Trying to categorize or summarize the genre of Alex Andreev’s digital paintings is nearly impossible.
Part science fiction, part dystopian future, the scenes are equally disturbing and beautiful, his characters inhabiting a world Andreev tells me is deeply influenced by Soviet-era literature, music and movies.
More than 30 years ago, my wife, Helene, and I started collecting. She loved tribal masks—African, Oceanic, Indonesian, etc.—while I focused on medical, scientific, and industrial artifacts.
“George Lucas’s designers must have found inspiration in these smoke helmets.”
I’ve spent my career as a creative director, painter, and sculptor, so I always approached collecting as an artist. Over the years, without even realizing it, our collections began to influence each other until they merged into their own unique specialty.
We now think of this new genre as industrial tribal art. Whether it’s medical teaching mannequins and headgear, early smoke rescue helmets, or industrial masks, when properly displayed, these objects have the visual presence of tribal masks.
This pair of early rescue masks, shown above, dates from between the mid-1800s and World War I. They look a bit familiar, right?
Almost 100 years before Darth Vader and C-3PO hit the big screen in “Star Wars” in 1977, these two smoke helmets were worn by firefighters carrying out rescues in smoke-logged buildings.
The buzz among collectors is that George Lucas’s designers must have found inspiration in these smoke helmets and others like them. In fact, one well-known 19th-century manufacturer was named Vajen-Bader—you could easily get the name Vader from that.
The black leather helmet on the left is labeled “Respirations Apparat” by “G.B.Konic Altona,” was made in Hamburg, Germany, and has the look of an African Dan mask.
The brass, three-quarter face mask to its right was made in Paris by J. Mandet. This type of breathing mask had a very simple apparatus, allowing only a short range of operation. When used, air would be forced into the helmet through no more than 13 meters of flexible tubing by means of a bellows operated remotely from the outside.
Both of these masks have mica lenses to help protect the eyes from heat.
The January 10, 1960 edition of Arthur Radebaugh’s Sunday comic “Closer Than We Think” includes a curious invention that was supposed to literally catapult us into the Jet Age:
The circular runway.
From the Chicago Tribune:
The heart of tomorrow’s airfield may be a circular catapult-like mechanism for sending planes into the air. It would mean runways much smaller than those now required.
For military purposes, American Engineering Company has already designed a giant wheel that is turned with great force by jet power. Cables from this wheel serve as catapults for fighting aircraft.
The next step would be to use rocket power to catapult planes from a dish-shaped concrete wheel. One spin on such a “circle runway” would produce the same starting speed that now requires a thousand feet or more of conventional runway, and with much less fuel.
The Navy actually tested a similar circular runway concept in 1965. The big difference between the Navy’s tests and the runway envisioned by Radebaugh? The Navy’s was much, much larger and didn’t have that sci-fi “rocket power unit” to propel the plane.
According to the New York Times, the Navy pilots who tested their makeshift runway found that take-off and landing was “surprisingly easy.”
Landing is accomplished by approaching the runway in a 15 degree bank — that is, the wing facing the center of the circle is lowered 15 degrees from the horizontal. Once touchdown is accomplished, the runway seems to take care of the rest.
The plane finds its natural line on the runway, depending on its speed.
Fascinating surreal illustrations by the artist team of Sven Sauer and Igor Prosavec (SA-PO) that places a robot in megacities such as Tokyo, Shanghai or New York as a metaphor for the rapid development of technology—which has exceeded what society can absorb.
The artists combine the dilemma of “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” with their own observations of the cities as a crucible for social and technological mediums.
Digital illustrations of dystopian worlds by Polish artist Michal Karcz.
Starting out as a painter and photographer, which helped him develop his own vision, he left the paintbrush and switch to digital tools “to generate unique realities that were impossible to create with ordinary dark room techniques.”
Karcz’s inspiration comes from listening to music and his visual interpretations of surreal worlds and a possible future leaves you with a feeling of fascination as well as dread.
Most of my work is like a journey to the places which don’t exist.
Places from my dreams, desire, imagination and fears. My inspiration comes from many artists and it doesn’t matter if they get through to me by the sense of vision or hearing.
I can tell that music has the biggest impact on my work. It’s an inseparable element with pictures in my mind, a kind of sound illustration to a visible scenery.
These two things hit me with the strongest intensity.