Ex Machina

A fter seeing Alex Garland’s debut film ›Ex_Machina‹ I was so thrilled, that I decided to draw a fan artwork. It’s as much a homage to Garland as to the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, who’s painting ›Margarethe Stonborough-Wittgenstein, (1905)‹ built the basis for my own work. The painting is shown in the movie as an allusion to Ludwig Wittgenstein, who’s being referenced a few times throughout the movie.

Title: ›Ex_Machina‹
Status: private project
Medium: illustration
Tech. spec.: 4200 × 7200 px, 13:7, 600 dpi, 16 Bit
Year: MMXV

›Margarethe Stonborough-Wittgenstein‹ by Gustav Klimt, 1905


Although Ava is an artificial intelligence, she does have an artistic side and demonstrates it several times in the movie. Unfortunately her results always tend to look mechanical and constructed, lacking an organic element, and so they feel a little strange to humans. In order simulate this uncanny feeling, and to set the end result apart from a picture perfect reproduction of a Japanese ukiyo-e print, I added outlandish elements like glitches, digital artifacts & halftone printing patterns. This way I could subtly highlight the digital nature of the artwork.

You can create your own Ava styled portrait via  Ava-Sessions.


I was striving for a printed, aged and worn look inspired by traditional Japanese woodcuts from Utagawa Hiroshige. At the same time, I tried to stay close to Klimt’s composition and choice of colours. Instead of his common swirls and ornaments, I found printed circuit boards (PCB) to be more appropriate as decorative elements for a robot-themed illustration. Even though Ava’s creator Nathan uses a memory gel for her ›Wetware‹ brain, I guess he would still have some use for common PCB’s. In any case, I think they capture the idea of an artificial interface and look beautiful.

Ava’s original dress from the movie, was designed by the Italian fashion designer Giambattista Valli for his Spring 2013 ready-to-wear collection. If the creators of the movie wouldn’t already have picked out a perfect and contemporary dress for Ava, I probably would have gone for something similar. Margarethe’s dress in Klimt’s painting felt a little antiquated to me.

Instead of writing my own little haiku, I decided to use one of the two official taglines as a typographic element in my work, because I find it to be very aphoristic: »To erase the line between man and machine is to obscure the line between men and gods«. Even though the typography shows parallels to the social marketing campaign by Watson Design Group, this typographic treatment is common in my work.

The title “Ex Machina” was set in the font ›Kolo‹, created by the American type designer Paul Shaw, and is a display font specifically designed for Art-Nouveau-period graphics. Shaw got his inspirations from the lettering of the members of the Secession, Vienna’s turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau movement, mostly from Koloman “Kolo” Moser, Gustav Klimt and Alfred Roller. It seemed to be an apt and obvious choice to me.


I leave you with some full resolution close-ups of the original, showing you some of the finer details hidden in the illustration.