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What are the Art Genres/Movements that Inspire Murals?

This is a non-comprehensive list of art genres/movements that you may see reflected in public art pieces. We will be adding to this list over time. These definitions have been compiled by our mural curator, Amber Santos.

You may notice that a category we used to have has disappeared. We no longer list “historical” as a genre because we feel the genre is not inclusive of all histories. We have also observed that historical art is more often than not a sub-category of other artistic movements, such as the photorealism movement.

Minimalism mural
Minimalism Example

Minimalism or minimalist art can be seen as extending the abstract idea that art should have its own reality and not be an imitation of some other thing. We usually think of art as representing an aspect of the real world (a landscape, a person, or even a tin of soup!) or reflecting an experience such as an emotion or feeling. With minimalism, no attempt is made to represent an outside reality, the artist wants the viewer to respond only to what is in front of them. Pictured is Cassie Suche’s mural “Vanishing Point” in Nelson. 

Surrealism mural
Surrealism Example

Artists paint unnerving, illogical scenes, sometimes with photographic precision, creating strange creatures from everyday objects, and developing painting techniques that allow the unconscious to express itself. This style comes from the surrealist cultural movement which developed in Europe in the aftermath of World War I and was largely influenced by Dada. Pictured is Kelly Shpeley’s mural “Rare Bird” in Nelson. 

Abstract mural
Abstract Example

Breaking away from depicting traditional objects, forms, and figures, artists use color, texture, and gestural marks to create a piece that is not based on a recognizable image. Many art movements have abstract tendencies, such as abstract expressionism, Bauhaus, and color field painting to name a few. Pictured is Andrew Tavukciyan’s mural “Untitled Abstraction” in Nelson. 

Text / Fonts mural
Text / Fonts Example

The art of hand lettering, font design, and letters as art. Pictured is Alex Fowke’s mural “Manifest” in Nelson. 

Futurism and cubism
Futurism / Cubism Example

Cubism used geometric shapes to break down natural and human forms. Futurist painting used elements of neo-impressionism and cubism to create compositions that expressed the idea of the dynamism, the energy, and movement of modern life. Pictured is a mural by Priscilla Yu in Rutland. 

landscape mural
Landscape Example

Depicts natural elements such as lakes, mountains, rivers, trees, and natural scenery. Pictured is Jessa Gilbert’s mural “Ymir Peak” in Nelson. 

Symbolism mural
Symbolism Example

A late nineteenth-century movement that advocated for the expression of an idea over the realistic description of the natural world. Symbolism is to convey the hidden meaning to the reader or listener. It tells us about artistic expression and represents abstract ideas. Pictured is Sheldon Pierre Louis’s mural “NKw?ast – Deep Water” in Nelson.

Photorealism mural
Photorealism Example

Photorealism is a genre of art that encompasses painting, drawing and other graphic media, in which an artist studies a photograph and then attempts to reproduce the image as realistically as possible in another medium. Pictured is Toner’s mural “Nelson Spotlight” in Nelson. 

Impressionism mural
Impressionism Example

Impressionism was developed in Paris from the early 1860s. Characterized by quick and broken brushstrokes. Artists captured their impressions of nature with a focus on the subjective. Pictured is Emily Gray’s mural “Cycle Mural” in Vancouver. 

Style writing graffiti
Style Writing Example

An intricate and complex style of writing that started in NYC during the hip hop movement, using spraypaint to execute. Pictured is “Graffiti by Bacon” in Nelson. 

Trompe L'Oeil Mural
Trompe L'Oeil Example

Trompe-l’œil is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. Forced perspective is a comparable illusion in architecture. Pictured is “Heart of the Community” by Tyler Toews in Nelson. 

Pop Art Mural
Pop Art Example

Pop Art’s refreshing reintroduction of identifiable imagery, drawn from media and popular culture, was a major shift in the direction of modernism. With roots in Neo-Dada and other movements that questioned the very definition of “art” itself, Pop was birthed in the United Kingdom in the 1950s amidst a postwar socio-political climate. Pictured is a mural by Taka Sudo in Rutland. 

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