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The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (Reminiscence), surrealism
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What is Neosurrealism?
Is this a new discovery or a well-forgotten old one? Surrealism vs Neo-surrealism.
The Neo-Surrealist Manifesto.

“Everything you can imagine is real.” ― Pablo Picasso

Writing an essay about the movement of visual art is a thankless task. I am doomed from the start to a wave of criticism from all sides at the same time. Art critics have their points of view. The framework of direction does not guide artists; they are driven by visions and inspiration only. The audience is not interested in theory or art history at all. I would not want to title this art-musings as a manifesto per se. Manifestos are usually written at the beginning of the movement.

Neosurrealism does not need a manifesto as such; it existed, it exists, and it will continue to exist regardless of the artistic declarations that I bring to your attention. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there is a need to rationalize and clarify the many trends, terminology, and diverse interpretations of the modern surrealism progression. Does the movement exists at all, or is it all the same good old surrealism of the beginning of the last century? If it does, what its differences, transformations, and peculiarities are.

Subliminal Message or Optical Illusion of Conscious Perception 2018 - George Grie
Subliminal Message or Optical Illusion of Conscious Perception 2018
- George Grie*

First, I would suggest a small terminological reference for those unfamiliar with the theory of fine-arts. Traditional categories within the arts include visual arts (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.), the graphic arts (painting, drawing, design, and other forms expressed on flat surfaces), the plastic arts (sculpture, modeling), the decorative arts (enamel work furniture design, mosaic, etc.). Painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. defined as branches of visual arts. The genre of fine-art is a type of artwork characterized by specific themes, for example: historical, animalistic, still-life, portrait, etc. Don't get confused about the definitions.

Surrealism in fine arts is not a genre nor a category or branch. It is an art movement or stream. To be exact, Surrealism is a part of the broad cultural movement called Modernism (1880–1965). An art movement is a closely defined art style with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by artists. Art movement includes both the category and genre of visual arts or else in literature or theater. The word movement implies motion in some direction. The art movement is diverse and unpredictable. It changes and can offshoot into many assorted components. .

There are many visual art movements; some of them are spiritually close; others are entirely different. For example:

• Impressionists sought to develop methods and techniques that would most naturally and vividly capture the real world in its mobility and variability, convey its momentary impressions. • Representatives of Romanticism, characterized by the assertion of the intrinsic value of the individual's spiritual and creative life, the image of strong passions and characters, spiritualized and healing nature.

The Persistence of Memory 1931 - Salvador Dali
The Persistence of Memory 1931 - Salvador Dali

• Artists of Cubism sought to decompose the depicted three-dimensional object into simple elements and assemble it on canvas in a two-dimensional image.

• Surrealists are distinguished by the use of allusions and paradoxical combinations of forms. Surrealism - the combination of dreams and reality converted into absolute truth or a super-reality. The surrealists offered an absurd and contradictory blend of realistic images through collage and technology of distortion, dystopia, and image manipulation. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms. The primary goal of the surrealists was spiritual elevation and separation of the spirit from the material.

There is no consensus on the end date of the surrealist movement. It is somewhere around the middle of the 20th century. Among the heirs of the surrealism movement is Fantastic realism and styles resulting from it, for example, Visionary art. Neosurrealism appeared towards the end of the 20th century on the brink of Postmodernism and Post-postmodernism. By Wikipedia’s definition, Neosurrealism is an art crusade that illustrates fantasies or subconscious visions in complex and non-rational combinations of space and forms. It was I who recorded this definition there in 2006.

Neo-surrealism, perhaps, should not be called a movement per se, simply because the movement usually has a group of like-minded individuals united by common objectives. Some of them even have originators. Neo-surrealism is instead a stream. It has no founder or a philosophical platform. Some artists joined it earlier, others later even without apparent awareness of their affiliation. Although different groups of artists from diverse countries sometimes form collectives.

Omsk, Russia, OmGPU, XGF students
Members of underground Neo-surrealist exhibition 1979 - Omsk, USSR, OmGPU, XGF students

The term Neosurrealism does not separate it from the classical interpretation of surrealism. It is instead a time-line point of reference. The same way it happened to classicism and neoclassicism, romanticism and neo-romanticism. Neosurrealism as well could be called post-surrealism or contemporary surrealism. The transfer of the artistic image arises from the peculiarities of the mind, talent, and artist's very nature. That is the main difference of the surrealistic model of reality observation. Modern Neosurrealism painters create their unique world of optical illusions, fantastic dreams from the depths of their imagination, and a mysterious world of strange visions that will leave few indifferent. It is rather challenging to determine the starting point for the emergence of new followers of the surrealist movement. Some sources call the 70s of the last century, but I would move it 20 years ahead in the 90s. It was then that the new/old surreal mentality received a new and massive development.

This development's energy was received by the Internet and www's immense spread in the early 90s. Traditionally, all works of art were a filtered selection by art critics before getting into the general public's view. The surface of the "world of art" presented by galleries, exhibition halls, and journal publications could only be populated by someone who has been approved, appreciated, and accepted by the artistic elite.

Virtual walk-through 3D gallery 1995
Virtual walk-through www 3D gallery
The Internet has offered another form of mass publication. Numerous online galleries have opened the doors to the stream of motley artists, professionals, and amateurs, new talents, artistic ideas, and trends. With rare exceptions, professional art critics or seasoned artists did not censor their works.

The Internet has erased the boundaries of what is permitted, approved, and accepted by giving complete freedom of expression to everyone. The viewer will ultimately appreciate everything according to his or her views, value, and taste. The flow of new names and artworks has become genuinely overwhelming, pushing aside critics and traditional gallery restrictions. Today, it is no secret that exhibition halls are empty, even exhibiting high-profile names, while online traffic is overwhelming. The simplicity and accessibility of the Internet have led to the fact that the number of artwork views online is hundreds of times higher than the number of visitors to any traditional exhibitions.

The term Neosurrealism does not have an exact meaning. It translates as New Super Realism (from Greek - Neonate and Fr. - Surréalisme), which can mean anything. Neosurrealism is a voluminous and diverse movement, which includes many branches and sub-divisions. Some of them are Fantasy art, Psychedelic art, and Ar-Brut. Everything is quite evident with artistic Realism. It is a reflection of reality. Surrealism is much more complex and assorted. Super Realism was originally based on the subconscious of the person and one’s expressionism. However, one’s subconsciousness is mysterious territory for us. It is constantly changing, expanding, deforming, and opening new horizons. The consciousness and subconsciousness of the early 20th-century person are strikingly different from that of the beginning of the 21st century. Surrealism and its updated version Neo-surrealism appeared with the aim of expanding human consciousness. And what is required for this? How to raise, change, consciousness? One needs to break the familiar picture of the world for that.

Glass Matte Painting in Cinema 1930
Glass Matte Painting in Cinema 1930

The emergence of surrealism in the early twentieth century is often associated with the development of technology on Earth. It was a way to respond to a changing reality. It was a new reality for some artists that filled them with energy and optimism; for others, it was the tragedy of breaking traditional ideas of ethics and morality, decay, degradation, and chaos. I suppose it has its truth. Of course, everything that happens around us affects the artist to the same extent as everyone around him.

It seems to me it would be logical to link the emergence of Neo-surrealism with the development of computer technology. The new digital visualization platform has undoubtedly expanded our ideas about the image and made it possible to manipulate this image. With the advent of digital painting, photo manipulation, three-dimensional computer graphics, computer games, etc., our knowledge and consciousness have acquired new horizons for development and not only horizons but even new worlds, such as Virtual World.

Environment Modeling 3ds max 2010
Environment Modeling 3ds max 2010*

If we talk about the technological aspect of Neo-surrealism's emergence, we can use an example of Matte-painting. Initially, Matte-painting is a movie combination technology in which the full-scale part of the frame is combined with the background pattern to create an illusion of the environment. Matte paintings are used in photography, television, and animation to facilitate realistic space creation. Matte paintings have evolved from painted glass panels to entire 3D digital worlds.

This modest technological method of visual deception, in essence, is a creation of super-reality (sur-reality). When you see something real on a two-dimensional screen, however, it is just a reality manipulation. Another example of reality manipulation is a graphical structure of a computer/video game. An object moves along corridors and a labyrinth in which walls and ceilings are two-dimensional pictures of landscapes or interiors. Nevertheless, the sense of the dimensional reality of what is happening on the screen remains unparallel.

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” ― Pablo Picasso

If we look at Neo surrealism from the visual art point of view, it moves in the opposite direction from the technological construction of a computer game. In the juxtapositions of Neo Surrealism artists, landscapes and interiors remain invariably realistic, but the objects and actions against the backgrounds are pure fantasy. This technique syndicates realism and fantasy and gives the effect of reality to the unreal. This practice allows you to believe in the canvas, and what is happening on it can exist in reality or at least in imaginary reality. In the infinite space that is woven of hundreds of small illusions, a person stops distinguishing the superimposed images' boundaries, thus forming a new dimension that looks more like a dream.

The False Mirror 1928 - Rene Magritte
The False Mirror 1928 - Rene Magritte

"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." - Salvador Dali

The surrealism movement of the last century was assorted and ambiguous. Salvador Dali led a surrealist painting towards epatage (fr. shocking) and literature. Dali began to use long titles for his works. For example, “Sleep caused by the flight of a bee around a pomegranate, a second before awakening.” Unlike many abstract canvases that are often numbered. He tried to add an individual literary component to his paintings. He wanted to expand the level of his work perception.

Rene Magritte generally engaged only in shocking compositions. The quality of his paintings can be compared with the skill of an amateur artist. Nevertheless, it does not diminish his originality and enormous contribution to the popularization of the movement.

Maurits Escher based his compositions primarily on mathematical principles. The subsequent to surrealism pop-art movement refused to paint at all, turning everything into a shocking pile of utilitarian and semi-utilitarian objects.

Day and Night 1938 - M.C. Escher
Day and Night 1938 - M.C. Escher

The primary objective of the surrealists was spiritual elevation and separation of the soul from the material. Here we come to the basics of the neo-surrealism definition. With the arrival of computer technology, artists and sculptors got an excellent opportunity to manipulate reality further. An advanced photo-manipulation appeared, it became possible to combine two and 3-dimensional spaces. Even to make alive the picture space by using computer algorithms and animation, such as Generative Art or Dynamic Painting.

All of the new technological opportunities that the founders of surrealism fundamentally did not have.
The original goal of surrealism that was separating the spirit from the material retreats and became secondary. The knowledge of the spirit, diversity, and the variety of colors come to the forefront because the need to separate spiritual and material was no longer necessary. The material has its place of existence, and the spiritual has it too. Besides, the spiritual, conscious, and subconscious horizons are practically and physically immeasurable.

Blowing in the wind 2007 - Gilles Tran
Blowing in the wind 2007 - Gilles Tran

It would seem that the definition of the essence of the Neosurrealism flow is quite simple. Neo-surrealist work is an artwork created in a surrealist manner with the help of a computer. However, it is not so simple. I expect that many would immediately ask me a question - what about the traditional forms of art, such as sculpture, painting, and drawing if, by your definition, Neo-surrealism is computerized art. Nothing of the kind! Any artwork done in the key, style, and spirit of surrealism, by any materials, is the creation of Neo-surrealism today. Classical surrealism became neo-surrealism only because it is already 100 years away from the original movement's beginning. And an artist who creates it is a man of the new millennium. He has a world view in psychology, knowledge, tasks, consciousness, and subconsciousness, which are strikingly different from the artists who stood at the movement's roots.

Dissolution of Ego VI 2017 - Peter Gric
Dissolution of Ego VI 2017 - Peter Gric*

Many still argue the answer to the question, what more important is - Traditional art such as painting and drawing or computer graphics. This dispute does not make much sense. Both artistic conducts are personal expressions; only the application tools are different. The first one requires the skills of an applied nature. The other one is digital. There is no doubt that computer technology is and will be dominating in the nearest future. However!, it does not deny or diminish the presence of traditional forms of fine arts.

Many artists are using computer modeling before moving their creations to the canvas. Others moved to digital creativity ultimately. Even such a master of painting as Zdzislaw Beksinski experimented with photo manipulation at the end of his career. Digital art is an heir of fine art, and it is a very caring and strong one. At one time, poetry, for the most part, moved to songwriting and literature and theater to the cinema. But traditional forms of literature and language itself are present in everything. Arguing about what is more important, a movie or a book, is childish, at least. The answer is simple - both.

Peach Blossom Island 2017 - Yuanxing Liang
Peach Blossom Island 2017 - Yuanxing Liang*

New technological capabilities have added diversity and vitality to the surrealism perception. With the arrival of three-dimensional printers, Neo-surrealistic sculpture has shifted from computer screens to real life. A computer is just a tool, an instrument to achieve individual visual goals. The only question is - what goals are those? Computer art filters can change the same visual material into cubism or impressionism, or expressionism within a second. However, a person enters the initial information for computerized processing, a person with individual intentions and aspirations. In conclusion, it is a person who evaluates the final image from an aesthetic point of view, according to his/her education, vision, and talent.

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” ― Albert Einstein

Crucifixion Corpus Hypercubicus 1954 - Salvador Dali
Crucifixion Corpus Hypercubicus 1954 - Salvador Dali

In my opinion, the unassuming method of defining Neosurrealism’s art style would be a sensation of an unusual visual effect. When a viewer looks at the artwork picture, he/she is experiencing the impact of exaltation and inexplicable awe. The effect of awe makes the viewer sensing his spiritual elevation, growth, or flight—no wonder why the image of the Christ crucifixion was used by religion precisely for these visual qualities.

S. Dali also had a hand in the use of this centuries-old symbol. In general, it does not matter what the picture depicts. If you experience a similar effect of your spirit uplifting, you are in front of a neo-surrealist work. Many will undoubtedly argue that reverent awe can be caused by anything for different people, from ordinary things to pathology for some. It is true, but that would for a completely different essay or rather a psychiatric examination.

"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star." ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Any art form can produce an awe-inspiring effect. A paradoxical combination of objects, people, or landscapes will do if it raises a question such as why and what for. It may be a submarine flying in the sky, a ship sailing into the sea of sand, or flying elephants. Optical illusions of object combinations belong to the same category. Each time, looking at such an image, your subconscious will present you with a variety of questions and answers as well. The super realistic impact is deeply individual for everyone. There is no unequivocal answer to the riddle in front of you. Only a viewer may find the answers, according to his/her experience, world view logic, knowledge, and consciousness.

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." - Edgar Degas
“You might as well ask an artist to explain his art, or ask a poet to explain his poem. It defeats the purpose. The meaning is only clear thorough the search.” ― Rick Riordan


Rapidly developing visual technologies have tremendous potential for the fine arts' future: augmented reality AR, artificial intelligence AI, and the ever-growing power of computers offer increasingly detailed digital worlds with high screen resolution. Over the past decades, many have considered that virtual reality VR is the future of fine art. Some say that VR would offer the viewer an experience that is incomparably more multidimensional and exciting than the traditional forms of static visual art.

Artificial intelligence AI, augmented reality AR, virtual reality VR
Artificial intelligence AI, augmented reality AR, virtual reality VR*
Many filmmakers have already changed traditional cameras to a 360-degree viewing angle, panoramic cameras. Our time is reminiscent of the early years of cinema that were bursting with experiments. The future cinema will soon offer an individual approach to your exact needs and the immersion experience created especially for you. The future of cinema moves in the direction of the full 3-dimensional volume of the image, in contrast to today's two-dimensional screens. Traditional, so-called flat media will still be with us, as a book has not disappeared anywhere, or a decorative abstraction or wall painting, but the cinema and fine arts most likely will not remain flat.

Artists of the near future will offer us the experience of complete embodiment, volume, almost tangible three-dimensional objects around us. A young audience, which is accustomed to such an experience, will come. Today, the use of technology 6Dof ((six degrees of freedom (immersion graphics)) allows viewers to move in the created world physically. I foresee that VR and AR will expand the color palette of traditional fine arts; virtual reality helmets will allow you to switch from a simple picture view to total immersion in a particular landscape, interior, or stage - at the request of the viewer.

Neo-surrealism, with its conceptual approach, has already embarked on this transformation. Using a visual impulse technique, it attempts to enhance interactive communication with the viewer, the exchange of information, and the state of consciousness. Virtual reality technology is developing rapidly; its possibilities are almost endless. The visual art of tomorrow will no longer be a one-way street from the artist to the viewer. Fine arts will become a dialogue between two equal individuals, an interactive field of exchanging thoughts, and fine art will become the art of the game of consciousness.

Neo-surrealism is evolving. Professional artists and amateur enthusiasts regularly update it. This movement continues and only gains strength. Discoveries and technologies make it even more powerful. There are no boundaries of knowledge and self-knowledge. Thousands of contemporary artists are trying to find answers to the eternal question of being - Who am I! I, too, attempted to understand and reflect on this subject matter in this short review.

George Grie. May 14, 2009
Title Rus - Манифест Нео-сюрреалиста.
* Illustrations added 2019

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