Top 5 Psychedelic Masterpieces

Since lockdown began you may have invested your days in creative projects. Found some dusty old paints and dried out pens and made something beautiful to while away the hours inside. In this unprecedented moment, we are spending more time with ourselves than ever, with less distractions. Discovering your creative side, or strengthening it if you already were in tune with it, is one of the few bright sides that lockdown has offered.

Taking psychedelics can be very conducive to artists, and creative output. Many artists cite psychedelics for inspiring their ideas or helping them to get lost in the flow of making. As we recommended in our article ‘How to Trip Alone’, having the tools to make art around you while you are tripping, can add an extra dimension of fun and creativity to your journey.

If you have been letting your creative juices flow since lockdown, tripping or otherwise, we have compiled a list of classic artworks that have a rather psychedelic influence. You may have seen these in real life at a gallery, reproduced in prints or be totally new to them. Hopefully they will inspire you in some future creativity, or at least into a deep google wormhole feasting on glorious images. Here are our Top 5 Psychedelic Masterpieces! 

Salvador Dali- The Persistence of Memory (1931)

This 1931 painting by Dali, is an iconic example of the Surrealist art movement. The Surrealists aim was to explore the imagination by unlocking the unconscious mind. Using strange and dreamlike imagery, they changed the face of art history. In ‘The Persistence of Memory’ we see pocket watches gently melting in a desert landscape. Many have interpreted the work as an exploration of time and space, the

“collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic order”– (Dawn Ades)

— not so far off what some psychonauts ponder while tripping! Dali himself however, an eccentric till the end, cited a camembert cheese melting in the sun as his inspiration for the celebrated painting. 

Yayoi Kusama- All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016)

Kusama’s infinity mirror installations are incredibly trippy and immersive. None more so than this work from 2016, in which an infinite number of luminous, polka-dotted pumpkins swallow up the visitor. Becoming part of the artwork, the viewer gets a full dose of everything and nothingness at once, rather like a pumpkin-based ego death

Hieronymous Bosch- The Garden of Earthly Delights (between 1490- 1510)

The Garden of Earthly Delights is a triptych (3 panel) oil painting that features some seriously whackadoo imagery. The first panel, on the left, shows a man and woman, presumably Adam and Eve being joined by a God/Christ-like figure. This is not remarkable for classical art. But their surroundings are noticeably bizarre. From a hole in the ground, strange creatures are crawling, a unicorn drinks from a pool. The second, the central panel, is a fantastical orgy of naked humans frolicing with giant fruit, birds and fish. You could gaze at it for hours and still find something new, in the seething mass of animals, vegetables and minerals. The same goes for the third panel, on the right. However, this is definitely a bad trip. A city in ruins, a man-eating bird, warped creatures, huge knife-wielding ears, and a pale giant with a body like a smashed egg. Little is known of Bosch himself, so his intentions remain mysterious. Historians are split as to whether this painting was to be a warning of the dangers of temptation, or a celebration of paradise. Either way, there are few artworks that manage to be this psychedelic, even over 500 years later. 

Sylvie Fleury- Mushrooms (2008)

Fleury is a Swiss artist, known for blending Pop Art and Minimalist influences. However, It is of course her work Mushrooms that catches our eye! These oversized metallic mushrooms look as though they have been painted with nail varnish, but actually, have been coated in glossy car paint. A comment on consumerist culture, as well as traditional gender roles, and of course a reference to psychedelic drugs. Stand next to them and you will feel a little like you are in Wonderland…

Frida Kahlo- What the Water Gave Me (1938)

Kahlo of course, needs no introduction. Her heavy-browed face and traditional Mexican attire are now even more famous than her vast catalogue of paintings. Behind the pop-culture icon however, was a fascinating and tragic artist. This work, ‘What the Water Gave Me’ is said to be an autobiography of sorts. All that can be seen of Kahlo are her feet and submerged legs. Events from her life, both real and metaphorical play about her toes. Although featuring predominantly unhappy imagery, this painting shows a moment of contemplation and self discovery. Kahlo’s life plays out before her, and our, eyes. We have all experienced those meditative moments in the tub, where we consider our pasts, presents and futures. Like psychedelics, it can help us stand outside of ourselves and see more clearly. Perhaps you have spent some time during lockdown in contemplation… why not paint what you saw?

We hope you have found this list inspiring. Of course there are zillions more psychedelic masterpieces we could have mentioned, and soon perhaps, you will have created one too!

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