Psychedelic art gets a bad rap because of its origins. It took off with the hippie counterculture in the late 1960s, and initially referred to art created under the influence of hallucinogenic substances. With its vibrant and neon colours, metaphysical and surrealistic symbols, extreme depth, geometric patterns and captivating typography, it wasn’t long before pop culture embraced it.
The artwork found its way to rock album covers, concert posters and underground magazines. Needless to say, it had a profound impact on what we call modern art today.
What is psychedelic art?
Psychedelic art, also known as psy art, is fine art characterised by vibrant and neon colours, metaphysical and surrealistic symbols, extreme depth, geometric patterns and creative typography
“Eventually, it moved away from its relation to drug use, and became a perspective of art on its own,” says Egyptian engineer-turned-artist Amr Hosny, about its less notorious modern avatar. It has multifarious expressions ranging from the digital to the spiritual.
With the world going through a new age shift, these visual styles have become the talk of the art world. Since they have a root in classic psychedelia, their definitions and methods often overlap and merge into one another.
Magical, dream-like, surreal and ethereal, celestial art is otherworldly, literally! What makes celestial art endearing is that it is light and uplifting.
Says English celestial artist Josephine Wall, “Much of the inspiration for my mystical images comes from my close observation of nature.” As they say, there are other worlds than this one.
It is a visual symphony of art, math and digital imaging with a focus on perfect symmetry. Writes artist Kerry Mitchell in The Fractal Art Manifesto, “Fractal Art is a subclass of two dimensional visual art, and is in many respects similar to photography.” Fractals are typically created on a digital computer, using an iterative numerical process.
This is a spiritual practice in which the artist gets into a meditative state of mind while expressing creativity. Meditative artists like German painter Laural Virtues Wauters believe that the process helps them journey deep within.
Some of the popular examples of this form are mandalas, Chinese calligraphy, and Tibetan sculpturing and drawing.
Digital psychedelic art
The rave movement of the 1990s gave rise to a new graphic art style influenced by the mind-expanding visuals of 1970s psychedelic art. It was achieved not via brush and paint but through computer software. Graphic software makes it easier to create trippy two-dimensional and three-dimensional visuals.
The image above is from Flea, a series by Greek-American legend Lucas Samaras who has lately been experimenting with digital art. Flea is one of four series in which he’s woven pieces of digital refuse–strands of pixels and psychedelic gradients–into lush digital landscapes. For this particular image, Samaras shot dozens of images at Manhattan flea markets, and pieced them together to create bizarre still-life renderings. Printed in full pigment, the images are eye-popping and complex.
What would surrealists Salvador Dali and Dada create if they were to be alive today? Something on the lines of the neo-surrealist art of today, perhaps. A revival of surrealism mixed with pop art of the late 1970s and early 1980s. This art form illustrates the bizarre imagery of dreams or the subconscious mind in painting and photography.
Entirely spontaneous and individualised, visionary art portrays a higher awareness that could be spiritual, mystical or divine. The paintings are innately timeless, and have Utopian themes. Most visionary artists are self-taught, like American painter Alex Grey; their works are reproductions of their clairvoyant visions.
Says globetrotting visionary artist Amanda Sage, “I paint messages, visions and narratives that awaken our ancient memory of past lives, and communicate to the ‘present us’ so that we may grow up and accept the responsibilities towards our existence.”
(This is an article I wrote for the front page of Times Life, the Sunday paper by The Times of India. Although wellness and nutrition is what I primarily write about on Human Writes, I posted it here because modern art is a topic I am passionate about and I want to share with you, dear reader, the work I am proud of having done!)
On the subject of psychedelic art, here are the top posts revolving around works and artists in this field: