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Psychedelic art (also known as psychedelia) is art, graphics or visual displays related to or inspired by psychedelic experiences and hallucinations known to follow the ingestion of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, and DMT. The word “psychedelic” (coined by British psychologist Humphry Osmond) means “mind manifesting”. By that definition, all artistic efforts to depict the inner world of the psyche may be considered “psychedelic”.
In common parlance “psychedelic art” refers above all to the art movement of the late 1960s counterculture, featuring highly distorted or surreal visuals, bright colors and full spectrums and animation (including cartoons) to evoke, convey, or enhance psychedelic experiences. Psychedelic visual arts were a counterpart to psychedelic rock music. Concert posters, album covers, liquid light shows, liquid light art, murals, comic books, underground newspapers and more reflected not only the kaleidoscopically swirling colour patterns of LSD hallucinations, but also revolutionary political, social and spiritual sentiments inspired by insights derived from these psychedelic states of consciousness.
- Fantastic, metaphysical, and surrealistic subject matter
- Kaleidosopic, fractal, or paisley patterns
- Bright and/or highly contrasting colors
- Extreme depth of detail or stylization of detail. Also called Horror vacui style.
- Morphing of objects or themes and sometimes collage
- Phosphenes, spirals, concentric circles, diffraction patterns, and other entoptic motifs
- Repetition of motifs
- Innovative typography and hand-lettering, including warping and transposition of positive and negative spaces
Origins dmt art
Psychedelic art is informed by the notion that altered states of consciousness produced by psychedelic drugs are a source of artistic inspiration. The psychedelic art movement is similar to the surrealist movement in that it prescribes a mechanism for obtaining inspiration. Whereas the mechanism for surrealism is the observance of dreams, a psychedelic artist turns to drug induced hallucinations. Both movements have strong ties to important developments in science. Whereas the surrealist was fascinated by Freud’s theory of the unconscious, the psychedelic artist has been literally “turned on” by Albert Hofmann’s discovery of LSD.
Among the work forerunners of psychedelic art, the following authors and artists can be noted: Lautreamont, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Stanislav Witkevich, Antonin Artaud, Georges Bataille, William Burroughs, De Quincey, Terence McKenna, Carlos Castaneda. Mikhail Bulgakov is the first writer to describe narcotic hallucinations. In particular, art researchers Tim Lapetino and James Orok trace the connection of psychedelic art with Dadaism, Surrealism, Lettrism, and Situationism.
The early examples of “psychedelic art” are literary rather than visual, although there are some examples in the Surrealist art movement, such as Remedios Varo and André Masson. Other early examples include Antonin Artaud who writes of his peyote experience in Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumara (1937) and Henri Michaux who wrote Misérable Miracle (1956), to describe his experiments with mescaline and hashish.
Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception (1954) and Heaven and Hell (1956) remain definitive statements on the psychedelic experience.
Albert Hofmann and his colleagues at Sandoz Laboratories were convinced immediately after its discovery in 1943 of the power and promise of LSD. For two decades following its discovery LSD was marketed by Sandoz as an important drug for psychological and neurological research. Hofmann saw the drug’s potential for poets and artists as well, and took great interest in the German writer Ernst Jünger’s psychedelic experiments.
Early artistic experimentation with LSD was conducted in a clinical context by Los Angeles–based psychiatrist Oscar Janiger. Janiger asked a group of 50 different artists to each do a painting from life of a subject of the artist’s choosing. They were subsequently asked to do the same painting while under the influence of LSD. The two paintings were compared by Janiger and also the artist. The artists almost unanimously reported LSD to be an enhancement to their creativity.
Ultimately it seems that psychedelics would be most warmly embraced by the American counterculture. Beatnik poets Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs became fascinated by psychedelic drugs as early as the 1950s as evidenced by The Yage Letters (1963). The Beatniks recognized the role of psychedelics as sacred inebriants in Native American religious ritual, and also had an understanding of the philosophy of the surrealist and symbolist poets who called for a “complete disorientation of the senses” (to paraphrase Arthur Rimbaud). They knew that altered states of consciousness played a role in Eastern Mysticism. They were hip to psychedelics as psychiatric medicine. LSD was the perfect catalyst to electrify the eclectic mix of ideas assembled by the Beats into a cathartic, mass-distributed panacea for the soul of the succeeding generation.