In Large-Scale Installations, Sam Wilde Imagines a Post-Natural Future in Lurid Color


#climate crisis
#public art
#Sam Wilde

January 11, 2024

Kate Mothes

“Pollution Palace,” (2023), Zhuhai, China. All images © Sam Wilde, shared with permission

“For generations, we have been taught to bear the responsibility of keeping nature in its most untouched and purest form, but try as we might, Pandora’s box has been opened,” says London-based artist and designer Sam Wilde. His striking illustrations and public artworks portray an imagined world “where we just let everything go awry.”

Wilde, who as an undergraduate studied biology and conservation, is gripped by the realities of the climate crisis and the human impact on the planet. The British countryside, for example, famous for its verdant bucolic vistas, is rife with invasive and non-native flora and fauna. Due to agriculture, industry, and other human interventions, the vast majority of the U.K. has no true natural landscape at all.

“I think with maturity, I began to understand that, for the most-part, we each as individuals are all doing the best we can to look after the planet,” Wilde tells Colossal. “And ultimately, the blame lies in the macro—and not the micro choices—we each make day-to-day.”

Employing a lurid array of uncanny shapes like glowing flowers or mutated fruits, Wilde considers an alternate future when the environment as we know it has entirely vanished. He upends the concept of natural beauty by considering the artificial instead, “framing the question: could there be a kind of punk beauty to that?” he says. In two major public artworks, “Pollution Palace” and “Cat’s Charade,” both commissioned for municipalities in China, he envisions worlds turned upside-down where reality seems at odds with one’s surroundings.


A public art installation at night in a square in Zhuhai, China, of two abstract fruit-like inflatable sculptures in bright colors.

“Pollution Palace” at night

Wilde is fascinated by the way we perceive beauty or pleasure and how the brain doesn’t distinguish a hierarchy between artificial and natural objects. He says:

It’s hard to articulate, but if we, say, look at a lava lamp, it feels enchanting and visually appealing and fires up our synapses with endorphins. And then by the same stroke, if we look at a big beautiful juicy melon, on a neurochemical level, it’s no doubt the same nervous system pathways being activated by that visual stimulation… And that’s what I’m trying to evoke with my works, stripping out the judgement/fear/anxiety around the manmade,and just for a moment escaping into a world where manmade and nature are one of the same.

In “Cat’s Charade,” inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, vibrant patterns redolent of radioactive flowers and a giant feline installed on top of a building instill a sense of delirium.  And in “Pollution Palace,” monumental inflatable sculptures shaped like hybrid pineapples and leggy blooms glow preternaturally at night. The installation takes as a starting point the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in the garden of Eden, reframing that knowledge as a tension between the organic and the human-made.

Wilde experiments with different techniques and types of projects, which range from watercolor paintings to digital illustration to textile designs. Explore more of his work on his website and Behance, and follow him on Instagram for updates.


A large, inflatable sculpture of an unusually-colored cat on top of a building in Wuhan, China.

“Cat’s Charade”

Two images side-by-side. The image on the left shows an inflatable public art sculpture of a lurid colored fruit-like shape. The image on the right shows a figure in a bright outfit walking in front of a brightly-colored floral patterned wall.

Left: “Pollution Palace” at night. Right: Installation view of “Cat’s Charade” (2023), Whuan, China

An illustration for a textile design featuring uncanny flowers and fruit-like shapes in bright colors on a green background.

“Hubris Tree: Evergreen” (2019)

A digital illustration on a tablet photographed next to the artist's hand on top of a number of watercolor paintings in progress.

Work in progress for “Hubris Tree” (2019)

A public art installation in a square in Zhuhai, China, of a large inflatable abstract flower sculpture in bright colors.

“Pollution Palace”

A public art installation in a square in Zhuhai, China, of a large inflatable abstract pineapple-like sculpture in bright colors.

“Pollution Palace”

Watercolor drawings of fruits and flowers in bright colors, sitting nearly on a tabletop with a small container of paints.

Work in progress for “Hubris Tree”

#climate crisis
#public art
#Sam Wilde


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