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'Upside-down’ street art creates a stunning optical illusion

Optical illusion mural
(Image credit: Marijampolė Tourist Information Centre)

At first glance, it looks like the ultimate street art faux-pas – the artist has only gone and painted their mural upside-down (we've all done it). But if the conditions are right, it becomes delightfully clear that this mural in Lithuania is in fact a brilliant optical illusion.

The design, currently doing the rounds on Reddit, appears the correct way up when reflected in the water below. On a sunny day, it looks like swimmers, swans and whales are all enjoying a dip – and the artist wants it to look different every time it's viewed in person. Looking for more inspiration? Check out our roundup of the best optical illusions.

mural_painted_upside_down_for_reflection from r/DesignPorn

With over 11k upvotes on Reddit's r/DesignPorn (opens in new tab) page, the mural by New York artist Ray Bartkus is enjoying renewed attention online – though it frequently pops up on social media. "This has got to be one of the most brilliant pieces of street art there is," one Redditor comments, while another adds, "How marvellous! This is seriously great."

Titled The Floating World, the mural was created by Bartkus in 2015, and is located on the side of an old dam building in Marijampolė, Lithuania. According to the town's tourist centre website (opens in new tab), "depending on weather conditions, the reflection is rippled or clear, and sometimes disappears completely. The Artist expects that each time passerby will find something new. This piece of art is like a life – different every time."

Optical illusion mural

Bartkus installed the mural in 2015 (Image credit: Ray Baktus)

Curiously, as many Redditors have pointed out, the particular image of the mural shared on Reddit appears to have been somewhat Photoshopped, with no ripples of water present on the reflected mural. Not that this is necessary – perhaps part of the beauty of the illusion is how the reflection changes and distorts depending on the lighting and the water.

Optical illusion mural

The reflection never looks entirely the same twice (Image credit: Ray Baktus)

We've seen plenty of awesome examples of street-based optical illusions over the last few months, from this Eiffel Tower extravaganza to Rome's 'X-Ray' building. When the lighting's just right, Bartkus's Floating World is arguably one of the coolest pieces of street art around.

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Daniel Piper
Daniel Piper

Daniel Piper is Creative Bloq’s Senior News Editor. As the brand’s Apple authority, he covers all things Mac, iPhone, iPad and the rest. He also reports on the worlds of design, branding and tech. Daniel joined Future in 2020 (an eventful year, to say the least) after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more. Outside of Future, Daniel is a global poetry slam champion and has performed at festivals including Latitude, Bestival and more. He is the author of Arbitrary and Unnecessary: The Selected Works of Daniel Piper (Selected by Daniel Piper).