels and Films:
- The Lord of the Rings – an epic fantasy novel turned film written by J.R.R. Tolkien; elves, orcs, walking trees, dragons, you name it LoTR has it. A very wide world filled with awesomeness.
- The Little Mermaid
- Harry Potter
Up to date people know what fairies, vampires, werewolves, and others are; most of the time a box office hit film is derived from one or two myths. TV series are populated with ideas rooting from mythologies even paintings, sculptures, company name and brands and each has their story to relate from ancient to the modern times.
Feel like sharing some of the things you believe are inspired by mythologies? Feel free to comment, we’d love to see them!