The early 1920s art movement of surrealism was founded by Andre Breton, a French writer. Compared to other art groups or movements, surrealism focused on evoking the unconscious in painting. Members of this group showed immense importance in illustrating a “more profound reality revealed by the unconscious mind. ” Most of the surrealists have unusual portrayal of images in their paintings. They create visuals that go “beyond mere painting to reach a new level of reality. ” This extraordinary approach in creating a provocative image is derived from the surrealists’ dreams.
The products of their subconscious mind combined with the concept of “enigma or mystery” have been their inspiration in producing eccentric but remarkable masterpieces (Artbeyondsight. com). One of the famous Surrealist painters who is well-known for his bizarre ideas and eccentric behaviors was Salvador Dali. Most of his artworks became and integral part in the advancement of the Surrealist aesthetic. His main objective was to “materialize images of concrete irrationality with the most imperialist fury of precision. More so, Dali’s paintings illustrated dream-like images but these were treated with precision and fine details that made the viewers enter a hallucinatory landscape. Dali named these paintings with dream and fantasy theme as “hand-painted dream photographs. ”
In these artworks, unusual placement of images and the modification of a specific form into another completely new form were evident. Because of this composition, it appears that most of Dali’s paintings defy the principle of Physics. He created images that represented the “irrational and unpredictable world of the dream” (Artbeyondsight. om). In the painting Persistence of Memory, Dali presented the unusual images of melted watches. Dali said that the elements present in this particular painting are “nothing else, but the Camembert cheese of space and time; tender, outlandish, solitary and critical-paranoiac” (3d-dali. com, 2008). This painting can be classified as a landscape painting, a self portrait or a still-life painting. It all depends on the viewers’ perception and knowledge on how to understand and interpret the painting.
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In terms of the visual elements exhibited, the background is a beach landscape while the foreground consists of the strange images of three melted pocket watches, the rectangular box and an animal-like creature. The unusual objects created a mysterious effect while the realistic lighting and coloring added a realness factor to the painting. At first glance, these may all seem meaningless and peculiar but if viewers would look closely and try to find out the rationale for putting these elements together, they could get a better grasp of understanding of the paintings and the inner workings of Dali’s mind.
According to Robert Bradford, the bare, hard outline of the cliffs and the crystal light of the sky are there, but the empty, desert-like expanses of the painting are much closer to the topography of the min, to a dreamscape. The viewer’s anxiety is fermented precisely through the lack of clues of distance, of recognizable landmark, of time of day, of temperature-it could equally be as hot, or as cold as an unknown planet. We are in an arena of silence, a frozen nightmare, in which nothing moves or make a noise. (p. 146)
Overall, the Persistence of Memory is an artwork that takes the viewers into a very interesting world wherein they are transported from the predictable realm of reality to a place filled with ambiguity and peculiarity. The techniques in coloring and brush strokes employed by Dali were conventional but it is the compositional aspects that stand out are the placement and the choice of objects displayed in the painting. This painting ingeniously juxtaposed the real with the make believe which are the primary characteristics of Surrealism.
3d-dali.com. (2008). Salavador Dali Painitngs. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://www.3d-dali.com/dali_paintings_analysis_interpretation.htm
Artbeyondsight.com. (n.d.). Salvador Dali and Surrealism. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://www.artbeyondsight.org/ahtts/dali-read.shtml
Radford, R. (1997). Dali. London: Phaidon Press Ltd.
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