Surrealism was founded by poet Andre Breton in Paris in the year of 1924. Surrealism’s main philosophy was to expand one’s mind and knowledge of the outside world living within us. Surrealism also wanted to liberate our inner and outer views of ourselves, verbal use of words, and personal experiences. Breton studied medicine and psychiatry which had led him to be interested in the dream producing unconscious mind. Breton believed that dreams were a source of artistic creativity that led us to creating interesting ways of expressing our inner consciousness.
This art movement was intended to be seen as an exclusive way of exploring one’s minds apart from societies mainstream norms. Surrealist wanted to create something more hyper-realistic leading to certain dreamscapes or hallucinatory state interpretations. Surrealist wanted to create the dream process as something realistic while loving its own automatism. I feel that this art movement gives many artists the freedom to express their inner (unconscious/conscious) and dreamlike thoughts (wishes and dreams) while creating our own beginning and end to it.
Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column, 1944.
Medium: Oil on Masonite
Frida Kahlo’s broken column self-portrait relates to her childhood health and accident she suffered. Kahlo painted this piece after the bus she was on collided with an ongoing car. Kahlo was seriously injured due to a handrail from the bus piercing her through her hip. This accident resulted in leaving Kahlo with a full body cast while at the Red Cross Hospital in Mexico City. In addition, Kahlo ended up having spinal surgery a while after her accident; hence the column inside of Kahlo in her art piece. During her recuperation she also had to remain in a metallic corset which helped Kahlo lighten some of the excruciating pain.
Kahlo’s attaches emotional and mental feelings to this piece not only connecting it with her conscious but while representing a fearless one as well. Kahlo stands straight with a big, lonely, and cracked landscape behind her. She stands with an Ionic column as her spinal cord which also seems to be slowly collapsing. The metal belts lined with fabric are mainly providing the pressure and support for her back in order to prevent her from collapsing. Her spinal cord (ionic column) is a representation of the accident itself that she will never forget due to it affecting her psychologically and physically.
Although, the pain she felt over the past few months is not seen in this image, her strong and defiant facial expression can easily be observed. Though, this image portrays breakage due to a tragic event Kahlo remains keen to her inner self. Kahlo’s main goal was to portray her own self in her work being that she was always mostly by herself and she was what she knew best. I can definitely relate to that because most of our lifetime (including my life) we will spend more time with our own inner selves. We are what we know best when it comes to our own unusual mental process of our conscious. As stated by Bernstein, Penner, and Roy, “Consciousness is generally defined as awareness of your thoughts, actions, feelings, sensations, perceptions, and other mental processes.”
“I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.” – Frida Kahlo
Sung Soo Lim, Attacking Ted Bear, 2005
Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Sung Soo Lim’s art piece depicts today’s world that has undergone discrimination, lies, betrayal and dishonesty. His piece connects with our reality in how we see our own reality. I can say that the giant teddy bear attacking the city portrays an image of distrust that our society holds. Seeing that there are two more civilians dressed as teddy bears while holding the bears head around their arms shows societies true identity which they intend to show with no shame. Lim’s use of comic characters in his piece depict the disrespect and crookedness that society has embraced.
Suppression is shown in his image which may relate with society not complying with citizen’s choices and decisions at times of need and refuses to show their injustices. Lim’s image also shows destruction, while it seems that a giant teddy bear is hypnotizing or brainwashing the civilian’s in town. Lim’s intertwined illusions can be seen as a blueprint for distraction and/or even as a function of control. Lim’s use of comic characters can also be defined in many ways. The main reason this image caught my eye and felt the need to research more was due to the fact that I personally see this teddy bear as a controlling substance in our society. Being that the teddy bear is seen as a ‘controlling substance’ reminded me of the expectations that society has of us.
Society expects us to act and look a certain way and if we do not comply with society’s expectations than we do not fit their norm. Which is why this image inspired me a lot and I hope it inspires some of you. In addition, we are to not be told what and how we are expected to look and act- that is why society views everyone’s equality as an unrelated issue that I feel is still yet to be fixed. Our own dreams and consciousness are the things that can stimulate us to escape reality and express ourselves however we prefer. As stated on Google Arts and Culture by a critic, “The new series shows Lim took a direction to smooth and engage, departing from the aggressive and defiant attitudes that he used to take in order to escape from the complicated real world.”
Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 1931
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory shows hallucinatory and surreal cultural norms. This Spanish artist used oil on canvas to create this significant image. It stimulates something out of the ordinary and yet something that resembles to the artist himself. You can see lipid and soggy watches draped over the scenery connotating the time of this dreamscape. There are ants filled in the gold watch as if they were eating human flesh (at the bottom left corner of his image). While the image is to be seen as a dream like landscape, the sand is shown as a deep and dark shadow most likely resembling Dali’s dark moments in life.
There is also a flesh looking object in the middle of the canvas, it looks like a wrinkly face with a closed eye, yet with large lashes. His work portrays the importance of time filled with so much detail. Dali’s goal was to destabilize society’s political and cultural norms in which he used surrealist and dream like captivating objects in his image. I like the way that Dali depicts society with dream like visions because it reminds me that not everything is to be seen as ‘normal.’ Something that really struck me about Dali’s work was his darkest moments he experienced in life.
Surprisingly, Dali had been named after his older brother Salvador. Though, his older brother had passed away nine months before Dali was born. Unfortunately, Dali’s parents believed that he was the reincarnation of his brother Salvador. Therefore, Dali felt that his parents had more love for his brother’s memory. Dali’s mothers had died from cancer and his father later married his mother’s sister. Later Dali’s painting “Sometimes I Spit with Pleasure on the Portrait of my Mother (The Sacred Heart)” was recognized by his father and grew anger towards his son and expelled him from the family. When reading about Dali’s family events it made me connect to his work in many ways. Dali portrayed a strong view in his beliefs and out of the world ideas in his works.