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Gritty Cyberpunk Illustrations From a Dystopian City of the Future

Canadian artists Nivanh Chanthara and Fred Rambaud built the dystopian "Babiru" universe from digital illustrations.

Nathaniel Ainley

Nathaniel Ainley

From the breakdown lane of an abandoned highway, an introspective biker in a tactical suit looks across a cascading urban sprawl in one of the many enrapturing landscapes of Babiru, a speculative post-apocalyptic universe created by digital artists Nivanh Chanthara and Fred Rambaud. Babiru was a collaborative side project for the two illustrators, a fictional world and storyline developed through a series of digitally constructed illustrations. It resembles the grim dystopian futures dreamed up by South African–Canadian film director Neill Blomkamp in films like District 9 and Elysium. The project plays with themes like mass surveillance, militarized police enforcement, and, well, trash.

Babiru is set in a massively over congested slum riddled with robotic vehicles, armed insurgents, and relics of industry. The densely populated and polluted cityscapes appear to be influenced by cyberpunk and Japanese manga, as well as science fiction movies like Blade Runner and The Matrix. The complexity of Babiru's sweeping metropolis allows the artist to embed each scene with an incredible amount of detail, captivating the viewer and making each scene feel that much more real.

The two artists stopped producing new Babiru works in 2014 and have since focused on solo careers. Chanthara works as an illustrator for Eidos-Montreal, doing work for companies like Media Right Capital, Revision Military, Dreamworks, 20th Century Fox, and Adult Swim.

This month, he's been creating a lot of standalone portraits of a futuristic undead horde. "Photobashing" is his preferred method of digital illustration, and it involves manipulating individual photos and merging them together to create a final piece. In each of his new photobashed portraits, Chanthara acknowledges Japanese manga artist Tsutomu Nihei as a major influence on the work. Over the last two decades, Nihei's creations have developed a cult following through a number of television shows, art books, and one-off commissions.

Check out more of Chanthara's digital portraits below:

Click here to learn more about the Babiru project, and check out more works by Nivanh Chanthara on Instagram. Learn more about Fred Rambaud on his website.

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