Saturday, September 05, 2020

Wild Dreamer - Salvador Dali


Inside the studios of the world’s greatest artists

Yayoi Kusama. Picture: Alex Majoli
Yayoi Kusama. Picture: Alex Majoli

The studio has long been the artist’s inner sanctum – a place where masterpieces are made, away from prying eyes and the distractions of the outside world. But what really goes on behind closed doors? A new collection gives a tantalising insight into the private realms of the most acclaimed artists of the past century. Each of them is photographed surrounded by works in progress and the tools and detritus of their trade. Among them are a wheelchair-bound Frida Kahlo, consumed by her work in the months before her death; a typically eccentric Salvador Dali with his celebrated In Voluptas Mors human sculpture; and Francis Bacon, a strong contender for the world’s messiest workspace award.

Who Was Salvador Dalí?

From an early age, Salvador Dalí was encouraged to practice his art, and he would eventually go on to study at an academy in Madrid. In the 1920s, he went to Paris and began interacting with artists such as Pablo PicassoRené Magritteand Miró, which led to Dalí's first Surrealist phase. He is perhaps best known for his 1931 painting The Persistence of Memory, showing melting clocks in a landscape setting. The rise of fascist leader Francisco Franco in Spain led to the artist's expulsion from the Surrealist movement, but that didn't stop him from painting.

Dreamers Awake: The Women Of Surrealism Are Fighting Back

Dreamers Awake’ is a sublime exploration of ‘woman’, showcasing at the White Cube, London. Drawing together the works of more than fifty artists including Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois, Lee Miller and Sarah Lucas, the exhibition critiques and transcends the canon of Surrealist art.

‘The problem of woman is the most marvellous and disturbing problem in the world’ stated Surrealist painter André Breton. Her body is the ultimate subject of masculine desire and fantasy; a space of both conflicting anxiety and pleasure. Feminist studies of psychoanalysis have observed the violence that has been enacted upon the female form in art, photography and cinema; she is decapitated, distorted, trussed up. Focused shots of her titillating breasts, thighs and torso dismember her. Surrealist artists were drawn repeatedly to the figure of Venus de Milo – her armless, headless body appears in the works of Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali and Max Ernst as a symbol of sexual energy and power. Often woman morphs into object such as a chair or table – furniture is favourable. Dali used seven nude female bodies In Voluptus Mors in 1951 – these disjointed, writhing women in their sinister skull shape capture the misgiving lust of the artist.

Salvador Dali In Voluptus Mors (1951)

‘Is it any wonder we have gone to pieces?’ muses Mary Ann Caws from the White Cube wall. Lee Miller’s horrific Untitled (1930) features the bloodied breasts of a mastectomy patient presented on a plate with a napkin and a knife and fork. Serving a subversive societal critique, Miller reflects on the mutilation done to women’s bodies and identities through seeing them only for their sexual attributes. The faceless stomach and vagina of L'Origine du monde (1866) by Gustave Courbet goes through a metaphormosis at the hands of Rosemarie Trockel who paints in a deadly looking tarantula instead of pubic hair. The women of Surrealism are fighting back.

‘I warn you, I refuse to be an object’, Leonora Carrington declares. Woman-object is parodied in the work of Linder Sterling: It’s the Buzz, Cock! (1977) – a greased, soft porn body is decapitated with an electric iron. This satirised symbol of domestic drudgery and glamour became a famous image in alternative pop culture when it was printed on the sleeve of the Buzzcock’s 1977 album Orgasm Addict. Surrealism’s manipulation of the familiar everyday into unfamiliar and alienating comes as a useful tool for feminists. Artists are able to ‘make strange’ taken-for-granted structures; alluding to how oppressive gender roles are surreal in their own right. Sterling’s monstrous collage in its Viking helmet and cheeky-lipped nipples acts as a portrait of gendered ideals.

Wild Afghanistani

The Afghan herbalist who claims to have a ‘cure’ for COVID-19 Al Jazeera. Resilc: “Will he make it to Fox News and the White House next?”