Salvador Dali’s depiction of melting clocks and Max Ernst’s jarring mechanical elephants have come to define the surrealist movement, becoming time-tested icons of a fundamental cultural movement.
Artwork within the movement often involves dreamlike and/or bizarre imagery, inconsistent with conventional painting techniques. As a visual movement, juxtaposition and the nature of abstract representation alongside the ordinary aim to extend these images ‘beyond reality.’
The emergence of the original surrealist movement is attributed to Parisian, André Breton. Indeed, as a surrealist poet and writer, Breton’s 1924 Surrealist Manifesto is largely regarded to encompass the entire spirit of the movement:
“Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner — the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.”
Such works of art were to draw upon psychoanalysis, free association and the crucial value of the dreamlike over perceived reality. Crucially, the struggle between the conscious and the unconscious mind was prevalent to the surrealist artist, who must use it to create
Surrealism, as a significant cultural movement, is considered by many to have ended in 1945 as the world, post-World War II, descended into chaos. While art historian Sarane Alexandrian asserts, ‘the death of André Breton in 1966 marked the end of Surrealism as an organised movement,’ there is little consensus as to when the movement, if it truly did, end. However, many contemporary artists continue the legacy of surrealism, the likes of some who will be discussed below. While there is no denying that Surrealism does not hold the same momentum as it did in it’s golden age, it would be unrealistic to claim that the movement has been completely laid to rest.
Drawing on abstract imagery and forms, Essenhigh’s work are highly emotive and thought provoking. I’ll admit that glancing upon her work for the first time,
London based painter Amy Judd’s work juxtaposes the female form with elements such as flowers, feathers or birds. Such aspects serve to obscure the model’s face, thus creating an air of mystery and intrigue.
Russian born Vladimir Kush’s surrealist paintings are often mistakenly cited as Dali’s work, largely due to their similar painting techniques and landscape features. After a quick glance several motifs within Kush’s work become apparent: wings, seascapes and natural imagery that exudes life. Furthermore, it becomes apparent that Kush is a storyteller. If every single painting was to be placed together, one subconsciously begins to construct a story within their own mind. To me, I imagine a world very different to ours- one that has ships with flowers for sails, where butterflies appear to be sentient over human beings and the landscape is an entity within itself. No doubt, Kush has drawn upon his dreams and subconscious mind to depict his own reality.