Do you remember the old commercials from the 1980’s “War on Drugs”? The screen would display an egg: This is your brain. A pair of hands would crack the egg into a hot frying pan: This is your brain on drugs. And the ominous voiceover: Any questions?
When I decided to do “your brain on Surrealism”, I thought about some of the qualities that many of the 20th Century Surrealists’ works had in common. Of course there is a dreamlike, unreal subject. Many of us immediately think of the proto-pop and op images of Dali and Magritte. These had clear recognizable subjects and objects arranged in odd dreamlike arrangements. However some of the surrealists were far more abstract – people like Tanguy and thought-leader Max Ernst.
So what is it that hits the eye and makes these surrealists so identifiably Surrealist? One factor that I’ve noticed is the handling of light and shadow. With the exception of Dali the light in Surrealist Paintings is often diffused or it seems to come from nowhere in particular or in directions that don’t quite reconcile with more realistic styles. Some of this may have been due to subjects that were too unreal to use models or plein air approaches to observe the light – they were basically ray tracing in their imaginations. I believe a lot of it was an essential and purposeful component of a dreamlike scene and state.
These odd Surrealist light and shadows, oddly articulated and abstracted naturalistic forms and other subtle features are used in the drawing to make a connection with the Surrealists. This is what Surrealism does to your brain, folks! Any Questions?
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