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These Alien Glass Paintings Hide An Awesome Optical Illusion Inside

Inspired by underwater creatures, Wilfried Grootens is a master of trapping seemingly 3-D aliens in cubist glass aquariums.

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Inspired by micro-organisms, anemones, and undersea plants, German glass painter Wilfried Grootens is such a master of his craft that by simply turning one of his cubic paintings to the side, the “three-dimensional” creations trapped inside completely disappear.

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The effect is remarkable, even if it’s an optical illusion. To create his cubist glass paintings, Grootens paints dots, lines, tendrils, and swirls upon dozens of panes of laminated glass. When sandwiched together, the combined paintings take on the appearance of a cubic aquarium, inside of which a beautiful, phosphorescent organism of alien origins floats and glows. But since Grootens paints only on the surface of each layer, the painting disappears when you look at it from the perspective of the cube’s cross-section. It’s a beautiful, slightly surreal effect that only underlines his mastery of his chosen craft.

Grootens has been painting glass since he was 15, when he first became an apprentice at the Deric Company in Germany. There, he learned to restore antique stained-glass windows. When he left at the age of 19, Grootens opted to tour the world, visiting Asia and South America before he eventually returned to his youthful passion for glass. Since 1989, he has been creating extraordinary glass paintings out of his studio in the northwestern German town of Kleve, close to the Dutch border.

If you’d like to see one of Grootens’s glass paintings for yourself, his work will be on display at the upcoming SOFA Expo Chicago through Habitat Galleries, starting this Thursday, November 5.

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