Post-Apocalyptic Visions: 5 Artistic Renderings and Foreboding Harbingers of the End of the World

Humanity has long been obsessed by the end of the world. What will the apocalypse be like? Will it happen during our own lifetimes? Will the Earth be rendered a barren dystopia or will it cease to exist completely and, if so, will it all happen in 2012 as some people think? Thankfully, we can never know for sure, and as grim prophesy and countless harbingers of disaster have remained harmlessly unfulfilled, we can turn our attention to the more creative side of the world’s end. These images reflect the artist’s personal take on the post-apocalyptic realm as cities are devoured and time takes its toll on the ruins of our world (via Photoshop, that is). Meanwhile, mysterious figures that appear and disappear abruptly depict the Guardians of Time with the power to protect or destroy.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

(Images: Kenn Brown of Mondolithic Studios, featured on WorldWithoutUs.com)

In 2007, American journalist Alan Weisman’s New York Times bestseller The World Without Us examined the environmental impacts of human disappearance. Described as “one of the grandest thought experiments of our time”, Weisman’s study – illustrated by Kenn Brown of Mondolithic Studios – led to a History Channel documentary called Life After People and considered how long man-made structures would survive and how remaining lifeforms would evolve in a post-human world. Find out more.

Digital Disaster Art by Steve McGhee

(Images: Steve McGhee, all rights reserved, reproduced with permission)

Canadian artist Steve McGhee takes the idea of destruction as a form of creation to a whole new level. For him, “inspiration comes from the epicenter of the horrific and the heavenly in equal measure.” The internet abounds with post-apocalyptic visions and artistically shattered worlds. McGhee’s work demonstrates the events leading up to such dystopia, as planes crash to earth, earthquakes and vast whirlpools devour great ships, and tidal waves wash away entire cities. There’s echoes of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah but, thankfully, only in McGhee’s vivid imagination – so far. Find out more.

The Time Guards by Manfred Kielnhofer

(Images: Manfred Kielnhofer, via kielnhofer.at/press)

According to mythology and contemporary science fiction, the Guardians of Time were an esoteric band of time travellers charged with watching humanity and intervening at key points in our history. Not exactly post-apocalyptic visions in and of themselves, they nevertheless have been likened to gods with the power to protect or destroy. Austrian artist Manfred Kielnhofer brought brought the myth to life with his Time Guards installation. Wearing hooded robes to resemble monks or wandering druids, Kielnhofer’s Time Guards have a habit of appearing suddenly in public places one day and vanishing the next. The artist refuses to disclose his personal thoughts about the life-sized figures, which light-up at night, preferring to leave any interpretation to the individual. Find out more.

The End of the World by Christophe Dessaigne

(Images: copyright of Christophe Dessaigne)

In these visions of a post-apocalyptic dystopia, digital artist Christophe Dessaigne depicts the last dawn at the end of the world. The central figure is a lone survivor picking his way through the towering monuments – both physical and metaphorical – of humanity. Dessaigne’s website explains: “His creations are open doors to fantastic and dreamy horizons where digital photography serves the fanciful imagery of surrealist photomontages. His universes are desolate, vast and insubstantial. Gigantic scaled structures rule the landscapes, dwarfing human beings to the size of ants.” Find out more.

The Last Supper by Albert Szukalski

(Image: mexican 2000, cc-sa-3.0a200/a77Wells, cc-3.0)

Nevada’s Mojave Desert is home to one of the Old West’s most mysterious art installations. The ominously named Last Supper, created by a group of Belgian artists who travelled from Europe to Death Valley in 1984 to seek inspiration from the desert, features a collection of giant, ghostly figures dressed in white robes. Closely resembling Manfred Kielnhofer’s Time Guards, the figures may not be post-apocalyptic themselves, but their situation in this foreboding landscape and location at the address of an abandoned settlement – “Near the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada” – make them an eerie and intriguing attraction that wouldn’t look out of place in a ruined world. Find out more.

Keep reading – explore 5 Isolated and Abandoned Settlements at the Ends of the Earth.

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