How Art Creates Parallel Universes

Every artist paints a window to another world
4 min readMay 2, 2022


Mondrian dresses by Yves Saint Laurent shown with a Mondrian painting in 1966.

Imagine parallel universes everywhere. It’s easy if you try. Just look at a Mondrian as if you’re looking through a window, hanging on the wall. Imagine that the lines stretch out beyond and behind the frame. Such is the expanse of the imagination. Such is the experience you can get looking at art. It’s like looking into a (literally) parallel universe.

Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red, 1937–1942, Piet Mondrian

In a sense this is what every artist does. They paint windows to other universes. While everyone imagines in their wet brains, an artist lets the paint dry upon the wall. If you sit in a gallery and trip on it, you can actually fall into those worlds, emotionally if not physically.

Claude Monet and Camille Lefèvre, Nymphéas [Water Lilies] Gallery, first room, facing east wall, c. 1914–26, mixed media, 40 7/10 x 67 4/5 in. (12.40 x 20.65 m), Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. Photo credit: Sophie Crépy. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. (Rutgers)

In this sense every art gallery is like a spaceship, careening through a multiverse. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

What Amari Bakari said about Alexander Dumas applies, I think, to art in general. Bakari said “Dumas’s power lay in his skill at creating an entirely different world organically connected to this one.” He was describing Afro-Surrealism, but my argument here is that this is a general property of art and, increasingly, the artificial.

“Creating an entirely different world organically connected to this one…”

Bouquet of hands in Indonesia, via

When you look at this 10,000+ year old ‘bouquet of hands’, you can see the hands of our ancestors, reaching out to us as if through a foggy window. They touch us from ‘an entirely different world organically connected to this one’. Quite literally. We only have a sense of the dates because “accelerator mass spectrometry has been used on paintings that contain organic materials.”



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at