Art by Simon StålenhagArt by Simon Stålenhagvarselklotet_verge_super_wideArt by Simon Stålenhag

Welcome to rural Sweden, sometime in the late ’80s. Citizens go about their mundane lives and children explore the countryside. But something isn’t quite right. Robots and hovercrafts are commonplace, and decaying science facilities sprout from the harsh Scandinavian landscape. There’s even a rumor circulating that dinosaurs have returned from the dead after some failed experiment.

As a huge fan of Valve’s Half-Life series, and particularly Viktor Antonov’s relentlessly haunting, but startlingly believable, visual direction and world building for a dystopian future, I was immediately drawn to Stålenhag’s art. Where Antonov’s vision was used to flesh out a videogame that, for the most part, requires the lead character to shoot his way to safety, Stålenhag explores a similar world, Sweden, post-disaster, and takes a snapshot of what civilian life might be like under those conditions.

In a profile of his work by Dante D’Orazio, Stålenhag explained that “the only difference in the world of my art and our world is that … ever since the early 20th century, attitudes and budgets were much more in favor of science and technology. D’Orazio described Stålenhag’s world and a future that looks, in many ways, like our present. “Despite developments in robotics and ‘anti-grav’ technology, the difficulties of the modern human experience haven’t changed,” D’Orazio said.

Stålenhag juxtaposes the looming threat of the decaying glory of a dystopian far future with the mundanity of everyday life, that effectively illustrates the idea that life happens no matter what else is going on around it. Children are featured in many of Stålenhag’s paintings and its through their eyes that we are shown the grandeur and lost history of a world that crumbled under its own weight.

More of Stålenhag’s artwork can be found at his profile on The Verge, or by visiting his portfolio.

  • Martha Crimson August 29, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Love these – they capture my swedish childhood perfectly. If there had been a company handling hovercrafts and strange robotic contraptions they would have had that logo. But my favourite is the tyrannosaurus rexi overtaking the icecream van :D