Monday, 18 March 2013

Culture shock

Culture shock is really the only way to describe coming face to face with Dalì. You see images online and thing, "Okay, that's weird. I don't get it. It draws me but I can't get my head round it. Next."

And then you see the actual painting and you get so close your nose practically touches the canvas. You can't help it. The colours are so rich and the images so vivid, so striking, that you can hardly help yourself. The exhibition features works from the entirety of Dalì's career, from the early cubist images before suddenly jack-knifing into surrealism. It is clear that he never looked back.

The exhibition is currently being shown at the Centre Pompidou (Metro, RER Chatelet-Les-Halles) and is worth your time and your money. The entrance is an egg, with a projected slideshow of the artist himself as you go through it. This bizarre beginning sets the tone for what you are about to see.

As I said, Dalì started with cubism. This is my favourite of this period. I like the angles, I like the expressions on the giants' faces and I like the colours. I'm pretty sure my friend Fanny is tearing her hair out at this, since she is an art historian and could talk about composition and what nots, but I just like the blue.

No sign yet of ants, but they're coming. Oh, they're coming.

Instead we have the feminine and, interestingly (to me only, I'm sure) the masculine's complete disregard for the same. The hat perched on his head forms a halo and the vein in his wrist seems very prominent - that, alongside his aloof nature, make me think that perhaps he's a saint.

I could just as easily be entirely wrong, but that's what I think. If you disagree, or even better if you agree, you can tell me as always on Twitter and in the comments below.

Onwards to the ants!

Dalì quickly moved into surrealism and the interplay of decay and love; atrophie et amour. His films, too, reflect this mindset, with new life springing from rotting corpses. Ants are throughout as a symbol of the decay that all things experience, and once you know that you seem them everywhere. Worse still, knowing that is what they signify means that the otherwise healthy figures on which one finds them become filled with dramatic irony; they don't realise it but we, the audience too. They are decaying.

Before long it was melting clocks and spindle-leggèd elephants as we moved towards the middle part of his life. Now we had telephones with lobsters for handsets and the Venus de Milo with drawers carved into her. It's at this point, I confess, that I started to lose my new found fondness for the man. It all seemed so very...silly, I suppose.

But this was swiftly followed by two exquisite artworks that I'd be glad to have in a future house. The first is the most relaxed Jesus ever :


Notice: no nails, no crown of thorns, unblemished back. You can't actually see it's Jesus. It could be anyone. For me this just incredible, and in its original form it's literally breathtaking, if only because it seems such a huge break from things like The Great Masturbator and The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, which are in and of themselves exquisite works. But this, for me, stands out.

This painting is my other favourite, because there is just so much going on within it. It's almost endless.


I mean just look at it. There's a face, a fruit bowl, skeletons centre-right reaching up to a faceless figure, a dog arching over all...I could sit in front of this painting for hours. I nearly did. It's utterly fantastic.

Regretfully I had a home to return to and a growling stomach to attend to, and so I have come back, collapsed into bed, and written this. I will now make an omelette.

And try not to think of what Dalì put in his eggs.

(Ants. The answer is ants. Brrrrr.)