Art has the power to amaze and inspire, and few pieces of art achieve this better than those that deceive the sight. These styles of art, generally known as illusion art, easily fool the viewer into believing what they think they see. For example, you may see what appears to be a 3D structure but is actually a carefully shaded and colored 2D drawing.
Some images have a particular psychological edge, while others are purely for enjoyment. Whatever the case may be, there is no doubting the artistic brilliance of a mind-blowing painting that makes you look twice.
In no particular order, here are 10 mind-bending works of art from artists that will make you rethink reality.
1. Julian Beever
Julian Beever landed in the perfect career—a world-renowned artist who creates terrifyingly genuine pavement art with chalk—after working as a “photographer’s assistant,” “tree-planter,” “carpet-fitter,” “art teacher,” “English teacher,” “street entertainer,” and “Punch and Judy Man.” You might find yourself teetering atop a building in Time Square or sitting on the top of a terrifyingly steep ferris wheel if you pass past one of Beever’s works.
2. Erik Johansson
Erik Johansson is more interested in capturing concepts than in documenting events. The photographer and retoucher, who was born in Sweden and now lives in Berlin, makes meticulously layered photo artworks that blend mind-bending landscapes and strange concepts.
3. Tang Yau Hoong
Tang Yau Hoong, a self-taught Malaysian illustrator, plays with negative space and light to produce conceptual, surreal illustrations that are entertaining. He transforms cityscapes into natural settings and experiments with light physics.
4. Leandro Erlich
When Argentina-based Leandro Erlich debuted his mirrored street art installation in Paris, we were immediately captivated. People appeared to be dangling from a Paris flat’s third-floor windows, while others sat perilously on roofs and scaled the edges. In actuality, a life-size building facade was built on the ground and projected onto a gigantic mirror.
“L’ultime Déménagement,” another of his installations, is a sculpture of a massive chunk of a building facade attached to the ground by nothing more than a ladder.
5. Damien Gilley
Damien Gilley, a multidisciplinary artist based in Portland, uses simply colorful tape and contact paper to create great depth on flat surfaces and walls. His artwork is painstakingly measured and calculated, taking into account the specific proportions and dimensions of each place in which he creates it. His work’s geometry gives flat objects an enormous sense of depth and space.
6. Ramon Bruin
Ramon Bruin, a Dutch airbrush artist, creates sophisticated optical illusions that appear to jump off the drawing pads in his drawings. Bruin’s drawings are also somewhat distorted to portray a scene that looks to be 3-D from a certain vantage point, employing the anamorphosis technique.
7. Felice Varini
Felice Varini’s paintings appear to be simple geometric designs that have been photoshopped over regular rooms, living areas, and structures from one perspective. They appear to be shattered bits painted randomly in several regions from another angle. Varini employs anamorphosis to deceive the eye into believing it is looking at a whole item from a specific vantage point. Varini painted flawless anamorphosis circles over an entire town in the Swiss Alps in his project “Cercle et suite d’éclats.”
8. Edgar Mueller
Edgar Mueller, a German artist, doesn’t play with dread of heights; instead, he instills anxiety in flat, public locations by painting over them to alter their appearance. In some of Mueller’s works, a calm river morphs into a waterfall with a seemingly 90-degree plunge, and a vast lava pit takes over a roadway.
9. Oleg Shuplyak
Oleg Shuplyak’s dreamy paintings look to be classically styled landscapes or portraits of personalities from art, culture, and fiction at first glance. On closer inspection, the optical illusions are both—classic landscape scenery and figures are meticulously fashioned to resemble eyes, noses, lips, and hair to their larger counterparts (who happen to be figures like Vincent Van Gogh, John Lennon, and Charles Darwin).
10. Thomas Barbéy
Photographer Thomas Barbéy creates bizarre settings and scenes with images from his trips over the last two decades, and frequently combines two photos that are decades apart in one shot. He prefers to shoot in 35mm and creates his photo illustrations with an enlarger and darkroom. In Barbéy’s imaginative pictures, little skiers careen down the edge of a bed sheet, the keys of a piano bleed into the stripes of two zebras, and a hilltop castle hovers above the center of Niagara Falls.