We all know what space aliens look like. They have green complexions, huge craniums, massive almond eyes and tiny, lipless mouths. William R Leigh forged this image for Cosmopolitan in 1907 as an illustration for a thoughtful article by HG Wells about life on Mars and it has since informed the alien abduction dreams of many a Texan farmer, as well as creeping into our visual vernacular via Camden Town cyber-punk paraphernalia.
Since the major disappointment that Mars does not, in fact, harbour advanced alien life forms (or indeed, amoeba-level life forms), illustrators and graphic artists are no longer earnestly imagining what alien life might really look like. Instead, they are using the genre’s only rule that space is a good blank canvas to let their imaginations run free.
In a new exhibition of modern science fiction art we see geodesic domes floating beside abstract ducks, mathematical pi kicking its heels up on a space platform, and a rocket in a back garden with a cockerel weather vane on its nose.
The Future Past exhibition, soon to open in Brighton, will include the work of Sam Chivers and Sam Williams, who belong to design group Magic Torch, which has created illustrations for New Scientist magazine. Fellow exhibitor Rhys Wootton specialises in gig posters, having created comic strip-inspired graphics for psychedelic rock bands such as Acid Mothers Temple.
The three artists are part of Brighton-based illustration collective Brag, as is the fourth exhibitor, Jemma Treweek, who brings a rare feminine take on sci-fi.