Salvador Dalí in 600 words
Bringing the unconscious dream to the conscious with a paintbrush.
Dreams are known to be elusive. Immeasurable, frequently forgotten and hard to capture, the unsupervised fantasy of the imagination is allowed a tiny window during sleep to manifest itself in a completely ungoverned world, free of conscious rationality and self-reflection that bound us to the principles we moderate our thoughts and behaviour by. Our everyday security blanket of an ordered and understandable world governed by laws, time and physics have no such place in the world of dreams. It’s this, the limitless realm of sub-consciousness, that holds the creative potential of the human mind, lending itself fittingly to one of the most imaginative art forms of the 20th century: Surrealism.
Abstract, off the wall and anything but conventional, our ordered perception of the world is mixed up into a realm absent of proportion and scale; think upside down skies, oceans within oceans, endless juxtapositions and morphing objects. Surrealism exposes the creativity of our subconscious, but to unlock this creative potential Surrealism needs an experimenter, an explorer to venture between the conscious and subconscious, and then draw on them through art. Clues? Jet black hair, a wildly eccentric persona and a Spanish moustache only the most free-thinking of imaginations could concoct…your guess by now must be pretty on the money. That’s right, the great Salvador Dalí.
Born in 1904, Dalí became one of the most renowned artists to have ever lived. His abstract interpretation of the world made him extremely distinctive in what was then, a traditional and conformist art world. With painting skills attributed to Renaissance masters and a mind which could fit seamlessly into any modern day art context, Dalí possessed traits far beyond his years. Heavily influenced by dreams and the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud, dreams became an astounding source of inspiration in his work, forming the core ingredients of two of his best known works: “The Persistence of Memory” and “Dream caused by the flight of a bee.”
The counter artwork of the first piece, “The Disintegration of persistence of memory,” represents the idea that when we dream time does not exist, and if there is no passage of time there is no past to remember, or have memories of. Thus, the persistence of memory disintegrates and fades away. The significance Dalí attaches to this concept of dreams made it an increasingly indispensable source to his success. Dalí’s vivid and bizarre imagery was achieved by meandering between the conscious and subconscious by waking himself up the moment he fell asleep to capture and paint his visions. Other techniques include self-induced hallucinations, used to enter imaginative states in order to channel his creativity into art. And it was this fascination, of how art can be created from a world so dissimilar to our real life but so similar to our dreams, that guided Dalí towards the peak of his career.
It’s a rare fascination to see an artist immerse himself in different levels of consciousness in order to pursue such an elusive state of mind. Moreover, he not only used his altered consciousness and dream-like states to inspire him when making art, he also used it to contribute to films, such as the famous dream sequence he was commissioned to design for Alfred Hitchcock’s American thriller ‘Spellbound’. In addition his Freudian-inspired and dream-like motifs translated well into three dimensional luxury design, from fashion, jewellery to furniture. Collaboration between Dalí and renowned fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli produced a collection of four pieces: the Lobster Dress, Skeleton Dress, Tears Dress and the Shoe Hat. Avant-garde fashion and surreal artistry go hand in hand here and back in Dalí’s heyday, his mastery of capturing dreams through art rendered his craft multidisciplinary.
A true pioneer of the artistic representation of psychoanalysis, and an innovator of art and design — not mentioning the eccentric persona and a moustache only advocates of Movember can dream of, Dalí really is the true master of the imagination.