Yesterday I was introduced to surrealism. Now, of course, I’ve known about the surrealist art movement and have long been familiar with artists such as Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, and Max Ernst. Honestly, I don’t care much for surrealist art. For the most part, I’ve shrugged it off and overlooked it as part of my art studies. Why turn my time and attention to an art form that I don’t intend to pursue?
I don’t have a good answer. But I do have a new book — well, a used one, actually — titled Surrealist Book of Games, and so, here I am ready to play along with the masters of this mind-bending genre.
How did this happen? What stars crossed themselves up in my art heavens to decree that I should begin exploring something so far afield of my personal aesthetics? Why did I purchase this book, and why am I willing to follow along?
I guess in large part I just want to see where this all might lead me. Maybe I can chalk this up to my personal “art therapy” program whereby I’m getting in touch with a lot of deep-down, long-buried feelings. Naturally I’m curious about what might emerge from the hidden depths of my sub-conscious.
Here, for starters, is my first somewhat surrealistic painting, although it didn’t actually start out to be that at all. It began as another Sketchbook Revival project, and then evolved into this colorful — meaningless — combination of shapes and scribbles:
One of the most important things I’ve taken away from the Sketchbook Revival event is that our sketchbooks are not sacred tomes. They’re more like playgrounds, places where we can run as fast as we can, fall and skin our knees, get into arguments with any big bully who tries to shove us down, and climb to the top of the monkey bars to get a better view of the world.
A sketchbook is a place for games, for crazy experiments, for slow, meditative art, or for lightning-quick blitzkrieg art relays. I now have a growing collection of very personal sketchbooks, not ones I’ve bought at any art supply store, but ones I’ve made, ones that do truly reflect who I am as an artist. This, more than anything, is helping me come to terms with the process of art journaling, learning to see it not so much as a means of preserving memories and special moments but as a method of self-discovery, both as an artist and as a woman.
Much of the Sketchbook Revival emphasis was on intuitive art, and I’ve written on the topic before. Through the various workshops offered, participants could explore many different meanings and interpretations for intuitive art. Surrealism is one of the ways in which we can approach this inner muse.
I’m not going too far into the history of surrealism here, just far enough to share these basic ideas:
Surrealism was a cultural movement which developed in Europe in the aftermath of World War I. The movement is best known for its visual artworks and writings and the juxtaposition of distant realities to activate the unconscious mind through the imagery. Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes, sometimes with photographic precision, creating strange creatures from everyday objects, and developing painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. Its aim was, according to leader Andre Breton, to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality, or surreality. — From: Wikipedia
Surrealism, by the way, was not — is not — limited to visual arts, but can be found in literature, films, photography, music, and dance. There’s much to be learned, and it is interesting, indeed.
For me, surrealism will be a lot about colors, about shapes, about taking things apart and putting them back together. I do think that working with personal surrealism can be helpful to any artist, and what I mean by that term is a process of creation not with conscious intent but by following the promptings of our subconscious. Only then can we explore the colors and the images and — perhaps — find that they do have meaning for us. It’s an experience of interpreting our own hidden selves, at least that’s how I’m seeing it.
So, yup. I’ve got book in hand, and I’m ready to play a few surrealist games. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I think this could be very enlightening.