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April & I made it out to the Surrealist exhibit in the city yesterday.

It was fascinating & inspiring; it reawakened my interest in a few projects I had set aside for a long time.

What impressed me about the material was, in some cases, a lack of or negligence toward technical skills (although some surrealist painters are highly, highly technically skilled). The quality of delivery seemed for many artists to be quite secondary to the subject matter.

I usually hate still-life and landscape paintings, unless they're used as a vehicle to show off some wild or exciting technique. But many well-known realist painters are popular because their ability to paint convincing landscapes is so well-developed. The Surrealist painters seemed to turn this upside-down, using painting only as a method to convey all-important, usually incomprehensible messages.

The message? That the brain makes complex and unconscious associations to objects and words which it then uses as symbols to process the abstract.

Lobster Telephone, for example, from Dali. It's about a fear or unease around certain types of communication, speech for example. Nobody wants to put a fucking lobster against the side of their face; some people recoil at the idea of giving or receiving a phone call.

Maybe that's not what its about at all, but it's just the same, really; that's what it means to me, and so it's case closed. I think this is the point - there is no great universal truth shining through the sublime forms of realist artists or any other artists. The brain foils the conception of truth. It clutters everything with simplified, dull, blunt symbols that are incapable of representing anything accurately.

There's a wonderful quote from a writer named Robert Anton Wilson: "The map is not the territory."

Surrealist paintings - ALL paintings, all art - are maps.

That's my take on it, anyway. It was inspirational and interesting.
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Submitted on
July 7, 2011