Surrealism

The first brief of second year is called ‘Conjoined’ and is within the module Alternative Techniques. It centres on the technique of photomontage which is defined as:

‘a combination of several photographs joined together for artistic effect or to show more of the subject than can be shown in a single photograph.’

This is often utilised within surreal imagery and fine art photography as is it an interesting way to explore the unknown and impossible scenarios. Surrealism is a way of ‘unleashing the subconscious imagination.’ The movement was launched in Paris in 1924 and was heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud and his theories on the unconscious mind. Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Max Ernst were key artists of the movement.

the-face-of-war
The Face of War, Salvador Dali, 1941

Dali’s 1941 work, ‘The Face of War’ is an interesting example of montage and surreal work. Dali was heavily influenced by death and horror within the work, writing in his diary, ‘not a single minute of my life passes without the sublime Catholic, apostolic, and Roman specter of death accompanying me even in the least important of my most subtle and capricious fantasies.’ The work involves many faces set into the eye sockets and mouth of other faces, all looking vaguely skull-like. This work could be interpreted in many ways but the main themes are obviously death, horror and war itself. The dark colours also point to darker themes as there isn’t much variation within the tones.

Edouard Manet’s work, The Balcony, has been interpreted by Rene Magritte in a way that inspires many interesting concepts. In Magritte’s version, the figures have been replaced by coffins, creating an interesting paradox between life and death. The work could be considered ‘macabre’ which is defined as:

‘involving death or violence in a way that is strange, frightening, or unpleasant.’

In artwork, the macabre is an interesting theme to explore as it focuses on the unpleasant. Death and mortality are popular themes within art because there are many ways to comprehend it, whether it be seen as dark and scary, an inevitability or even a blessing. This can then include religious interpretation which is much more ambiguous, especially across separate religions.

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