trompe l’oeil

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Through Trompe L’oeil Bronze, Prune Nourry Fuses Human Anatomy and Arboreal Roots

May 16, 2023

Grace Ebert

A figurative sculpture that appears like roots or veins stands in a gallery

“Atys (3).” Photo by Annik Wetter. All images © Prune Nourry, shared with permission

At the end of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s baroque opera Atys, the titular character is transformed into a tree. This metamorphosis, the result of a spell cast by an agitated goddess, secures Atys’ Earth-bound fate, melding human and plant life into a single body.

French artist Prune Nourry draws on this mythological allegory in a series that visualizes the hybrid form. Standing several feet tall to be lifelike or larger, a trio of bronze figures emerges through intricate networks mimicking both veins and branches, “fractal shapes that we can find in different scales in nature,” the artist says. Each sculpture references the form’s roots in operatic performance, and Nourry painted the smooth metal in a trompe l’oeil style so that the works appear as if made of rope, used frequently in stage rigging. This illusory material also alludes to the connection between the infinitely large and infinitely small, a concept often described in the framework of string theory.

Nourry, who lives and works between New York and Paris, has long been interested in the body and the way it interacts with the environment. She recently completed a massive public work featuring a pregnant mother embedded in the land, and earlier projects include anatomical sculptures that similarly connect vein and branch. In her ongoing In Vitro series that began back in 2010, for example, Nourry uses laboratory glass to create delicate, sprawling renditions of human lungs and bodies. As a whole, her practice “questions the notion of balance and the ethical issues attached to it: the body and healing process, the dangerous demographic imbalance due to (the) selection of babies’ sex in some countries, the ecosystem, and (the) interdependence between living species,” a statement says.

Last year, the artist collaborated on a performance of Atys, and you can see the massive rope installation she created for that production in the video below. Find more of her corporeal projects on Instagram.


A figurative sculpture that appears like roots or veins stands atop a pedestal outdoors

“Atys” at Assemblee Nationale. Photo by Laurent Edeline

A detail of figurative sculpture that appears like roots or veins stands in a gallery

Detail of “Atys (1).” Photo by Annik Wetter

A glass sculpture of lungs that appears like roots or veins hangs on a gallery wall

“Fractal Lungs” (2019), lab glass, 50 x 60 x 25 centimeters. Photo by Bertrand Huet Tutti

Three figurative sculptures that appear like roots or veins stand in a gallery

“Atys.” Photo by Annik Wetter

A glass figurative sculpture that appears like roots or veins hangs on a gallery wall

“River Woman” (2019), borosilicate glass, 195 x 75 x 20 centimeters. Photo by Bertrand Huet Tutti

A detail of a glass figurative sculpture that appears like roots or veins hangs on a gallery wall

Detail of “River Woman” (2019), borosilicate glass, 195 x 75 x 20 centimeters. Photo by Bertrand Huet Tutti





Massive Butterflies Alight on Architecture in Larger-Than-Life Trompe L’oeil Murals by Mantra

June 1, 2022

Kate Mothes

All images © Mantra, shared with permission

In October 2020, a remarkable scene unfolded on the side of a building in the neighborhood of Jussieu in Versailles, France. Larger-than-life ladybug legs scurry along a stem, violet flowers blossom, and ornate butterflies perch on delicate petals. During the course of six days, the French street artist Mantra completed the painting “Là où fleurit l’émerveillement,” which translates to “where wonder flourishes,” using rollers and brushes to apply acrylic painting to the multistory residential building. In the neighborhood named for French botanist Bernard de Jussieu (1699-1777), the artist pays tribute to nature and local wildlife.

Known for his trompe l’oeil murals of butterflies encased in enormous specimen display boxes, his recent paintings, including “Three Butterflies for Lana” completed last month in Lana, Italy, take a wilder approach to the insects. Drawing on childhood memories of exploring wildlife near his family’s home, the new murals are composed from photographs the artist took in his mother’s garden in Lessy. Referencing the shallow depth of field captured with his camera, Mantra pays special attention to bokeh—faithfully recreating the blurry background that blends the work with the surrounding environment, highlighting the vibrant colors and varied patterns of petals, wings, and leaves.

You can find more of Mantra’s work on Instagram.


Image © Andrea Karoline Eder




A Trompe L’oeil Mural by Shozy Imagines a 3D Architectural Addition to an Apartment Building

January 28, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Urban Morpho Genesis, shared with permission

A concrete apartment building in Solnechnodolsk, Russia, seems to have added balconies, windows, and a few extra rooms in a trippy new mural by artist Danila Shmelev, aka Shozy. Created for the Urban Morpho Genesis festival, the massive optical illusion appears as a three-dimensional construction that juts out from the complex, despite lying flat on the corner walls. The Moscow-born artist says:

In Russia, we are all accustomed to the architecture of panel houses. Our eyes are so blurred that aesthetics are out of the question. With my work, I want to focus the viewer’s attention on a familiar landscape and show it from an unusual side, complementing the real ends of two five-story buildings with illusory geometry, so that they draw the eye of the viewer to the ordinary landscape, encouraging them to really consider it.

You can find more from Shozy and the festival on Instagram, and shop smaller trompe l’oeil works on canvas on Hiya.





Hyperrealistic Ceramic Sculptures by Christopher David White Mimic the Splintered Texture of Decaying Wood

December 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Carbon Footprint.” All images © Christopher David White, shared with permission

In his Richmond studio, artist Christopher David White (previously) practices an alchemy of materials as he transforms slabs of clay into deceptive sculptures and functional objects that appear carved from hunks of decaying wood. His trompe l’oeil ceramics are fragile depictions of the hardy material, complete with its gnarled knots and splintered edges in various states of decomposition.

To achieve such a hyperrealistic finish, each piece undergoes multiple rounds of detailing—head to Instagram for a glimpse behind-the-scenes—which White starts by shaping the initial form with knots and branches and imprinting large grooves for the grain. After the work dries slightly, dental instruments, wire brushes, and Xacto knives aid in crafting the more intricate components, and the slightly dehydrated material lends itself to natural cracks and divots that enhance the woody texture. Once fired, the artist paints each sculpture with a largely neutral palette of acrylics.

White continues to explore humans’ relationship to the environment in both his figures and smaller works, although he’s recently shifted to more overt considerations of the topic. “I seek to highlight humanity’s abuse and disregard for nature along with the contradictions in our actions,” he says. “Humans have a tendency to acknowledge the beauty, fragility, and uniqueness of nature while simultaneously viewing it as a resource to be endlessly exploited, controlled, and discarded.”

Shop prints in White’s shop, and keep an eye on his Instagram and site for updates on new batches of mugs, planters, and other works.


“Paint It Red”

“Pushing Up Daisies”

“Weathered Heart”

“Not 2B”

“Coral mug”

“Small planters”

“Teapot set”




From Intricate Stencils to Vibrant Flowers, Nine New Murals Transform Blank Facades in Tbilisi

November 29, 2021

Grace Ebert

MonkeyBird. All images courtesy of Tbilisi Mural Fest, shared with permission

Since Tbilisi Mural Fest began in 2019, the streets of Georgia’s capital have seen the towering, large-scale works of artists like Collin van der Sluijs (previously), Case Maclaim, and Faith XLVII (previously), whose celestial, intersecting circles are a highlight of this year’s event. The 2021 festival features nine pieces in total that range in aesthetic and subject matter, including a mythological, black-and-white stencil by MonkeyBird (previously), bold botanicals by Thiago Mazza (previously), and a striking trompe-l’œil papercut by 1010. Each monumental work addresses an environmental, social, or other relevant issue affecting today’s world, and you can find 2021’s lineup below. (via Street Art News)


Thiago Mazza




Left: Kade90. Right: David Samkharadze





Trompe L’oeil Textiles Billow Across Murals by Rosie Woods in Iridescent Ripples

April 29, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Veils of Knowledge” at Grenoble Street Art Festival in France. Photo by Andrea Berlese. All images © Rosie Woods, shared with permission

As if lifted by a breeze, oversized ribbons and bunches of fabric float across the trompe l’oeil murals by London-based artist Rosie Woods. The gleaming, prismatic textiles sway and subtly twist into folds and ripples in the spray-painted works. Through the flowing movements, Woods explores the fluid, ever-changing nature of the human experience by synthesizing abstraction and realism. She explains:

I often wonder what my soul would look like if it manifested itself as an object I could see and touch on this earth.  My artwork today looks to express the depth, growth, and complexity of the mind as well as its ability to encompass both light and dark spaces emotionally. I’d like to think you can “feel” my artwork with your eyes.

Woods translates her massive, lustrous textiles to smaller canvases, which she sells in her shop. Although she’s sold-out at the moment, you can watch for upcoming releases on Instagram, where she shares a variety of process shots and news on where she’s headed next.


“Veils of Knowledge” at Grenoble Street Art Festival in France. Photo by Andrea Berlese

“Veils of Knowledge” at Grenoble Street Art Festival in France. Photo by Andrea Berlese

“Veils of Knowledge” at Grenoble Street Art Festival in France. Photo by Andrea Berlese

Woods working at Grenoble Street Art Festival in France. Photo by Andrea Berlese



A Colossal


Artist Cat Enamel Pins