Realism is often thought of as completely straightforward, never taking any artistic liberties in between, but artist JP Wikman’s work counters that notion by combining picturesque elements of realism with equally believable dystopian elements. Wikman’s art makes us believe that unsightly horrors could very well be in our near future. Working exclusively in black and grey, his art also takes on shadowy, ominous undertones that suggest that his bizarre scenes are a harrowing tale of what’s yet to come, humanity need only take note.
Co-owner of Below Zero Tattoo in Finland, Wikman’s work is real life seen through a dystopian lense. Creating an alternate universe of sorts, where wars rage on and bodies wrapped in cellophane are aplenty, his work is ominous — as if he’s seen such horrors first hand. Using a combination of shading, expertly cast shadows, and negative space, his work plays with depth, the foreground, middle ground, and backgrounds each as interesting and imperative to the piece as the next. The final product landing somewhere in between an alternate reality and a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Church steeples go up in flames, their wooden beams cracking as they’re entirely engulfed in hellfire, while hands encircle a body wrapped in cellophane, its neck tied securely with a rope. Wikman seems to be sending a warning through his work, his preferred style of realism purposefully and carefully chosen.
Realism isn’t always modeled entirely after real life, it can take on haunting, surreal messages and undertones, too. Wikman’s work might not be rooted in traditional portraiture, or idyllic scenery, but that doesn’t make it any less real. After all, what is art if not a reinterpretation of real life?