Utopian and dystopian interpretations of the future are commonly depicted, with artists applying their own unique approach to this fascinating subject. Digital artists tend to fall into one of two camps in terms of how they portray our future cities and way of life.
Utopian visualizations of the future tend to incorporate a lot of greenery, waterfalls, clear skies, and a sense of youthful hopefulness. The suggestion is that technological advancement has aided us in modelling a world that is functional and pleasant.
Dystopian scenes on the other hand tend to emphasize the oppressive impact that humans have on the natural world. Most of the time, this means overcrowded and congested urban atmospheres caused by technology and governments gone tyrannical and astray.
There are undoubtedly cases where an artist has taken both a utopian and dystopian approach to creating an artwork. However, typically there are trends in a body of work that give a bit of insight into their aesthetic and conceptual approach, and how they think the future of this planet might look.
Here are some artists that explore the concepts of Utopian/Dystopian futures:
The youthful aesthetic of Seerlight’s work combined with a soft color palette and sparkling starry night skies emits a peaceful, safe and magical atmosphere. Although futuristic and fantastical, Seerlight’s scenes appear clean and at one with the natural world. By combining traditional motifs from ancient times with modern technology, his pieces portray a seamless blending of eras into one fantastical and imaginative piece that is suspended in place and time.
Although he did release a project on Nifty Gateway that approached both Utopia and Dystopia as concepts, artist/architect Annibale Siconolfi has a very utopian approach to his artwork. He depicts the future as one where populations have grown in size and people live in cities, but in an orderly way that appears harmonious with nature. Technology has been used by people to better their surroundings, rather than to suffocate them.
Although heavily inspired by the dystopian film BladeRunner, the majority of Dangiuz’ best known work has a lighthearted, hopeful and romantic emotional quality to it. From couples standing against the glittering gates of a metropolis, to the interior scenes of a woman contemplating out a rainy skyscraper window, there is a romantic and nostalgic feel to his work that is electrifying and uplifting.
Perhaps one of the most ‘utopian’ of the artists in this list, Reisinger Andres creates dreamy architectural spaces that are pristine in composition, color and concept. His imaginative vision of the future is one where quality design has prevailed, there are no people present, and nature is very much in-sync with human artifacts. His sensible and highly stylized creations often involve soft natural tones and textures, albeit modernist in a way that becomes almost retro-futurist.
Some of the strongest work by Hodas involves pop cultural figures and motifs set in a wasteland-like settings. Pollution, graffiti, rust and decay have engulfed the once shiny protagonists of children’s cartoons and consumer goods. These simple but powerful and somewhat cynical scenes of decay have a planet of the apes-esque aura to them that brilliantly defies the viewers understanding of place and time.
Idil Dursun is a self proclaimed ‘environment concept freak’ whose work depicts large scale futuristic cities. Her use of dark colors and evening light creates dramatic and exciting atmospheres. Often she illustrates large cavernous and cave-like openings in the skyline, resulting in interesting geometry with a lot of volume. The massive sense of scale and vertical construction of the architecture is complemented with flying cars and other futuristic vehicles. Her attention to detail and atmospheric effects makes for beautiful visuals that look especially good on large displays.
Taking a classical approach to this concept, Clapis similarly employs the symbols of modern technology and sets them in a post-apocalyptic world. The influence that classical sculpture has on his work is profound, as his pieces appear as if they are scenes from a futuristic Venice many decades from now. Much of his work is highly emotional and evocative, dealing with concepts such as birth and childhood. Clapis’ work gets at the core of our innate relationship with technology and its influence on the deepest parts of human existence.
Ness’ grimy cyberpunk interior scenes have an explosive energy full of nuance that are packed with unexpected ‘easter eggs’ in the details. One feels as if they are standing behind the desk of a degenerate coder hopped up on futurist-speed, eating junkfood and stimulants as they hack into a facility or mine illicit currency. Ness’ depictions of the future are full of florescent color, packed with the mainstream brands and logos that are popular today, and often depict a Frankenstein-esqe hybrid of both modern and retro technology. We love Ness, and his work is creative and skillful.
Mad Dog Jones
The work of OG artist MDJ is interesting, as much of it appears to take place at a point of time in the future that’s not far away from present day. Employing the florescent colours of cyberpunk, MDJ’s work appears as if it’s set in modern day Kowloon in Hong Kong. However, the occasional cyborg human or futuristic automobile takes his illustrations away from a place of realism and into the realm of futurist fantasy. By mixing highbrow and lowbrow elements of city life, his version of the future metropolis appears to be in line with the direction that many of our world cities are going today.
As new artists enter the space, it will be interesting to see what direction they take this concept of utopia & dystopia. Art can be a reflection of the present day socio-economic conditions of society, so it will be fascinating to see how the depiction of our changing world continues to develop in response to macro global events and geopolitical change.