Melbourne based concept artist, Alex Ries has created a science fiction universe which is detailed, complicated and very well thought out- not to mention illustrated with breath-taking clarity and vivid perfection. Each illustration tells a magnificent story, set in a science fiction realm where every second is a constant and brutal struggle for life, exploration and sustainability. But perhaps the most amazing thing about his works is the careful attention to the backstory of the creatures he has created. These are not just illustrations, but brief, snapshot views into a deeply developed and complicated world, which has come to be the way it is due to evolutionary circumstances. Concept art for Alex Ries is not just about getting an image across, but communicating the full knowledge and understanding of another universe.
Perhaps one of the most defining characteristics in Ries’s creations, is that most of the time they are hexapodal (six legged) which gives them somewhat insect like qualities. But it is the clever fusion between their strangeness and their similarity to human beings which makes the characters so captivating.
The Birrin are a complex and long running society and we as viewers can relate to them through their similarities to human culture. These creatures adorn themselves, have vices like drug and cigarette addiction, struggle through unemployment, war, and societal difficulties just as we do, which forces the viewer to put themselves in line with these strange creatures and confront the fact that human beings are in fact no less weird than the shoe wearing, cigarette smoking, horse shaped insect in front of them.
Besides lively and complex characters, Ries also has a knack for creating comprehensive and stunning worlds with sprawling alien landscapes or epic space territories which tell as much of a story as the characters that inhabit them. In the world of the Birrin, the viewer is treated to evidence of their long and difficult trudge through the evolutionary timeline. Their complex society is illustrated to show efforts to build a thriving and secure society with protected cities that boast magnificent statues, as protectors of the species’ history.
Even the accomplishments of the species are celebrated in these illustrations, where we can see the Birrin’s efforts at becoming a space faring species in a dangerous universe, which mirrors our own human attempts to constantly push the boundaries of new frontiers and explore the possibilities of the cosmos.
What I find most striking about all of these images is their ability to hold a looking glass up to the viewer. Each scene, in one way or another shows very human conflicts like the need for food, work, security and reproduction, being tackled by a race which is far removed from our bipedal, tool wielding forms; the Birrin still have to solve these problems by what we would consider to be very human methods.
Ries’s genuine interest in biology shows through in all of his carefully laid out illustrations and this strongly adds to the realism in these quasi-surreal settings. The world he has built is extensive and ever growing without any sign of slowing, which is great news for long time followers and fresh discoverers of his work; and so we can happily be sure that there is more to come.
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