The Visual Artists Who Shaped The Work Of J.G. Ballard

Illustration for article titled The Visual Artists Who Shaped The Work Of J.G. Ballard

Everybody acknowledges the huge influence that writer J.G. Ballard continues to have on science fiction and our visions of the future — but we don't pay enough attention to one of Ballard's own main influences. Over in The Arts Desk, there's a great look at the visual artists who influenced Ballard.

Above is the poster for a pop art exhibition that Ballard visited in 1956 called This Is Tomorrow, which had a huge impact on his visual sensibility as a writer. Ballard himself organized a museum exhibition of crashed cars, called Crashed Cars, in 1970, causing a huge scandal — and this led to his novel Crash a few years later. The Art Desk adds:

More directly, Tacita Dean's 2013 film JG explored Ballard's fascination with artist Robert Smithson, and was inspired by her correspondence with the writer in his last years. Their letters explored the connections between Smithson's great earthwork Spiral Jetty, 1970, built on the north-eastern shore of Utah's Great Salt Lake, and Ballard's short story The Voices of Time, published 10 years earlier, in which the main character builds a mandala in a dried saline landscape. The collection featuring this story was found among Smithson's belongings after his death in a plane crash in 1973. Like Ballard, Smithson was fascinated by the idea of entropy, and Ballard was in turn fascinated by Spiral Jetty, though Ballard's twin obsessions encompassed psychological as well as environmental disintegration.


As the article points out, quoting Martin Amis' obituary, Ballard wasn't particularly oriented towards dialogue or character — instead, he was remorselessly visual. He was influenced by a generation of visual artists, and in turn he influenced a generation that followed.

The whole thing is well worth reading. [The Arts Desk]


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I was hoping the article would mention David Pelham, and Ballard's enthusiastic collaborations with him... the bold but simple design of that poster really seems similar to Pelham's Ballard covers.

Here's an interesting article from Pelham's perspective, where he mentions their first meeting:

"[W]hat struck me most was that, throughout the high-octane exchanges, Paolozzi – an extremely widely read man – would repeatedly attempt to swing the conversation around to literature. But Ballard would have none of it, constantly and ingeniously manoeuvring the conversation back to the visual arts. So much so that I got the sense that, not only did Ballard find Eduardo's work as stimulating as I did, but he also left me with the distinct impression that he would rather have been a painter than a writer. Thankfully he never abandoned the typewriter for the paintbrush."