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Max Ernst’s surreal forest paintings get a videogame tribute

Textures in games are hardly ever painterly. There are clear cut examples of games trying to emulate the look of a painting (like Okami’s cel-shaded, oil painting art style), while others are literally hand painted (like Double Fine’s Broken Age)—but to find a genuine surreal art style implemented into a game would be much harder to pinpoint. In Saint Petersburg-based digital artist Yuliya Kozhemyako’s latest project La forêt, Kozhemyako seeks to emulate the surreal paintings of German artist Max Ernst.

Ernst was a pioneer of surreal art, helping to formulate the obscure Dada avant-garde movement in Berlin and Cologne. Among his notable works are his forest paintings, redundant in texture and haunting in their complexities, the very same paintings that inspired Kozhemyako’s digital project. The project itself is an exploration game of sorts: you pace forward in silence, a white circle illuminating the dark space, abstract textures growing out of the ground. They are trees, but, hardly look the part.

a similar panic and confusion surrounds them.

As the trees grow taller and taller, crossing one another and obscuring your view of the pale white flat circle in the sky, an ambient sound grows more and more distorted, once silent, now fully encasing you.

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In Ernst’s paintings, a similar panic and confusion surrounds them. Textures are repeated across the works, from the early forests of 1925 to the later, more detailed, paintings in 1933. All with forests, all surreal looking, all with rounded, empty moons looming overhead. Kozhemyako’s project embodies these visual motifs, and implements them in a fresh way, using the blurred motion of walking around the space, the sight of seeing the towering textures grow above you, and the unsettling ambient sound that soon encompasses you entirely as a means of transporting you into one of Ernst’s paintings. The experience is completely surreal, and Kozhemyako’s homage wouldn’t have it any other way.

Experience La forêt for yourself for free via itch.io.

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Photo of Max Ernst’s “The Embalmed Forest” from Wiki Art.