Artsy: 10 Contemporary Artists Painting Dreamlike, Fantastical Landscapes

Samuel Anderson, Artsy, 29 Jun 2023

Representing a three-dimensional landscape on a two-dimensional surface like canvas is always a give-and-take between the real and imaginary. But landscape painters who step into fantastical terrain have all the more choices to make when it comes to achieving that balance. A more experimental approach to their subject matter allows painters to showcase their formal abilities, as well as an unexpected, surprising worldview.


By stretching reality’s colors and forms, these artists allow us to navigate imagined spaces that both beckon and resist human contact, while also suggesting a radical reengagement with our own environment. Such work acquires special resonance today, as the landscape itself becomes increasingly mercurial—whether by smoke pollution from wildfires unleashing alien, orange skies in the U.S., or carbon emissions driving a feedback loop of extreme weather worldwide. In the case of these contemporary painters, however, the drastic changes to the environment are confined to the canvas. 


With her stylized still lifes, Amanda Baldwin has built a devoted fanbase. But, in contrast to her earlier still-life paintings, her geometric landscapes eschew horizon lines and other realistic signifiers in favor of multidimensional depth. Through visual layering and an adroit use of color and shadow, Baldwin invites a pleasurable dislocation, suspending the viewer between mundane and abstract.


Ironically, these quasi-naturalistic forms find a concrete reference point in the artist’s childhood interest in math: “I was really interested in mathematical equations, especially algebra, and found it fascinating how math can be found everywhere in nature, from the curve of a seashell and spiderweb, to mineral formations and sand dunes,” said Baldwin. “The patterning found in my work is a reference to that mathematical curiosity.” Unlike in math, perhaps, the product of Baldwin’s careful distribution of color and texture always feels greater than the sum of its parts.

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