Art for Interiors: Surrealism

by Lisa Doherty 15. August 2018 20:58

How many Surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A Fish

Not all of us like conventional or traditional art. Some people may want something a little different, something quirky, that gets them thinking and talking. This is where Surrealist art can be a great alternative, it’s weird, whacky and sometimes a little bit bonkers.

Of course, when we think of Surrealism we immediately think of Salvador Dali, but there’s more to this art movement than you’d imagine, and it’s also a great style to hang in the home.

What is Surrealism?

Brace yourself, we’re about to get Metaphysical and Freudian.

The earliest form of Surrealism can be seen in the work of Italian artist, Giorgio De Chirico. He painted dreamlike scenes that had a sense of the otherworldly, or Metaphysical. De Chirico’s paintings were loaded with symbolism and fused with references to psychology, as well as the Greek myths; as you can imagine, they had a profound influence on the Surrealist artists, who were mainly, Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, and the most famous of all, Salvador Dali.

Alongside De Chirico, the surrealists were also heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud. His book, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ outlined his belief that dreams were driven by the unconscious mind and represented deeper meaning. He felt they were full of symbolism, as well as open to interpretation and analysis to help understand an individual’s state of mind.

Freud’s theories helped shape the themes and content for Surrealist art - think Dali’s melting clocks. Combine De Chirico’s enigmatic spaces with the power and strangeness of dreams, and you have the source of Surrealist inspiration, as well as a deeper understanding of what they attempt to capture in their art.

Capturing dreams

Although Surrealist paintings capture a dream-state, they’re not just random scenes, far from it. This art is loaded with symbolism and meaning and is very carefully thought out, which is slightly contradictory to the chaos and unpredictable strangeness of dreams.

This movement, however, did want to capture the essence of dreams in all its jumbled, surreal state, leaving it open to psychological interpretation. At a time when therapy and psychoanalysis were becoming increasingly mainstream, Surrealist art certainly captured that moment in time.

In fact, Freudian analysis was so popular, Salvador Dali worked with Alfred Hitchcock on his film, Spellbound, to create the iconic dream sequence with Gregory Peck.

There were artists, though, that did want to capture the immediacy and unpredictability of the subconscious mind, such as Jean Arp, who’s automatic drawings, or automatism, were spontaneous works of art where the hand was allowed to move randomly and freely across the paper or canvas.

 

 

Weird and wonderful

There is also another strain of Surrealism that questions accepted norms and standards. Dali questioned why a telephone meant telephone, and why he wasn’t handed a Lobster instead. Basically, he was questioning language and human understanding.

This element of challenging human understanding has become a very popular strain of Surrealism. It can make for humorous and entertaining art. This is probably the most popular form, as it can be nonsensical and easier to ‘read’ than a more complex Surrealist painting that is loaded with symbolism.

Leading artists

As it is a popular style, there are still many artists producing Surreal works of art. Spencer Derry is an artist whose work combines Surrealism and automatic drawings to produce complex and detailed results. 

Neil Helmsley is a digital artist who uses this new medium to create dreamlike, haunting images. Digital art enables artists to create more imaginative and experimental works, and something Salvador Dali would have probably used if he were alive now.

Janette Boskett creates landscapes and still lifes with a surreal twist. Painted in a style similar to Rene Magritte, she takes the everyday and plays on the use of language to create lighthearted paintings that amuse and entertain.   

The term Surrealism covers such a broad range of art that there are paintings to suit every taste, style and budget. It can range from being lighthearted to very serious and conceptual, which means it can be hung anywhere in a home.

Like Dali, Surrealism does like to show off, so make sure that, wherever you decide to hang it, it’s always front and centre to grab people’s attention. As one of the most famous art movements, some people may feel that Surrealism is a little dated and unfashionable; looking at what’s being created by artists in the present day, we’d say this was far from true.

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Art History | Buying Art


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