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Yves Tanguy – Psychoanalyzer

yves tanguy

Raymond Georges Yves Tanguy was born in Paris on January 5th, 1900.


He attended lycée during the 1910s, which is where he would meet his future lifelong friend and dealer, Pierre Matisse. Tanguy befriended poet Jacques Prévert in 1920 during military service, and he returned to Paris in 1922.

This is when he began to sketch café scenes and progressed into painting in 1923 when he first experienced Giorgio de Chirico’s work. In 1924, he became interested in Surrealism when he saw La Révolution surréaliste, and he was welcomed into André Breton’s group in 1925.

While he possessed no formal training, he was a natural, and his talent developed quickly. He reached his mature style by 1927, and his first show was held that same year at the Galerie Surréaliste in Paris.

Galerie Surréaliste

He was in the 1928 Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie au Sacre du Printemps with the likes of Max Ernst, André Masson, Jean Arp, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso. During the 1930s, he would be in many solo and group exhibitions all over the world.

“The painting develops before my eyes, unfolding its surprises as it progresses. It is this which gives me the sense of complete liberty, and for this reason, I am incapable of forming a plan or making a sketch beforehand.”

tanguy surreal art

The Psychological Institute of Vienna contrasted the work of Tanguy against the creations of schizophrenic patients in 1950. The public could not distinguish between the two, which delighted Surrealists.

André Breton said of Tanguy’s work that one day they “will be made clear with a language which is not yet understood but which people are soon going to read, which they are going to talk, and which they are going to perceive is best adapted to the new changes.”

Tanguy suffered a fatal stroke in January 1955 at Woodbury. He was later cremated, and his ashes were kept until his wife’s death in 1963. Matisse scattered their ashes at the Douarnenez beach in Brittany.

His Work

Tanguy was obsessed with dreams, childhood memories, psychotic episodes, and hallucinations, making his artwork exceptionally personal. His work has many interpretations that evoke strong emotions from the viewers while allowing them to use their imagination.

yves tanguy

While many Surrealists focus on the unconscious and dreams, Tanguy stood out because of his naturalistic precision and execution of his thoughts and vividly assigned the unconscious a real space.

He likely pulled inspiration from places he’s lived, like the bizarre rock formations he utilized were probably drawn from Brittany’s terrain, where his mother once lived. He produced over 150 pieces between the 20s and 50s.

“I believe there is little to gain by exchanging opinions with other artists concerning either the ideology of art or technical methods.”

Mama, Papa is Wounded! (1927)

One of his most known pieces, Mama, Papa is Wounded! has a post-apocalyptic landscape. Combined with the content, palette and light, the painting feels unsettling and uncomfortable.

Mama, Papa is Wounded! (1927)

“The picture is a fantastic landscape, illuminated by a grayish-violet unearthly light. Against the background of the desert space, there are several strange objects that are completely unconnected: a cactus, beans, a yellow figure and a peculiar “shaggy” stick.

A dark cloud occupying the right side of the canvas hangs menacingly over the field. The title of the work not only does not explain what is happening but, as is often the case with Surrealists, creates an even greater mystery, thereby making the audience curious.” – Sketchline.

Noyer Indifférent (1929)

The fascination that Tanguy experienced between Surrealism and psychoanalysis is illustrated in this painting. Carl Jung was the original purchaser of this piece in 1929 when Tanguy was relatively unknown.

Noyer Indifférent (1929)

It was kept in his study, where it helped influent his work. Jung described Tanguy’s genius as a “minimum of intelligibility with a maximum of abstraction.” The painting depicts four biomorphic forms against a totally dark background, surrounding a central cobweb image, casting shadows.

It’s unclear what exactly the objects are supposed to be in an ambiguous atmosphere. Jung’s interpretation of the work as a collective unconscious fantasy of the technological age and surveyed people he knew about what they thought the images were.

Many saw planets, creatures, cities, and bombs. He saw it as “cosmic inhumanness and infinite desolation” and an archetypal sign of the heavens. Paul Eluard spoke about the empty stillness in the piece in one of his poems dedicated to Tanguy, saying, “From the ends of the earth to the twilight of today/Nothing can withstand my desolate images.”

Indefinite Divisibility (1942)

Indefinite Divisibility has many conflicting shapes that all demand attention from the viewer. There are bowls of water, anthropomorphic shadows, and space where dreams and reality meet.


There are apparent objects like a clamp, propeller, and petal, among the other items. Tanguy explicitly intended to trigger emotions while leaving his work ambiguous.

Other notable works of Tanguy include:

Blue Bed, 1929

Death Awaiting his Family, 1927

Exquisite Corpse, 1938

Extinction of Useless Lights, 1927

I Came Like I Promised, 1926

Large Painting Representing a Landscape, 1927

Multiplication of the Arcs, 1954

Outside, 1929

Palace on windows rocks, 1942

Phantoms, 1928

Promontory Palace, 1931

Reply to Red, 1943

Slowly Toward The North, 1942

Storm(Black Landscape), 1926

The Hand in the Clouds, 1927

The Ribbon of Extremes, 1932

The Travelling Performers, 1926

Through Birds Through Fire But Not Through Glass, 1943

Tomorrow, 1938

Wind, 1927

His Legacy

Tanguy’s work is immediately recognizable, as his style is one-of-a-kind. His style is still an essential influence for Surrealism artists, but it directly coloured the work of artists like Wolfgang Paalen, Esteban Francés, and Roberto Matta in the 30s.

Yves Tanguy, Through Birds, Through Fire and Not Through Glass, 1943

His paintings directly influenced the animated movie Le Roi et l’oiseau, by Paul Grimault and Prévert. While Tanguy’s work is Surrealism, his career is essentially the bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism.

His work with automatism impressed the likes of Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock and his early works paved the way for Salvador Dalí and inspired the sculptures of David Hare, Isamu Noguchi, and Hans Arp.

“Very much alone in my work, I am almost jealous of it.”


Yves Tanguy Videos

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Denouement – Dali Vs Drunken Dirty Hipsters

I had a friend tell me he didn’t like Dali. Fair enough right? It takes all kinds. Of course after a couple beers we can all get a little argumentative. Why I asked? Why?
Innocent enough.

There’s a sense of entitlement that comes with being an artist. The expectation that all art – meaning your own – deserves a fair shake. That art – your art – is not disposable.
That some half drunk 20 something in a dim lit bar won’t dismiss you out of hand. Not without a reason any way.

But what possible reason could have been adequate? I think even in the moment I recognized that nothing he could have told me would have been enough. There’s no perspective to be gained on someone like Dali once he gets his claws in you.

You develop an admiration for obscurity. It shouldn’t be something tied to age, so a fucking 24 year old hipster half in the bag should be able to get it. But kids are narcissistic assholes.
They have opinions, not ambitions.

But who doesn’t dismiss things out of hand? What matters is what appeals to you, because what is art but a shared perspective? The intersection between an artist and audience?

Why does art matter? We can all imagine the metaphor melting clocks in the desert makes. We can all relate to the idea of time melting away. But time never stops does it? The clocks just go.
All ideas and meanings disappear similarly. Especially memory if you don’t pin it down. So what is left?

I don’t do drugs. I am drugs. WTF does that mean? I’m not an alcoholic but I am absolutely writing this drunk. But it’s more than that really.

Dali always seemed unique to me in that his paintings were consistent enough in their imagery that you can imagine he was creating a language. That it was something more than symbolism.

The significance of this is a difficult thing to overstate. That the abstraction he (unconsciously most times if he can be trusted) created wasn’t just representative of something, but created a new meaning.

Dalis’ fetishism is so well documented that it hardly bears mention except to illustrate that some of his images are easier to interpret than you might at first assume.

And it helps to remind me that any language is in itself a collaboration between two or more parties. Letters are carefully agreed upon to make words to make sentences etc..

Though Dali was creating those same abstractions through surrealism (or abstraction or “paranoiac critical” states or whatever term) it was necessarily born from a specific perspective.

This makes the question of what he intended to accomplish even more troubling. He dealt in paradoxes the same way Jorge Luis Borges did mazes. Did he believe that compounding obscurity would provoke greater understanding?

God that would be amazing. Borges famously said that “mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of men.” But what would Dali say? Meaning can be disseminated so easily through reflection.
And all creation is imitation.

So some punk at the end of the bar asserting that he didn’t get it would never be enough, because his response would have been a provocation by the artist.

Because all art is provocation in some way. Nobody creates perfectly. All assertions would only be another layer on a mountain of certainties. Or a necessary step in the creation of uncertainty.

There was no Duende. Nothing he did not carry with himself. But one gets the sense that Dali would dismiss anything but his own agency. He embraced himself.

He did it despite recognizing the destructive nature of that act. His art is a breaking of the self into something communicable, and paradoxically, relatable.

Art is not a beautiful chaos. It is purposeful though imperfect. And it is best when it recognizes it limitations.


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The Enigmatically Intense Lives of Frida Kahlo

Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo Calderon was born on July, 6, 1907 in what is nowadays known as Casa Azul in Coyoacan, a town on the outskirts of Mexico City. Her father, Wilhelm Kahlo, was German who had moved to Mexico at a young age where he remained for the rest of his life.
Her mother, a Wilhelm’s second wife, Matilde Calderon y Gonzales, born of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry, raised Frida and her five sisters in a strict and religious household.

Early Life

Frida Kahlo’s work was influenced by traumatic psychological and physical events from her childhood and early adulthood; using her personal tragedy, combined with a realistic painting style, she produced images – approximately 200 paintings, drawings and sketches, that were emotionally raw and visually disturbing.

Several events in Kahlo’s childhood affected her psyche for the rest of her life. She contracted polio at the age of six and was forced to remain in bed for nine months, walking with a limp after recovery.
Her father, with whom she was very close, enrolled her at the German College in Mexico City and introduced her to the writings of European philosophers and poets such as Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Arthur Schopenhauer.

Kahlo’s mixed heritage permanently affected her approach to the life and artwork. Following the Mexican revolution and new education policy in 1922, Kahlo was one of the 35 girls admitted to the National Preparatory School, where she planned to study social sciences, medicine and botany.
She became friend with a dissident group of students, known as Cachuchas, who confirmed Frida’s rebellious spirit and her interest in literature and poetry.

In 1925, Kahlo was involved in an almost fatal bus accident, and she suffered multiple fractures throughout her body and a crushed pelvis. After nine months recovering in hospital, where she was immobile and bound in plaster corset, she began experimenting in small-scale autobiographical portraiture, and permanently abandoning her interest in medicine.
Gifted with a set of paints from her father, Kahlo spent hours studying herself and confronting existential questions raised by her trauma such as death, dissociation from identity and interiority. The duality of autobiographical content-both the interiority of the person and physical experience- evolved as the central qualities of Kahlo’s painting practice.

In 1927, in contact with her friends from the Cachuchas group, Kahlo began to familiarize herself with the artistic and Communist circles in Mexico. Having officially joined the Mexican Communist Party, in 1928, Kahlo sought out Diego Rivera in order to discuss a possible career as an artist.
A year later, in 1929, the two married and moved to Cuernavaca.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera had a tumultuous relationship, marked by multiple affairs on both sides. She had a long affair with Muray, and a short one with Leon Trotsky, as well as extended liaisons with several women.
Some of these attachments were reactions to a volatile marriage and meant to punish her philandering husband.

Dual Lives

In many ways, Frida lived two lives: one as the wife of Diego Rivera and the second as eccentric, talented painter in her own right. During the majority of her career, she was seen in Rivera’s shadow and it wasn’t until late in life that she gained, as an artist, an international clientele and exhibition program.

The early double-portrait of Kahlo, Frieda and Diego Rivera, from 1931, was painted in celebration of her marriage to Rivera, accentuates Kahlo’s interest in reconciling her identity as his wife rather than as an artist of equal status.
Rivera holds palette and brushes, symbolic of his artistic mastery, while Kahlo’s dresses in costume typical of the Mexican woman, La Mexicana, wearing a traditional red shawl known as rabozo. The positioning of the figures echoes that of traditional marital portraiture where the wife is placed on her husband’s left to indicate her lesser moral status as woman.


By the early 1930s Kahlo’s painting evolved to include a more assertive sense of Mexican culture and identity, a facet of her artwork that stemmed from her exposure to the modernist movement in Mexico and her interest in preserving the revival of Mexicanidad, during the raise of fascism in Europe.
Her interest in distancing herself from her Germanic roots is evidenced in her change of name from Frieda to Frida.

The piece My Grandparents, My Parents and I, from 1936, a dream-like family tree painted on zinc, indicates the artist’s fascination with Mexican retablos. Retablos were small paintings on metal made to thank God for his protection and grace.
Kahlo painted this piece to accentuate both her European Jewish heritage and her Mexican background; her paternal side, German Jewish, occupies the right side of the composition symbolized by the sea, and her maternal side of Mexican descent is represented on the left by a map faintly outlining the topography of Mexico.
While Kahlo’s paintings are assertively autobiographical, she often used them to communicate transgressive or political message: this painting was completed shortly after Adolf Hitler passed the Nuremberg laws banning interracial marriage.

Throughout the 1930s, life in Mexico was tense for Frida: her husband Diego Rivera was unfaithful and the revolutionary climate leading up to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War made for an explosive atmosphere.
Frida separated from Rivera in 1935, renting a flat in Mexico City, and began a short-lived affair with the Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

The Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, from 1940, shows Frida as an androgynous figure. The critics and scholars have seen this gesture as a confrontational response to Rivera’s demand for a divorce, revealing the artist’s injured sense of female pride and her self-punishment for the marriage breakdown.
Also, the cropped hair presents a nuanced expression of the artist’s identity. She holds one cut braid in her left hand while the hair from her right hand lies scattered on the floor. The braids were a central element in Kahlo’s identity as the traditional La Mexicana, and in the act of cutting off her braids, she rejects her former identity.

In 1936, Frida joined the Fourth International and returned to Casa Azul, which became a meeting point for artists, international intellectuals and activists, and in that place she ensured the safety of Leon Trotsky and his wife.

The marriage was the pivot of her life and she did a lot of her best work when it was at its worst. It was on the eve of her divorce from Rivera, 1939, that she painted The Two Fridas, one of the largest and most famous paintings.
This double self-portrait, one of the most recognized compositions, is symbolic of the artist’s pain during her divorce from Rivera and the subsequent transitioning of her constructed identity. On the right, the artist is shown in modern European attire, wearing the costume she donned prior to her marriage to Rivera.

Throughout their marriage, given Rivera’s strong nationalism, Kahlo became increasingly interested in indigenism and began to explore traditional Mexican costume, which she wears in the portrait on the left. It is the Mexican Kahlo that holds a locket with an image of Rivera. Symbolic elements frequently posses multiple layers of meaning in Kahlo’s pictures; the recurrent theme of blood represents both metaphysical and physical suffering, gesturing to the artist’s ambivalent attitude toward accepted notion of womanhood and fertility.
The stormy sky in the background, and the artist’s bleeding heart – a fundamental symbol of Catholicism as well as symbolic of Aztec ritual sacrifice-accentuate Kahlo’s personal tribulation and physical pain.


International Acclaim

In 1938, during his visit to Mexico City, André Breton, the founder of Surrealism, was impressed by Kahlo’s painting and hosted the artist’s first exhibition in Paris in the following year, at the Galerie Renou et Cole.
The show was enormously successful; the Western, romanticized vision of pastoral Mexico by members of European bourgeois disgusted Kahlo, though she would exhibit with the Surrealists in Mexico City exhibition in January 1940, which was considered the first international exhibition of Surrealism in the Americas.

The frontal position and direct stare of Frida in her Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, from 1940, directly confronts and engages the viewer. The artist wears Christ’s unraveled crown of thorns as a necklace that digs into her neck, signifying her self-representation as a Christian martyr and the enduring pain from her childhood and her failed marriage.
A dead hummingbird, according to Mexican folkloric tradition symbolic of luck charms for falling in love, hangs in the center of her necklace. A symbol of bad luck and death, black cat, crouches behind her left shoulder, and a spider monkey, gifted from Rivera, symbolic of evil, is included to her right.

Kahlo frequently employed fauna and flora in the background of her burst length portraits to create a tight, claustrophobic space, using the symbolic element of nature to simultaneously compare and contrast the link between a female fertility with the barren and deathly imagery of the foreground.

Many Muses

In September, 1940, following Trotsky’s assassination Frida joined Carlo Rivera in San Francisco. In this period Kahlo remarried Rivera shortly after, and, returned to Mexico City where the two maintained separate flats. She continued to dote on her muse, sending him love notes wherever he was working.

Meanwhile, Frida grew progressively ill from the long-term effects of her childhood traumas. By June, 1946, she could no longer remain upright and underwent an unsuccessful bone-graft operation on her spine in New York.
In 1950, she was hospitalized for nine months at the English Hospital in Mexico.

She continued painting in her final years while also drank heavily and became addicted to painkillers. She still painted, but mostly still lifes, woozy, citrusy things that would be sweet if they weren’t so bizarre, with their gashed and bleeding fruits.

Weeping Coconuts, from, 1951, a still life piece is an example of Frida’s late work. In this composition, the anthropomorphism of the fruit is symbolic of Kahlo’s projection of pain into the composition as her health deteriorated at the end of her life.
In contrast with the tradition of the cornucopia, signifying plentiful and fruitful life, the arrangement of fruit in this composition reveals the fleshy and overripe interiors of the fruit, alluding to the dualism of death and life. A small Mexican flag, stuck into a prickly pear, bearing personal inscription ‘painted with all love of Frida Kahlo’, signalling Kahlo’ use of fruit as an emblem of personal expression.


Final Years

In 1953, Kahlo exhibited one last time at Lola Alvarez Bravo’s gallery in Mexico, and it was her first solo show in Mexico. She was brought to the event in an ambulance and had her four-poster bed placed at the center of the gallery.
She would soon lose a leg to gangrene.

In June, 1954, she had herself pushed in a wheelchair to join a protest against North American intervention in Guatemala. A few days later, she died on July, 13, 1954 at Casa Azul the Blue House, officially of pneumonia, though there has always been talk of suicide.

Although Frida’s work are often categorized as Surrealist for her bizarre imagery and her linear style and disturbing themes she was not interested in dreams or in subconscious or in automatic writing, biomorphism (all of which provided a focus of Surrealism); Kahlo’s subject matter was deeply personal rather than intellectual or humorous.

After she died, her work has grown profoundly influential for feminist studies and postcolonial debates, while she become an international cultural icon. It was only in the 1960s and afterward, with the rise of feminism, gay rights and identity politics, that her work begun to make sense.
And then it made explosive sense: an artist who had been bending genders, blending ethnicities, making the personal political and revolutionizing the concept of ‘’beautiful’’ generations earlier.


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Dark Surrealist Art


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?

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, 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

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


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)

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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

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.

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’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, 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, 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, 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, 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

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.

source: blekotakra.deviantart

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

source: bigbad-red.deviantart

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

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)

source: panzerkorps.deviantart

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

source: stefanobonazzi.deviantart

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

new dark surrealism

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

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)

source: surrealismtoday

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

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)

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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.

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
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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


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
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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
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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 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
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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.

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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.