Posted on Leave a comment

What Is Expressionism In Art? Hint: It may include prostitutes

metropolis-george-grosz-1917

Expressionism is one of a number of art “isms from the early 20th Century. The movement developed between 1905 and the 1920s and reflecting a number of crucial themes. Artists were deeply concerned about the state of the world and modern city life.

Despite having some doubts about Modernity, artists were still captivated by the more “immoral” activities of modern life.

Later Expressionist work responded to the aftermath of World War I and its devastating effect on humanity. Most Expressionists were German, although other artists worked out of Russia, Norway, Czechoslovakia and Austria. The movement was adopted in film, music, art and architecture.

Directors like Robert Weine and Fritz Lang used Expressionism in their set design, costume and marketing.

Here’s Robert Weine’s film “The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari” from 1920. As you will see, the aesthetic of expressionism hints at darker themes, and traces of madness and illusion.

With expressionist architecture, there was a similar leaning as with film in that architects were concerned with new forms, innovation, but also a certain oddness that permeates some of the greatest works. Architects like Bruno Taut and Erich Mendelsohn also began to explore Expressionism, creating two of the most iconic works of the day.

Perhaps you are familiar with Bruno Taut’s “Glass Pavilion” from 1914 (shown below).

taut_glass_pavilion_exterior_1914

…or Erich Mendelsohn’s The Einstein Tower…

the-einstein-tower

At the turn of the century, a shift in style lead Expressionists to reject Impressionist ideas. Where Impressionism was a more optical response to art, Expressionist art became more visceral. These artists wanted to capture more than mere fleeting moments in time.

They set about placing spirituality and authenticity back into art.

With Claude Monet’s famous “Bridge Over A Pond Of Water” from 1899, we see an artist who is attempting to visually capture the essence of a place, using light and color, and is arguably the opposite of the type of more symbolic and deeply personal work that the Expressionists would explore not long after this time.

bridge-over-a-pond-of-water-lilies

This desire to look “inward” began around 1890. Post-impressionists like Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne and Vincent van Gogh questioned Impressionism’s need to only paint what they saw. Instead, they considered emotions, memories, and their background in order to connect to viewers on a deeper level.

By using colour and shape they expressed how they felt about the world around them. Paintings became more abstracted than before, and the artists started to look at the way paint was applied to the canvas surface.

Take a look at Paul Cezanne’s “Les Joueur De Cartes”, from 1892-95.

paul_cezanne_1892-95_les_joueurs_de_carte_the_card_players_60_x_73_cm_oil_on_canvas_courtauld_institute_of_art_london

So how did the Expressionists set about making their work feel more authentic? One way was to look at different cultures displayed in museums and at world fairs. Primitive art from both Oceania and Africa influenced the painting of faces and bodies.

19th-century-african-mask

Another way Expressionists made their art more “real” was by tapping into the intensity of their own emotions. Expressionism became an intensely personal body of work for these artists. Artists began to express their own reactions to the world with swirls and vigorous brush strokes.

New technology and massive urbanization altered peoples’ worldview, and the Expressionists were no exception. This migration to the larger cities brought new social problems that artists showed in their work.

 

New Schools For Artistic Expression

New schools of creative thought also emerged. Die Brücke (The Bridge) was formed in Dresden in 1905 continuing until 1913. The renowned artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner became the group’s spiritual conscience, and insisted on artists expressing their inner thoughts.

The work produced in Dresden mashed German art and Primitive African art with post-impressionist and fauvist influences.

die brucke

Other shared studios emerged in Berlin and Munich. Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider, 1911-14) was named after Kandinsky’s painting that graced the cover of the group’s manifesto. The school was established in Munich during 1911 where August Macke, Paul Klee and Franz Marc were major contributors .

These artists would become some of the most important artists of the movement.

blauereiter

New Objectivity

The third key group of Expressionists ran out of Berlin. The New Objectivity movement included Otto Dix and George Grosz who added a strong sense of Realism to their art. Their work was often satirical, commenting on wartime and post-war corruption.

This resignation and cynicism is seen in both Dix’s and Grosz’s works. Their “visual commentary” was aimed at the fruitlessness of World War I, and those who profited from the war.

Characteristics to look for:

Certain common characteristics are found across most Expressionist work. When you find yourself looking at any Expressionist work consider:

  • Expressionists were more spontaneous than other movements, and this is seen in the wildness of the brush strokes of many artists.
  • Colour – strong, vivid colours were used in much of the work, linking Expressionism to the Fauves’ use of intense colour.
  • Urban subject matter – including responses to migration, and the changes in technology and society at the time. The Expressionists has much to draw upon!
  • Objects were painted from an emotional inner sanctum. The artist drew upon this powerful emotion, often at the sacrifice of accuracy.
  • Figures and objects were often distorted and exaggerated (like that found in Oceanic and African Primitivist artefacts).
  • The importance of achieving harmony of forms was less important. Instead Expressionists concentrated on the highest intensity of expression possible
  • Swirls and the exaggeration of brush stroke create a sense of agitation. These techniques add to the vivid, jarring, distorted and exaggerated appearance of these works.
  • Extreme angles
  • Flattened forms

 

Themes -The City, Modernity and Alienation

metropolis-george-grosz-1917

The urban landscape of the early 20th Century became food for thought for some Expressionists. They started to paint their own reactions to the troubles of the modern world. These “painted social criticisms” of Modernity, highlighted the alienation of individuals who lived within the city.

This was seen in paintings by artists like George Grosz. His work commented on the social decay, alienation, and the corrupting force of Capitalism. Grosz’ paintings of prostitution for example, are visual commentaries on this social and moral decay.

 

Expressionist Works

Here is a selection of key Expressionist artists and their works. There are many great Expressionist paintings out there. Unfortunately, there are too many to show here. This is a small representative sample of different artistic styles from leading artists who worked within this movement.

Oskar Kokoschka – The Tempest (The Bride of the Wind), 1914

bride-of-the-wind-1914

(Characteristics: swirling forms, strong colour, spontaneous and exaggerated brush strokes, intensity of expression, flattening of forms)


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Deutsch: Nollendorfplatz, 1912

kirchner_ernst_ludwig_3

(Characteristics: use of colour, the city as subject, strange distorted angles, exaggeration, flattening of the space)

Also by Kirchner is “Street, Berlin” from 1913…

(Characteristics: use of vivid colour, the city as subject, dense angular forms, flattened forms, influence of primitivism, jagged strokes, urban subject matter – a Berlin Street, including prostitutes)

Emile Nolde, A Long Time

a-long-time-emil-nolde

(Characteristics: use of vivid colour, expressive vigorous brush stokes, flattened forms)


Emil Nolde, The Prophet, 1912

emil-nolde-the-prophet

(Characteristics: the use of the wood cut was often used in Expressionist work. Jagged and distorted angles, Primitivism – a mask-like face, intense emotional impact- shown in the sunken eyes and hollow face, flattened form)


Wassily Kandinsky, Munich Schwabing Church of St Ursula

munich-schwabing-with-the-church-of-st-ursula-1908

(Characteristics: vivid strong colours, jagged angles of the buildings, flattening of form, spontaneous brushwork, urban subject – the factory and modernity)


Wassily Kandinsky, Concert

wassily-kandinsky-concert

(Characteristics: Clear use of bold vibrant colours, flattened space, expression of intensity, exaggeration of brush strokes)


August Macke, St Mary’s with Houses and Chimney, 1911

st-mary-s-with-houses-and-chimney-bonn

(Characteristics: strong use of colour, urban subject matter, distortion flattened forms, angular)


August Macke, Promenade, 1913

macke_promenade_gross

(Characteristics: flattened forms, distortion, bold and vivid colours, urban setting (walking in the Gardens), swirls and exaggerated brush strokes)


Franz Marc, The Large Blue Horse, 1911

franz-marc-the-large-blue-horses-1911-1349034265_b

(Characteristics: bold vibrant colours- purples reds pinks oranges and yellows, swirling motion of brush)


George Grosz, Suicide, 1916

george-grosz-suicide-1916

(Characteristics: Urban setting (alienation of his work seen in the dead man and the prostitute), vivid strong colours, extreme angles, flattened forms, jagged jarring and distorted)


George Grosz, Explosion, 1917

george-grosz-explosion-1917

This painting is also influenced by the Italian Futurists who were trying to capture the speed and violence of the city.

(Characteristics: Urban setting, vivid strong colours, extreme angles, flattened forms, jagged jarring and distorted)


Otto Dix, Picture of the Journalist Sylvia von Hardern, 1926

portrait-of-the-journalist-sylvia-von-harden-by-otto-dix

(Characteristics: Urban subject- journalist, flattened figure, distortion(face) and Primitive mask-like quality, intense use of strong colour, exaggeration of form (hands))

Other Expressionists worth investigating include: Marc Chagall, Max Beckmann, Lionel Feininger, Paul Klee, Max Pechstein, and Czech Alfred Kubin …

Expressionism’s Power To Influence

Expressionism inspired the work of new generations of expressionists in the second half of the Twentieth Century, namely Abstract Expressionists and Neo-expressionists.

Abstract Expressionism (AbEx)

Abstract Expressionism surfaced in the USA around 1945 and was particularly strong in New York during the post war period. The emotional outpourings of the artists have often been linked to the feelings of disillusionment, and horror, experienced after two world wars.

Mark Rothko, Light Red Over Black, 1967

light-red-over-black

Characteristics & Background

  • Developed in the U.S. that had now become the centre of avant-garde art in the world.
  • included work by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, amongst others
  • lack of defined figures
  • very gestural strokes of the paint brush, linked to earlier Expressionism
  • use of colour an essential part of the work
  • divided into colour-field painters, (Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman) and the more gestural works (Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning)

Willem de Kooning, Woman I, 1952

Characteristics & Background

  • Rooted in German Expressionism and hit the world stage during the 1970s
  • Movement include US artists but also German, Italian and French artists
  • Revival of formal elements of both Expressionism and AbEx
  • Re-establishing subjectivist approach and the return to more personal expression by the artist
  • Flashy textural brush work and distorted figures re-emerge for the Expressionist movement
  • Works by Julian Schnabel and Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter and Francesco Clemente in particular

Gerhard Richter, Abstract Painting (809-4),1994

gerhard-richter-abstract-painting-809-4

Posted on Leave a comment

David Lynch’s Sons – Who Are They?

david-lynchs-son-riley

With the long-anticipated Twin Peaks Showtime reboot just around the corner (set to premiere April 2017), it seems no one can get enough of director and transcendental meditation advocate David Lynch.

david-lynchs-sons-riley-and-austin

Whether looking to attend his highly anticipated, sold-out Festival of Disruption, or merely re-watch some of their favorite movies such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive, his fans are lining up by the dozens to know more about him. But as rumors and chatter that the legend may soon retire flourish the media, his fans may wonder, who will carry on his legacy once he’s gone?

Well fear not, David Lynch has two wildly talented up-and-coming sons named Austin and Riley, both whom are film makers and just starting to make a name for themselves.

 

Riley Sweeney Lynch

david-lynchs-son-riley

Riley Sweeney Lynch is the younger of the two brothers. He was born in 1992 to David Lynch and Mary Sweeney who worked extensively together (on the original Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive, and Blue Velvet to name a few).

Riley has an active social media presence on Twitter (riley_s_lynch), vimeo (rileysweeneylynch) and Instagram (rileylynchofficial). And while you may not have seen any of Riley’s film work, he has studied and the School for the Art Institute of Chicago has made a number of short films. riley-lynch-with-vagina-picture

In February, 2013 Riley launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a then untitled film project with two of his class mates. The film was funded in 10 days and surpassed its goal of $5000 from backers all over the world.

Not much was known about what the film would entail, other than a brief description that was included on Kickstarter: “A young man is unable to recall his dreams. Losing his source of inspiration, he seeks refuge in the home of a desert dwelling woman.” The film, ‘Meanwhile, the Night,’ was unleashed to the world a few months later at a Chicago Screening in August 2013 and is now available on Vimeo for those interested to see Riley’s work.

We’ll also embed it here, if we can.

Riley is credited for his behind the scenes work for Inland Empire (2006); as well fans can expect to see Riley in the new Twin Peaks in an acting role in the premiere and has a production role for the rest of the show’s run.

Austin Jack Lynch

austin-jack-lynch

Born ten years earlier than Riley, on September 7, 1982, is his older brother Austin Jack Lynch.

He is the son of David Lynch and Mary Fisk. He is best known for known for Interview Project (2009) which he is the creator and director.

Interview Project (2009) was shot over 70 days across the United States and features brief interviews with hundreds of different Americans. He also shot a film that documented the making of Terrence Malick’s ‘The New World’ entitled Making ‘The New World’ (2006). As well, you may know him from his acting role Inland Empire (2006) as Devon Berk’s Driver. Before that he had a brief screen role in the second season of Twin Peaks (1990) as a character only called Little Boy.

His character was Mrs Tremond’s grandson.

david-lynchs-son-austin

Following in the foot steps of his younger brother, Austin created a Kickstart his film ‘Gray house’, later in 2013. His film ‘Gray House’ was much more bigger and ambitious that his younger brother’s, and Austin set a goal of $25,000 USD.

In less than a month of crowdsourcing, his film had reached his goal. According to the description on Kickstarter: “Gray House is an exploration of domestic space that frames a conversation about nature, identity, consumerism and progress.” And despite the numerous stake holders, as 2016 the film has not yet been released nor are any public updates available.

gray-house-austin-jack-lynch

Austin’s directorial style is somewhat comparable to his father’s. With a focus on narrative he provides audiences with highly empathetic characters. Austin’s films tend to be slightly less dark than his father’s. In addition to film-making Austin is an avid painter, with his interest in visual art starting in high school and continuing through college. From there he gained an interest in photography and attending classes at North Carolina School of The Arts.

The Return Of Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks fans held their breath throughout 2016. This year marked the famed 25 years later that promised Bob’s return. While everyone was hopeful that it may be a Twin Peaks relaunch, no one dared hope. However, much to everyone’s surprise, with a new run of Twin Peaks announced there will be a new generation of Twin Peaks fans and David Lynch fans.

new-twin-peaks-series

Surely his younger sons are more than fit to carry the torch and carry on David Lynch’s legacy through creating new films for this new generation of Lynch fans to enjoy. Be sure to watch out for Riley Austin in the upcoming pilot of the new Twin Peaks and be sure to keep an eye out of the release of Austin’s Gray House. These two have already shown so much potential in their lives, and with their talent the sky’s the limits.

Posted on Leave a comment

What Is Renaissance Art All About?

After the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD, there was a time for a few hundred years known as the Middle Ages. People in the Middle Ages were very conservative and restrictive, and the art reflected this attitude, in that although it depicted life, it too lacked realism and flair.
 
Or, to put it another way, middle ages art was fairly blah. Oh, doest thou contest? Behold! A typical medieval piece of art…

art-in-the-middle-ages

The Church with the capitol C began to gain power because people needed so much emotional and spiritual support, and they could get that from religion. Much of the advances in the arts and sciences, and even government, that had been made by the Greeks and Romans, were lost when those societies collapsed. Even such things as sanitation systems, which were commonplace in ancient Rome, were now just a sweet memory.
 
For this and other reasons, some referred to this period as the Dark Ages.

Indeed, if you look upon the paintings of babies that were portrayed at this dark time, you will see that they had been Humunculi, not adorable cherubs, and we assert this as one more reason that Middle Ages art is likely either to strike you blind, or cause a narcoleptic episode the second you see it.

Here is a video which attempts to explain the homeliness of babies depicted around this time period.


 

Some Say, “Did The Renaissance Really Happen?”

In the early 1300’s, a rebirth in all aspects of society was thought to have begun. It was said to be subtle at first, but then picked up speed very quickly, according to most historians. The general consensus is that people were ready to feel some joy de vivre once again, and leave the dark times behind.

After the great societies of Rome and Greece collapsed, history draws a dark curtain over the people of Europe, but now those same people wanted to regain some elements of the “good life” that those ancient cultures had experienced but had since gone away.
 
It was time for new ideas and a feeling of being positive.

This was the beginning of the Renaissance, although some have even suggested that the Renaissance didn’t even happen… like Mr. Crash Course World History himself, John Green.

Ok, so maybe the Renaissance didn’t exactly happen the way some books say, but let’s give our art professors the benefit of the doubt here for a moment. Not everything in our history books is bunk.

Any art history textbook is going to tell you the Renaissance is generally considered to have started in the southern part of the Netherlands known as Flanders, and in Florence and Venice Italy, around the years 1350 to 1400.
 
It was time to bring emotions back into every day life, and, hence, into art.

One must consider that realistic art, which included not only people but the natural space that they existed in, it didn’t come all at once. In fact, those who disagree with the concept of a “Renaissance” suggest that it was not any kind of widespread grassroots movement.
 
Rather, it actually was specifically reserved for the upper echelons of society who had the money to buy the books that taught of the ways of ancient Greeks and Romans, and spread enlightened thought through then-modern Europe.

15th-century-book-of-hours

During the 14th and 15th centuries, common folk lead their lives in much the same way as they had in centuries previous, by living according to sunrise and sunset, with no real knowledge that big changes were coming for European society as a whole.
 
Be that as it may, change was in the air, even if the average pleb wasn’t able to kick back with a glass of wine and enjoy this “Renaissance” for themselves. There were those who were in favor of it, and these were the aristocrats.

To add perspective, here is what England looked like in the 1300’s, providing us with a taste of the “feudal” system that prevailed around this time. Surely these folk were not preoccupied by too many lofty aspirations…


 

Art In The Renaissance

So, no, do not think that there was a single moment where art changed overnight from drab Gothic art to nature-filled scenes of unbridled idealism and progressive thinking. Indeed, it took a few hundred years for paintings to fully transform from the rigid rules that had been established to anything a person from 2016 might consider lively and bursting with creativity.

However, it was during the 1400’s that painters like Fra Angelico began to inject some more natural color palettes into their work, not to mention likenesses of Jesus that began to look less like squint-eyed oldsters.
 
In these decidedly subtle shifts, the Renaissance had begun, but this was no small matter to art appreciators of the time.

fra-angelico-circa-1395-1455

Humanism In The Renaissance

During this time, a new movement had cropped up called “Humanism”, which you might call the specific mindset needed to get the Renaissance rolling along. Renaissance humanism was the beginning of thinking differently about life in general, although it was actually an intellectual movement which started with the elite classes and had to “trickle down” to the common man. Still, the more people read about the Greeks and Romans, the more educated the people became in a general sense.

One of the first humanist thinkers was Petrarch, pictured below, who was quoted as saying “I’m unlike anyone I know”.

humanist-petrarch

As the Renaissance ideologies spread out across Europe, philosophers began to believe that everyone had a uniqueness and a value. Now, people thought that life could be enjoyable and they could have comforts.
 
They started to think that people should learn about art, music, and science once again, like they used to. This new information, it was decided, would make life better for everyone. This was a real change in the way people thought and this progressiveness is at the heart of what we consider to be the Renaissance.

 

The Medici Family And The Renaissance

There were many rich and powerful families in Florence, Italy at this time. Even though Europe was made up of countries with royal families who were very powerful, each city was in charge of its own future. The government was known as a city state. The Medici Family was one very powerful family living in the Florence area of Italy. Italy was divided in to city states that were controlled by wealthy families and the Medicis had the most money, so they basically controlled Florence.

704cosimo-de-medici

The government of Florence was a republic, which meant that the people elected their own leaders. There were so many rich families in Florence that they began to compete by hiring artists to create art for them. Religion was still an important theme. The Medicis were bankers and they supported the arts and the Humanism idea.

Here’s a video showing the Medici family at the height of their influence, and how they reigned over Florence at this time.


 

Education During The Renaissance

Education became very important also, and the wealthy families wanted the common people to become smarter (strange as that may sound) so those in power tried to improve the education system.

This was also a time when explorers were sent around the world to find new lands, to bring back riches that could support these new and fruitful ideas. It was a time when scientists were valued and many things were invented. This Humanist way of thinking began to spread increasingly throughout Europe, and the world was opening up. People such as Columbus, Galileo Gutenberg, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Da Vinci were all part of this movement.

Now, keep in mind, although a new way of thinking was spreading across the land, this did not always equal happiness for all. For instance, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, he didn’t arrive in America to a crowd of enthusiastic revellers who immediately spit roasted ol’ Tom Turkey and toasted to their arrival.
 
Instead, the true tale is much more lurid.

 

 

What Is Naturalism In Art?

Naturalism describes a true-to-life style which involves the representation or depiction of nature (including people) with the least possible distortion or interpretation. Naturalism is different that realism. Naturalism is concerned with the method of painting and the techniques used to make the subject look accurate. The naturalism of the Renaissance was a method of painting that elicited emotions. It was a way to represent the all people as human with all kinds of emotions no matter how much money they had. Realism came later and was concerned with the content and why certain things were in the painting.

Jacopo Tintoretto: Summer, oil on canvas, c. 1555

As was expected, life in Europe became more and more complicated. There were always groups who wanted to be in control. The Church, the State, the Royal families, the aristocracies, and even the commoners, all needed to feel worthy and wanted control over their lives.
 
The Renaissance was evolving into a time when more risks were being taken. Around the beginning of the 1600’s, the Baroque period began.

 

Begin The Baroque

Baroque is a term used to describe a period and style of art. It is used to describe paintings, sculptures, architecture, and music of that allowed much freedom of expression. The Catholic Church was being challenged. Art was representative of what was happening to the people.

The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio

The Baroque style spread to where much of the art of the time became very dramatic, full of life, colours, movement, and emotions. There was lots of action and movement in the paintings, architecture, and sculptures. Angels flew, people fought, crowds cowered in fear, and saints rose to the heavens.
 
Baroque sculptures were often made of rich materials, such as colorful marble, bronze, or even gilded with gold.

Rococo art happened at the tail end of the Baroque period when artists tried to create lots of emotions through the use of light i.e. Caravaggio was thought of as the father of Rococo and Rembrandt was thought of as the best at it.

la_tempete_sur_la_mer_de_galil126254_3

Meet famous artists and learn more about their work in the next in a series of articles on the Renaissance and Baroque art.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Dark Surrealist Art

rene-magritte-philosophers-lamp-1936-1351594454_b

The concept of dark surrealist art has been a major aspect of surrealist work from its very beginnings. Surrealism (or “above realism”) has its dark roots in the aftermath of World War I and the Dadaist’s response.

Its outlook was an anti-rational, apolitical and social response to a world that allowed a horrific disregard for humanity. Whatever the reason surrealists rejected any degree of rational explanation. Instead they embraced chaos and unconscious desires, and Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis.

Surrealists believed that the adoption of these principles would help in discovering the true world – through the unconscious mind and interpretation of dreams. So what does this mean for dark surrealist art?

max-ernst-loeil-du-silence-1943-44
The Eye of Silence, Max Ernst, 1943-44

Psychoanalytic desires and unconscious thought was central to producing surrealist art. Chaos, unconscious desires, the interpretations of dreams, our repressed desires were important to their works. These superior thoughts and processes trumped all rational thought.

No longer shackled by society and its rules, surrealists were free to tap into their unconscious and paint whatever floated to the top. The unconscious meant that artists could tap into the sexual and violent thoughts and desires that were otherwise repressed.

This often meant that works had dark surrealist themes, and overtones, in the artworks of these early painters.

Freud’s interpretation of Dreams influenced surrealist work and still does. It legitimized the use of dreams and the secrets our unconscious hold. Surrealist artists painted dark themes of fantasy, violence and desire. As a result, artists painted works that forced viewers to think, without providing them with a definitive answer.

the_persistence_of_memory
The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali, 1931

Characteristics to look for:

Certain characteristics can be found in almost all surrealist work. When engaging with dark surrealist art always consider their use of:

  • Distorted realities
  • Unexpected juxtapositions – objects at odds with others
  • Elements of surprise – objects that don’t normally align or discovery of things you don’t automatically see.
  • Dream like imagery – depiction of the world of dreams, nightmares and desires and imagination
  • Magical and instinctive elements including backgrounds and objects within the space
  • Realistic details combine in very odd and unrealistic ways
  • A blending of fleeting images for the unconscious to deliver a fantasy, just like a dream
  • Illogical uncensored thought
  • Use of spontaneous techniques like automatic drawing, frottage and decalcomania (folding painted paper surface then unfolding after adding pressure)
dali-atomicus-salvador-dali-1948
Dali Atomicus, Salvador Dali, 1948

Look also for some of the following devices:

  • Levitation – suspended objects in the space
  • Changing scale – objects presented in different scales, not possible in the rational world
  • Transparency – seeing through particular objects
  • Repetition – repeating an object in interesting ways within the space
  • Juxtaposed objects – objects placed in interesting and contrasting ways
  • Chance objects – elements that have no real link to each other
  • A reversal of natural laws – promoting a lack of rationality

Themes

Dark surrealist themes can be found in the artists’ dreamscapes where their memories, fears and neuroses go berserk across the canvas. Looking at the great artists of the 1920s and 1930s, you can find traces of many of their fears and anxieties.

Salvador Dali

Dali had pathological fears he carried from his childhood. He feared grasshoppers and blushing. He was profoundly fascinated with erotic fantasies, death and decay, feeding into Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. Evidence in his work:

Paintings infested with insects that terrified him…

  • Ants-black and swarming are frequently used by Dali and often signify decay and his fear of death
  • Floating (levitating) butterflies
  • Oversized grasshoppers – reflecting his childhood when children threw them at him for fun because of his fear.
  • Use of crustaceans signify protection – tough outer shell protecting the soft, vulnerable inside (lobster and hermit crabs)
  • Eggs – hard shell also signifies protection, but also seen as cracked and cooking.
  • The Vagina dentate – his fear of castration during intercourse (explains his aversion to sex but obsession with masturbation)

Skulls

Dali was both scared, yet compelled, by death. The skull acted as a symbol for human mortality in his and other dark surrealist artworks.

salvador-dali-ballerina-in-a-deaths-head-1939
Salvador Dali. Ballerina in a Deaths Head, 1939

In this work Dali uses his “paranoic-critical-method” to appeal to his hero, Sigmund Freud. This “dual concept” painting has no rational link between the images. Dali exploits this to show how the irrationality of the brain spontaneously links the skull and ballerina.

The result – an ambiguous image that can now be interpreted in multiple ways. Dark surrealist features include: levitation of the skull, element of surprise, unrealistic scales, hidden images.

 

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

War had a major impact in the first half of the 20th century –with two world wars and the Spanish Civil War, death was all around. In this painting completed in 1940, the theme provides dark surrealist content.

The main focus is the horrible face of war, captured in the horror of this painting. The skull presents a view of war against an unfertile landscape. Its withered, miserable appearance, suggests a corpse in extreme misery.

The repetitious identical skulls that make up the eye sockets and mouth, implies a doomed sense of infinity. Surrounding it are serpents, biting at the skull and its abject misery. Key surrealist features: repetition of images (the skull), dream-like background, cooler colours, unrealistic scale,

Magritte

Magritte’s work is seen as lighter than other surrealists’ work. However, this is a simplistic overview and he too has a darker surrealist side lurking. Magritte watched as his mother was fished from the river after she committed suicide when he was just 14.

He remembered her dress floating over her head and several works include a cloth that covers his subjects’ heads.

 

the-rape-rene-magritte-1945
The Rape, René Magritte, 1945

Works like Le Voil, (The Rape), would knock Magritte’s bowler hat fans from their safety perch, given its explicit subject matter and form. Other darker surrealist works include murder scenes that hint at violence and perversity.

Two of his works that present this darker, more violent side of humanity, are The Menacing Assassin and The Titanic Days. Dark surrealist art explores these themes, exposing extreme and repressed desires.

L’Assassin Menacé / The Menacing Assassin

This is s sinister scene that has at its centre, a dead naked woman, strewn across a bed, while the murderer packs up ready to flee the scene. Men stand outside ready to capture.

This is a banal scene, but its perversity is a rare glimpse into the mind of the artist.

 

the-menacing-assassin-rene-magritte-1927
The Menacing Assassin, René Magritte, 1927

The Titanic Days

A disturbingly dark painting. The Titanic Days is erotically charged, violent and disturbing. The scene depicts a man attacking a woman, an attempted rape. His hand forcefully pushes against her leg, and the terror of fear grips the female who is pressed up against her attacker’s shoulder.

the-titanic-days-rene-magritte-1928
The Titanic Days, René Magritte, 1928

André Masson

André Masson was traumatised by what he witnessed during WWI, WWII and the Spanish Civil War. He was injured himself, and this left an indelible mark on the man, who used his art to express his disdain for the absolute violence he witnessed.

While his palate is bright and full of colour, this painting explores dark surrealist themes.

 

in-the-tower-of-sleep-andre-masson-1983
In the Tower of Sleep, André Masson, 1983

Max Ernst

Ernst’s use of decalcomania highlights the devastation of war, scorched worlds, rotting corpses and the remains of people from the scourges of war. In The Eye of Silence, the distant horizon represents the lost world the subject grieves for.

The irony of the “great European New Order” Hitler promised is not lost here. Calcified bodies anchored to barbarous landscapes places this work in the realm of dark surrealist art.

 

europe-after-the-rain-ii-max-ernst-1940-42
Europe after the Rain II, Max Ernst, 1940-42

Today there are still many examples of surrealism being produced across a range of mediums. Here are a selection of painting and digitally rendered dark surrealist artworks. Under each caption are Surrealist characteristics found in the work.

noumenoblekotakra
source: blekotakra.deviantart

(Transparency, element of surprise, reversal of natural laws, juxtaposition, a contradiction in images, reassertion of Dali’s skulls.)

mysteria-bigbad-red
source: bigbad-red.deviantart

(Cooler colours, dreamlike, fantasy landscape, hyperrealist imagery/photography, exaggeration, free uncensored thought)

egg-island-djajakarta
source: djajakarta.deviantart

(Repetition, the egg shell as protection (albeit cracked), cooler colours, dream-like landscape, levitating objects, unrealistic scales)

source: blekotakra.deviantart
source: blekotakra.deviantart

(The element of surprise, Dali skull motif, darker cooler colours, juxtaposition of the skull with head shot, photo=hyperreal)

mothman-pan-zerkorps-2015
source: panzerkorps.deviantart

(Juxtaposition of images, repeated image, dreamlike imagery, element of surprise, free uncensored thought, a contradiction in images)

undecided-stefano-bonazzi
source: stefanobonazzi.deviantart

(Dream-like subject matter, repetition of images, no guidelines, cooler colours, element of surprise)

new dark surrealism
source: speckyboy.com

(Juxtaposition of objects, dream-like landscapes, unrealistic scales, contradictions in images, element of surprise and uncensored thought)

the-world-bellow-xetobyte
source: xetobyte.deviantart

(Levitation, cooler colours, contradiction of images, element of surprise, reversal of natural laws, repetition of an image, dreamy landscape)

source: surrealismtoday
source: surrealismtoday

(Levitation, hidden images, elements of surprise, dream landscape, reversal of natural laws, uncensored thought, juxtaposition)

robert-deyber-elk-crossing
source: surrealismtoday

(Cooler colours, juxtaposition, element of surprise, contradiction in imagery)

lost-boat-silvia-15
source: silvia15.deviantart

(Levitation, transparency, dream-like fantasy backgrounds, repeated image, cooler colours, hyperreal, element of surprise, water fall from painting into room with the floating boat, reversal of natural law)

Posted on Leave a comment

Three Contemporary Surrealists You’ve Got to See

Charitable Octopoda

Surrealist art is a movement that began in the 1920’s and is still quite lively today. Surrealist art aims to capture the imagination of dreams, is often free of reason and convention, and plays on our perceptions of reality.

Surrealism followed Dadaism and inherited its anti-rationalist traits, but Surrealism is much lighter and playful in its execution.

Remedios Varo, Exploration of the Source of the Orinoco River, 1959
Remedios Varo, Exploration of the Source of the Orinoco River, 1959

Surrealism can be traced back to 1924 in Paris with André Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism. Spanning nearly a century now, Surrealism is still alive and well with many artists around the globe.

Some think of surrealism as a movement which has already come and gone, but in truth, it is still very much here with us.

Here are three new surrealist artists you’ve got to see to believe. Each of them has their own unique style, and each one of them is an exemplary example of a contemporary surrealist artist.

Rob Gonsalves

Rob gonsalves contemporary surrealist artist

Canadian born Rob Gonsalves is as much a magician as he is a painter. Using his preferred medium, he turns acrylic on canvas into unimaginable landscapes that serve as a window into another world.

Over the years he has perfected his craft to create illusions that defy the laws of our universe yet appear that they could exist as scenic detour that’s a part of our life.

surreal-optical-illusion-paintings-by-rob-gonsalves-2-2
Visit Rob Gonsalves on Facebook to find out more

There are real moments of magic in our world, you just need to be open to them and Gonsalves helps to bridge that gap. Gonsalves began painting in his teenage years and studied at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto.
 

He then moved on to work in architecture: studying and then working in the field for five years before returning to painting.

His decision to return to painting came from an enthusiastic response to his work at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in 1990.

contemporary surrealism rob gonsalves
Visit Rob Gonsalves on Facebook to find out more

His time as an architect comes across in his paintings, many of which prominently feature architectural design. In addition to exhibition work, Gonsalves has has authored a number of books including: ‘Imagine a Night’ (2003), ‘Imagine a Day’ (2004), and ‘Imagine a Place’ (2008).
 

His book, ‘Imagine a Day’ has won the 2005 Governor General’s Award in the Children’s Literature – Illustration category.

Watch this short documentary about Rob Gonsalves to find out more about the man and how he approaches his work.


Eugenia Loli

eugenia-loli-surrealist-artist

Globe-trotting collage artist Eugenia Loli has lived many lives in many countries.

Her art she has been referred to as “modern vintage” and “surreal collage”, but the term surrealism is not hard to apply to her work, once you see it.

Rising Mountain
Visit Eugenia on Tumblr

Born in Greece, she has lived in Germany, the UK, and is currently residing in California.

In addition to having lived in so many places, she has also worked a number of careers, having worked as a nurse, computer programmer, technology journalist, and film maker.

Charitable Octopoda
Visit Eugenia Loli on Tumblr

As fascinating and compelling as her life may be, the works she creates are even more so.

Having already been inundated into art through animation, Eugenia became experimenting with collage in 2013 when she scanned images from vintages magazines and old science textbooks which she then compiled into collages.

Eugenia believes it is important that her work has something to say so she creates collages with meaning behind them which tease at a visual narrative.

She likes to think of her collages as a frame in a surrealist movie and encourages her audience to dream up whatever story line they believe would best go with her work.

Prior to her work in collages, she had an interest in animation. Her work has been featured in a number of publications, and is also readily available online as high-resolution images.

Her work is something to behold when set to music as well, such as the music of the band Tortoise.


Laurie Lipton

laurie-lipton-at-la-luz

Laurie Lipton was born in New York and after spending many years living abroad in Europe she has moved back to the USA and is currently living in Los Angeles, California.

While living in Europe, her time was spent living across a number of different countries: Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, as well as the UK.

laurie lipton the carnival of death
Visit Laurie’s website to find out more

She began drawing at the very young age of four is and is the first graduate Carnegie-Mellon University in Pennsylvania with a Fine Arts Degree in Drawing (with honors to boot!).

Lipton was inspired by religious paintings Flemish School and wanted to teach herself to create art in the style of the Dutch Masters.

And while she considers that a failed attempt, the artwork she created now is detailed and complex, building up tone and texture using very fine cross-hatch techniques.

laurie-lipton-contemporary-surrealism
Visit Laurie website to find out more

One thing that stands out about her work is the distinct lack of color. She chooses to create her art in black and white using pencil. She feels that her image is what’s important and color would distract from the images she creates.

Additionally, she wants to create haunted, disturbing, otherworldly paintings which appear to frozen in time and believes that adding color to her work would ruin the atmosphere she is trying to create.

Lipton has exhibited extensively in the United States and Europe. Recently, film maker James Scott has released a short documentary on her called LOVE BITE: Laurie Lipton and Her Disturbing Black and White Drawings.

Here is a video showing Laurie giving a talk at La Luz de Jesus Gallery back in 2013 about her book of drawings called “The Drawings Of Laurie Lipton”. La Luz gave birth to “pop surrealism”, FYI.


While each of these artists have their own distinct style, medium, and methods; their art shares the common thread of surrealism. Each artist manages to capture our imagination and offer up images with a dreamlike quality that is out of this world.