A video game made entirely of paint: Step into Julius Hofmann’s glitchy universe

The Göttigen-based artist brings painting into dialogue with contemporary technology, blending classical techniques with the unique aesthetics of early CGI.

20 March 2023


It’s not hard to see why video games provide such inspiration for creatives. As a child, it can often be one of the earliest forms of artistry and design they’re regularly exposed to – whether they recognise it at the time or not. At It’s Nice That, we're big fans of projects that capture the essence of video games passed, and last year we collated a few of our favourite game-themed projects. Now, there’s another that’s crashed right onto the list – Julius Hofmann’s early CGI-inspired paintings.

With angular, block shaped characters that mirror the listlessness of non-playable characters, interesting use of depth perception and a restrained colour palette defined by dark, earthy colours (as opposed to the occasional flash of purple), Julius has created a universe that wouldn’t go amiss in the screen of a vintage games console. The world perfectly replicates the DIY feel and glitchy visuals that came with the hardware restrictions of games from the 1990s.

As a child living in a quiet village in Western Germany, Julius says he was into “all kinds of CGI” whether that be because of video games or playing on his computer. This was also combined with a passion for drawing, but Julius says he “rarely imagined being talented enough to go into art making”. However, this all changed when Julius was attending a graphic design school. Becoming “fed up” with the idea of working in a commercial sector like advertising, Julius decided to return to his love of analogue creative methods. Encouraged by a number of his teachers, he took the plunge to become a full-time artist – “this is the first time in my life I felt true ambition,” Julius adds.


Julius Hofmann: Vater (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)

When he first immersed himself in the world of painting, Julius didn’t entirely let go of his feelings of mistrust and frustration towards the state of a commercial, capital-driven society. Instead, he channelled these feelings into his artwork. Not only providing him with solace (Julius tells us that he finds the physical act of painting “a sort of meditation”), he also observes art to be “one of the last spiritual leftovers which bring comforting solace in today’s world of empty consumerism and technological worship”. He continues: “I have a misanthropic and nihilistic inclination, and it’s got worse over time – but fortunately, anger is an exceptional driving force!”

This desperation at the state of society visually translates into Julius' dark and at points unsettling world building. Playing on the ways in which popular video games – like Grand Theft Auto and The Last of Us – create convincingly lawless and apocalyptic societies, Julius aimed to replicate their “desolate and drab” realms. An explosion occurs at a power station, a gas masked figure smashes windows, and – in true video game fashion – multiple stand-offs occur from the doors of souped-up cars. Julius’ paintings aren’t entirely gloomy, however, and to ensure some moments of comic relief he will always try to include “at least 10 per cent irony and sarcasm for comic relief”. For instance, in a spray painting scene, one of the hooded figure’s bums pokes out from low-slung trousers, and one painting depicts a fluffy white poodle – the relevance of such a cutesy image within Julius’ wider narrative remaining entirely unclear.


Julius Hofmann: Xtinct (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)


Julius Hofmann: Mystery Dogs (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)


Julius Hofmann: Milano (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)


Julius Hofmann: #Blessed (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)


Julius Hofmann: Oahh (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)


Julius Hofmann: Foxey (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)


Julius Hofmann: Pain Elemental (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)


Julius Hofmann: Die Tennisspielerin (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)


Julius Hofmann: Sherben (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)

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Julius Hofmann: Strepemes (Copyright @ Julius Hofmann, 2023)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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