The Concept of Surrealism
Surrealism began in Europe, specifically France, in the 1920’s after World War I and before the start of the Second World War. Times were tough; people were of course happy to be out of war, but the state of things had not much improved since. An air of rightfully felt gloom hung about, and people sensed the overhanging emotions of despair and misplacement in the world. The war was over, but something was still not right. Innocent people were still oppressed, a select few continued to hold power over all others, and the economy was a constant enemy.
Artists sought an outlet for this societal induction of emotional chaos and so turned to an exploration of the subconscious. They began a struggle against what was considered real, logical, and normal. The movement started with literary art such as poetry, lyrics, and literature using train of thought tactics called “automatic writing” --free writing without the boundaries of structured thinking. Once this creative strategy increased in popularity, visual artists started to use it with other artistic mediums, giving surrealism a stereotypical relation to painting especially. Artists such as Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, André Masson, and René Magritte introduced the public to a world where the lines of reality, the subconscious, and the dream world were vague if existent at all. It was a deliberate defiance of reason and regularity, a contradiction to the traditional artistic values and methods of thinking.
It is characteristic of surrealism to present visual comparisons in plain sight such as the well-known clock melting on a tree in Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” (shown below).
It was also commonplace for these juxtapositions to occur in seemingly arbitrary or out-of-the-ordinary manner, for example a sewing machine and umbrella sitting on a dissecting table. This created a strange yet intriguing combination of visual ideas relating in an otherwise unrelated manner. An air of mystery and strangeness tends to be a central theme in this style of art. Oftentimes images were drawn completely out of scale with abstract coloration and an ever-changing sense of light and shade. Surrealism brought about the ideas that not everything that we as humans perceive is actually as it is, and that the subconscious holds secrets about the fabrication of life just waiting to be discovered.
As years went by surrealism blossomed into an incredible abstract display of the abilities and disabilities of the human mind. What was once locked inside the heads of these artists became unleashed in a creative explosion of contorted visual representations. Unusual combinations of objects and symbols came together to create an artistic synthesis of irregularities brimming with meaning and aesthetic power that contradicted the currently accepted structures of society. What many people considered bizarre and even uncomfortable became, in this context, something beautiful and awe-inspiring. It turned the public’s idea of art upside down, making a dark, foreboding manner of expression into something that the common person can relate to and respect. Feelings of hardship, struggle, and disempowerment were brought to life in a refined form of new artistry.
Surrealism is still practiced to this day and continues to develop in art from artists such as Vladimir Kush, Carrie Ann Baade, and Daniel Chiriac (shown below).
Though the style has taken on a more contemporary form and the images and beliefs alter with a changing society, the structure and concept remain true to surrealism. It seems that people will never cease to find creative ways to express their emotions, and that the human fascination with the subconscious and its imagery is nearly limitless.
Here is a link to the artist Daniel Chiriac's website where you can find some more examples of his work (It's not spam, I promise) please do check it out, his work is amazing:
Here are some more examples of surrealism below: