Queer and Queerer: Surrealism

This is the third and final part of a three part series that focusses on the oddities of art and literature. This third segment deals with an irrational form of art. Read on to know more…  

People love mystery, and that’s why they love paintings. The most popular works of art have been painstakingly analysed and discussed to come to a conclusion on what the artist was trying to express. But what if the art is so mind-numbingly illogical that all we can do is speculate? Welcome to the revolution that is surrealism.

Sigmund Freud implored artists to explore the unconscious state of mind.

Post World War I, artists across the world felt an upheaving sentiment against rationale and socio-political issues. Led by the French writer-poet Andre Breton, art took a turn for the irrational. Most of what surrealist art had become were based on the findings of Sigmund Freud. He was a reputed Austrian Neurologist who performed intensive psychoanalysis and dream-work to soldiers suffering from shell shock. His in-depth analysis on unconsciousness is where surrealists drew their inspiration.

In Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto of 1924 he defined it to be-

Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.

There is always the element of surprise when it comes to surrealism. In this world 2 and 2 does not add up to 4. Elements not generally found together could be combined in a single canvas to produce illogical and startling effects. On studying the works of stalwarts such as Salvador Dalí we see how far artists are willing to distance themselves from the rational world. Consider his most famous work of art, The Persistence Of Memory (1931).

The Persistence Of Memory

Critics first regarded the melting timepieces as a testament to the relativity of space and time brought out by Albert Einstein. However Dalí refuted this by saying the actual inspiration was the melting of Camembert Cheese in the hot afternoon sun. These artists constantly dangle a carrot of reason in front of you and snigger as you jump to catch it.

This is definitely not a pipe.

Another classic example is René Magritte’s- The Treachery of Images (1929). The cryptic sentence at the bottom translates to “This is not a pipe.”.  As absurd as it sounds what he intends to proclaim is that the painting is not a pipe, but rather an image of a pipe.

Over the years surrealism changed from the idea of liberation of thought to that of political change. The backdrop of the World War only intensified their voice with Surrealism soon becoming synonymous with communism.

One can summarise this unique manifestation of art by quoting Salvador Dalí- “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” 

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Sudharshan

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Hey, Sudharshan here. I'm a first year college student studying Instrumentation and Control Engineering at NIT Trichy.
Writing is a passion of mine and I'm at home when it comes to the things I love such as music, cinema and society. Apart from being an avid reader and writer, I'm the kind of guy who would try my hand at anything. A hardcore music junkie, I listen to everything from Pink Floyd to The Foo Fighters. In other news, I also play the guitar and love playing basketball. Debating and MUN-ing are two other things I can never get enough of.
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About Sudharshan

Hey, Sudharshan here. I'm a first year college student studying Instrumentation and Control Engineering at NIT Trichy. Writing is a passion of mine and I'm at home when it comes to the things I love such as music, cinema and society. Apart from being an avid reader and writer, I'm the kind of guy who would try my hand at anything. A hardcore music junkie, I listen to everything from Pink Floyd to The Foo Fighters. In other news, I also play the guitar and love playing basketball. Debating and MUN-ing are two other things I can never get enough of. I'm just a click away, so ping me- I'd love to say hi!