PSYCHEDELIC ART is not easily defined. Wikipedia defines it as “any art inspired by psychedelic experiences known to follow the ingestion of psychoactive drugs such as LSD and psilocybin. The word ‘psychedelic’ means ‘mind manifesting.’ By that definition, all artistic efforts to depict the inner world of the psyche may be considered psychedelic.” Is that nebulous enough for you?
“In common parlance, Psychedelic Art [generally] refers to the art movement of the late 1960s counterculture [and] were a counterpart to psychedelic rock music. Concert posters, album covers, light shows, murals, comic books, underground newspapers, and more reflected not only the kaleidoscopically swirling patterns of LSD hallucinations, but also revolutionary political, social, and spiritual sentiments inspired by insights derived from these psychedelic states of consciousness.” (Wikipedia)
While researching an article on psychedelic art, I came across a lot of images of contemporary artists whose work is considered in that genre. Most of their work looks absolutely nothing like the art that came out of the initial psychedelic artists of the ’60s.
And yes there were men and women who did work based on their LSD experiences in the ’50s, but they were rarely recognized as psychedelic and that another story.
Most of these newer artist are considerably more polished, more facile than their predecessors, and no one more so than Alex Gray, a highly successful artist known worldwide. He epitomizes the modern, polished psychedelic artist. Alas, he leaves my mind unexpanded. As do most of the others.
The artists associated with the psychedelic art phenomenon of the Sixties had a loose approach to their work. The piece used by Robert Masters and Jean Houston for the dust jacket of their book Psychedelic Art (1968) is Isaac Abram’s All Things Are One Thing (1966, above).
The psychedelic Evgeny Kiselev
An artist whose work does intrigue me is Evgeny Kiselev. I could find little about the man, other than he is a native of Saint Petersburg in the Russian Federation and is still quite young. He is successful as a commercial illustrator and as an artist. He likes contemporary music.
Give his work a look-see at his website: Digital Art / Illustration / Design. The ufunk site also has a page devoted to his work in the same mode in which I am addressing it, “26 Psychedelic Creations of Evgeny Kiselev.”
“The diverse work of Evgeny Kiselev oscillates between the rigors of symmetry and prolific excess. Several compositions begin with vivid tiled patterns that are mirrored again and again until they can no longer be contained and are forced to push beyond the confines of their logic. Others, emerge from a single outline that manifests the controlled lawlessness of the work. Each piece achieves a complexity of color and layer that continues to build infinitely into the space of the page creating a warping spatial depth.”
The above is an uncredited statement that has found its way onto many sites discussing Kiselev. He is active on social media in displaying his work and has a Facebook page. And the works displayed are computer generated.
“The rave movement of the 1990s was a psychedelic renaissance fueled by the advent of newly available digital technologies. The rave movement developed a new graphic art style partially influenced by 1960s psychedelic poster art, but also strongly influenced by graffiti art, and by 1970s advertising art, yet clearly defined by what digital art and computer graphics software and home computers had to offer at the time of creation.
Computer art has allowed for an even greater and more profuse expression of psychedelic vision. Fractal generating software gives an accurate depiction of psychedelic hallucinatory patterns, but even more importantly 2D and 3D graphics software allow for unparalleled freedom of image manipulation. Much of the graphics software seems to permit a direct translation of the psychedelic vision.” (Wikipedia)
The examples I selected below fit into a more conventional (if that word can be used—perhaps “classic” is better) scheme of just what makes a work of at “psychedelic.” I tried to avoid pieces that were too representational, too commercial, or too obviously affected by and can be seen as comic booky or science-fictiony.
In 1956, Humphrey Osmond sent this silly to Aldous Huxley, “To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic,” and a new word entered the world’s consciousness.
Molekularnika. This is currently my third favorite work by Kiselev and reminds me of Yves Tanguy under the influence of ketamine (referred to as ‘Vitamin K’ and ‘Special K’).
Party Girl. This is one of his few straight illustrations and one of his few black and white works. It is also the first piece that one sees when one visits the artist’s website. While I am not fond of the title, I see an Indian maiden who sipped her Darjeeling unaware of the fact that a friend had slipped 400 micrograms of Sandoz-grade LSD into the cup while adding sugar. For the first time, the young lady is grokking the world in which she lives through a pair of kaleidoscope lenses.
Invasion. From where? Without or within?
New Summer Pattern. And what psychedelic artist does not try his hand at a mandala?
Cnstrctn. Seemingly a conscious nod to the more playful, Peter Maxx-ish aspect of the psychedelic pop art of the Sixties.
Tree Love. This has the look of a collage: I can almost feel the textures—Japanese rice paper, fabrics, some oil paint, a lot of tooth in the Gesso—none of which are there. I would never have associated it with trees without the title.
Esc. This is currently my second favorite work by Kiselev and I assume the title is a reference to everyone’s computer keyboard. I see a mind not expanding so much as exploding with new awareness.
The Invisible Landscape. This is my favorite work by Kiselev and should requite no captioning by me. See what you see.