The Garden Of Emoji Delights: A Hellishly Modern Remix Of Bosch’s Masterpiece

A non-biblical narrative about the creation of consumer culture, and the peril’s of modern temptation, awaits.

Hieronymus Bosch’s surreal triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights takes us from creation to damnation in an epic warning of just how humanity’s hedonistic compulsions can drive them out of a very nice garden to a place where monstrous creatures claw at your flesh and musical instruments are being jammed into your orifices. That is, if you want to get biblical about it (interpretations vary).


In a contemporary rethinking of the iconic 16th century work, artist Carla Gannis tells a modern narrative of humanity’s misadventures–with emojis. Lots and lots of emojis.

The amount of detail in The Garden of Emoji Delights is almost nauseating (and best viewed in full-screen). Consciously recalling Takashi Murakami’s Superflat cartoon aesthetics, Gannis has painstakingly re-imagined and animated every little detail of the oil painting using a very finite alphabet of message icons, as well as Photoshop, After Effects, Scultptris, DAZ 3D and the help of her studio assistant, Rafia Santana.

In this animation detail shared with Co.Labs, we see the opulence of Eden translated into flat, very digital, yet still Boschian hills. Little “space invader” icons swarm over the “rainbow.” Then, the background shifts, nature giving way to industrial cityscapes of smoking factory pipes and bridges.

There are also planes crashing, cute little syringes and pills collecting in piles and toilets, guns, CDs and flags swirling in patterns. A theme emerges–religious sins have been replaced with contemporary hieroglyphs of consumer culture.

In Gannis’s artist catalog essay “Digicalyptic Realities Or, The Frolic of the Flat,” Sabin Bors explains: “Bosch’s controversies are intensified here, especially in the case of the digitally animated triptych, while references to Murakami’s Superflat aesthetics are ‘corrupted’ by the visually distinct digital fabrics. As with Murakami, the flattened forms in the work of Carla Gannis are an expression of the shallowness that defines consumer culture. They, too, reflect the consumerist pop culture, sexual fetishisms and underlying desires that are prevalent in today’s society by appealing to distorted images and grotesque scenes impregnated with the jolly yet most often empty emotionality we’ve become so accustomed to using in our daily expressions. Digital creatures engaged in apparently sinful pleasures mimic what has become of our communication through text messages and social media. This flat visual language no longer expresses the conflict of one’s actual presence, as the Emoji promiscuity of happy sinners translates our growing inability to relate to one another. The deeper the gaze within the Emoji Garden, the darker the digital horrors and the bleaker our understanding of time, history, culture, and the other.”

The Garden of Emoji Delights is on view at the Kasia Kay Gallery in Chicago.

About the author

Brooklyn based curator, writer and reporter.