20TH CENTURY EXPRESSIONS VI: SURREALISM Ingres, Bather of Valpincon, 1808 Man Ray, Violon d’Ingres (Ingres’ violin), silver nitrate print with drawing in indian ink, 1924, 31 x 24cm Surrealism started as a literary movement, founded by the poet Andre Breton in 1924 in Paris. Many artists from the Dada movement went on to become Surrealists. Surrealism is not united by a common style, but rather describes a certain philosophy which the group agreed to, more or less. Some artists (e.g Picasso) exhibited with the Surrealists on occasion, but never officially joined the group. Others were identified by the Surrealist group as ‘Surrealist’ even though they had had nothing to do with the group as such… the Surrealists ‘adopted’ them because they found their work inspirational. The disquieting muses, oil on canvas 107 x 76cm, originally 1914, self forgery 1947 >>> Giorgio de Chirico, (Italian 1888-1978) The Red Tower, oil on canvas, 73 x 100cm, 1913. Sigmund Freud (Austrian, 1856-1939) & psychoanalysis Breton had studied psychiatry himself, and had dealt with traumatised soldiers during WW1. They were effectively insane. However they created amazing artworks. His First Surrealism Manifesto (1924) defined Surrealism as “…psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express--verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner--the actual functioning of thought. Dictation of thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.” (Breton, 1924.) Neurologist Sigmund Freud’s groundbreaking ideas about the unconscious arrived at the turn of the 20th century. He taught that dreams held the key to our unconscious desires and feelings, which normally we ‘repress’ and are unaware of, as we find them unacceptable. Dreams are some kind of gateway to our deepest and truest selves. Freud believed sex was the driving force behind much of our lives, even if we are totally unaware of it. Rene Magritte, (Belgian,1898-1967) The False Mirror, oil on canvas, 1928, 54 x 80cm Art that looked inward instead of outward to the world of everyday life was part of the Romantic tradition – ( a while ago we talked about Symbolism in this tradition.) Other movements involved in an emphasis on the subjective, the emotional and the spiritual include Expressionism (1900-1920 or so, especially in Germany.) Max Beckmann, The Night, 1919 Oscar Kokoschka, Pieta, poster for a play, 1909 Victor Brauner, (Romania, 1903-1966) Loup-table (Wolf-table), table and fox parts, 1939-47 Surrealism followed in this Romantic tradition. Unlike Dada, which said: ‘the world’s gone mad and we’re going to reflect that’, the Surrealists said: ‘the supposedly rational, reasonable world is mad because it’s lost touch with its unconscious self. This self holds a hidden reality which seems mad, but is actually more real.’ They were interested in connecting with this apparently mad but actually more real place. They used various techniques to access this inner reality. Techniques to harness the ‘inner reality’… Automatism is a technique we saw in Dada, and it was used extensively in Surrealism. The idea is that our conscious, rational, thinking self – which censors what we think and say - is put on hold, and words are written or spoken, or lines drawn or painted, without allowing yourself to stop to think. A trance-like or hypnotic state may be involved. (Editing of some sort may be done later.)This is a very different approach from say, Impressionism which was a more scientific observation of light and life; or Cubism, which again referenced the real world in a studied and careful manner. The aim was to get in touch with the unconscious which was a rich source of creativity and liberation. Automatic drawing: Andre Masson, (French, 1896-1987), Battle of the fishes, chalk, charcoal, crayon and oil on paper, 1927, 48 x 60cm Games of chance (as in Dada) were also used extensively, e.g. Exquisite Corpse. Surrealists cultivated the ‘unexpected encounter’, which would shock the viewer – not in a moral sense necessarily, but in the sense of not expecting the association of, or treatment of, certain objects. This ‘disordering’of the senses may lead to new ways of thinking and being. Andre Breton, Tristan Tzara, & Greta Knutson, Landscape: exquisite corpse, c. 1933, coloured pencil on paper, 24 x 31cm Art making techniques Frottage: drawing on a support ( a canvas or piece of paper), which is itself laying over a textured surface. Rubbing or drawing over the support brings the contours of the underneath surface through onto the canvas or paper. The idea behind this technique is that the artist cannot rationally control the outcome. There is a transformation; an entry into new imagery. Max Ernst, Conjugal diamonds, frottage, 1926, 49cm x 32cm Collage. The Cubists used collage to smash the ‘window on the world’ illusion and draw attention to the surface of an artwork. They used text in a new way, using it as a formal element, as well as a visual joke. The Dadaists used collage to make political statements as well as nonsensical ones. Surrealism was interested in challenging the rational, usual way of looking at things; using accidental arrangements of objects, or images that may have been dreamt or perhaps come up through automatism; or deliberately odd juxtapositions. Max Ernst, A Week of Kindness... or The Seven Capital Elements, collage novel, 1922. Found objects… This assemblage of objects was a new genre of artmaking: called ‘the Surrealist Object”,not quite sculpture, but a gathering or 3D collage of ‘unreconcilable’ objects (Leslie, 1997,p. 80.) They were not put together for aesthetic, or formal values but for some other, less tangible value…something symbolic perhaps. These objects that were brought together already existed in the world, and this was significant. It was a different approach from the traditional idea of artist as the creator of images through ‘manipulation of materials’ (Leslie, p. 82.) Joan Miro, (Spanish 1893-1983), Object, assemblage, 81 x 30 x 26, 1936 Rayograph Man Ray, Rayograph,(photogram) 1922, 23x 17cm Man Ray, Rayograph,(photogram) 1923-8, 19 x 15cm Another art-making technique which deliberately forgoes total control of the outcome. Unlike a normal photo, a photogram (which Ray called ‘Rayographs’) is unique. Objects are placed onto photographic (that is, light sensitive) paper. Light is more or less blocked to the paper, depending upon the density and thickness of the object and where the light is coming from. There are therefore unknown quantities involved, as well as deliberate juxtaposing of odd or mysterious objects on the paper. Art the Surrealists liked… • Art of the insane; • Children’s art; • ‘Primitive’ art, especially that of Oceania (Pacific islands) (but in a different way from Picasso…) Why would the Surrealists be Likely to be attracted to art created by these groups? New Guinea war hook, mid 20th Century, wood and pigments, 66 x 32 x 9cm Resources Metropolitan Museum of Art Timeline Essay: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/surr/hd_surr.htm Guggenheim Museum online: http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collectiononline/show-full/piece/?search=Surrealism&page=1&f=Movement&cr=7 Centre Pompidou: http://www.centrepompidou.fr/education/ressources/ens-surrealistarten/ens-surrealistart-en.htm#origins Miami Cade College: http://www.mdc.edu/wolfson/academic/ArtsLetters/art_philosophy/Humanities/Surrealism/Surr ealism.htm First Surrealist Manifesto, by Andre Breton 1924: http://wikilivres.info/wiki/Surrealist_Manifesto Automatism: http://www.moma.org/collection/theme.php?theme_id=10947 Examining the exam… Q: The artworks in plates 4 and 5 were exhibited together at an exhibition called Encounters: New art from old at the National Gallery, London in 2000. Using the subjective frame, compare Cy Twombly’s series of three paintings with Turner’s work. Plate 4: Cy Twombly, (b. 1928, USA.) Three studies from the Temeraire, 1998–1999. Three panels, oil on canvas, Left panel, 253.5 cm × 202.5 cm; Centre panel, 261.3 cm × 202.5 cm; Right panel, 260.3 cm × 195.5 cm Plate 5: Joseph Mallard William Turner, (1775-1851, Britain), The fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up 1838, 1839. Oil on canvas, 90.7 cm × 121.6 cm, National Gallery, London.
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