Where it Came From
Metaphysical Art has its origins in the early 20th-century Italian Art Movement. Dream-like scenes and unusual juxtaposition of shapes and colors defined it. The movement can be credited to Giorgio de Chirico, who worked with sharp contrasts of light and shadows to give his paintings a mysterious quality. Metaphysical art then became all about the hidden meaning behind elements and how art could be used to represent understanding. This style places an emphasis on feelings such as mystery and destressing.
“One must picture everything in the world as an enigma, and live in the world as if in a vast museum of strangeness.”— Giorgio de Chirico
Impact on Art
Metaphysical art plays by the rules of extreme realism. The artists associated with this movement referred to their paintings as ‘landscapes of the mind’. Metaphysical artworks featured many Italian cityscapes, Greek statues, and other mythological elements. Scenes were often represented as deserted and barren to evoke a sense of loneliness. According to the artist Giorgio Morandi, Metaphysical art purified the subject and focused on the meaning of art, rather than just the visualization.
“There is much more mystery in the shadow of a man walking on a sunny day, than in all religions of the world.”— Giorgio de Chirico
Metaphysical art later went on to influence movements like Surrealism, and the work of artists such as Salvador Dali and Andre Breton. The Metaphysical art movement also inspired German painters in the 1920s, who used a similar aesthetic to create mysterious works of art.
Impact on Film
Inspired by the art movement, the film world saw the rise of what we now call Metaphysical Films. Just like Metaphysical paintings used different techniques to transcend reality and question the nature of things, these films used a new style of cinematography, editing, and special effects to direct the audience’s attention to the question of reality. One of the most popular films in the genre is ‘The Matrix’ directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski. The film revolves around Neo, who realizes the reality he exists in is actually a simulation. So, he disconnects from ‘The Matrix’ to leave the simulation and rebel against the machine. The film asks the very important metaphysical question of what reality truly is and whether our perception of it, is the right one.
“Art is the fatal net which catches these strange moments on the wing like mysterious butterflies, fleeing the innocence and distraction of common men.”— Giorgio de Chirico
Impact on Pop Culture
In recent times, pop culture has been greatly influenced by the ideas that Metaphysical art was built upon. Questioning reality and proposing the idea of multiple realities has become a common trope in pop culture with things like the MCU’s Multiverse theory, along with TV shows like Westworld, Stranger Things, The Good Place, and Everything Everywhere All At Once. Now moving through different dimensions, or waking up to a brand new reality is not a new idea in pop culture, but its increasing usage of it in the industry is a pretty interesting concept.
Impact on Literature
In literature, the word metaphysical is almost always associated with poetry. This kind of poetry talks about ideas and concepts that are beyond the existence of the world we live in. Some famous metaphysical poets include John Donne, Henry Vaughan, and George Herbert.
All of them talked about the nature of reality in their work, prompting the reader to think about the unquestionable. Metaphysical poetry deals with themes of the human soul, God(s), existence, and fate. It uses tools such as paradoxes and irony to deal with the questions of human reality.
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