Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Dean Gallery), Edinburgh
10 July 2010–9 January 2011
by THE EDITOR
As well as including pieces on loan from public and private collections, the exhibition is also the first public viewing of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art's whole collection of surrealist art – giving a particularly encompassing overview of one of the most breath-taking art movements of last century.
Taking the viewer from Surrealist beginnings in Dadaism, and a response to the monstrosities of World War One, the movement was intrinsically revolutionary and escapist, and reacted against such a sad, broken reality by expanding into the unknown world of dreams and subconscious – the surreal and the free. The Dadaists reviewed the position of art in the modern, changed world, and sought to expand traditional methods by crossing into music, theatre, dance and literature, as well as visual arts.
Dadaism emerged first in Zurich, then in New York, Paris and Berlin. The style was notably anarchic and satirical, but after the Second World War, those involved (now mostly in Paris, which had quickly become the centre for modern art) moved away from the violence and anarchy of Dadaism (which had become all too commonplace in reality after the war) to a heightened, more intellectual derivation, to become known as Surrealism. Breton became the leader, and encouraged an interest in dreams and the subconscious, and Freud’s writings on psychoanalysis. The idea that understanding one’s subconscious would unlock deeper truths and meanings was central to much of the Surrealist work that emerged in post-war Paris – not only in the visual arts, but also in the literature of Paul Eluard and Robert Desnos, among others.
ANOTHER WORLD focuses on paintings, collages and sculptures, however – showing the ways in which the technique “automatic painting” (painting from imagination and dreams rather than realistic life) revolutionised modern painting. The work of Joan Miró and André Masson, in particular, shows the heights reached with this approach. René Magritte, on the other hand, used traditional methods, to paint often ordinary objects, but played with scale and perspective and context, to confuse and entertain the audience. Other artists used collage, frottage and grattage to achieve a spontaneous, rebellious style – especially Max Ernst and André Breton. Sometimes, a group would play a game called “Le Cadavre Exquis” (The Exquisite Corpse) – which would involve three or four artists to add to a collage, without seeing what the others had already added – with often, superb results.
In some sense, every group exhibition is a collage of sorts – an Exquisite Corpse of past works – whose success lies in a delicate balance of careful details, luck and lighting. The Dean Gallery has triumphed with its Surrealism exhibition. It has offered its audience another world, which suits the summer, the year, the mood. Surrealism was originally a reaction to a terrible Second World War – that had left European countries on the brink of bankruptcy; so it is appropriate that we should revisit its triumphant escapism and its glorious visions, when unwittingly we in part repeat the history Surrealist art was set against.
Artist Rooms: Roy Lichtenstein
As part of the Artist Rooms series, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh is showing 16 key works by Roy Lichtenstein, spanning three decades and three rooms. His wry sense of humour and memorable images are as relevant today as during his lifetime
The Amazing World of MC Escher
MC Escher was long ignored by galleries and dismissed by critics, yet there is arguably no modern artist who has profoundly influenced so many different fields, from cinema to graphic design, mathematics to video games
Untitled (Unconscious) Rachel Howard, Boo Saville, Gorka Mohamed, George Ziffo, Kikko Giannuzzi
Untitled (Unconscious) at the TJ Boulting Gallery in London presents the work of five contemporary artists: Rachel Howard, Boo Saville, Gorka Mohamed, George Ziffo and Kikko Giannuzzi. Their work is situated between abstraction and figuration, and can be seen to reflect the ability of artists working in a world of spectacular change to retain individual identity.
Project Space: Inverted House – Tina Gverović and Siniša Ilić
Given that we are psychologically programmed to see patterns in randomness, it is little surprise that a wide array of artists have adapted this “apophenia” to aid their art. Most often this finds expression in forms of pareidolia, where human or animals are discerned in arbitrary shapes.
Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors
Mad Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors From 1800 to the Present, the Freud Museum has gathered together letters, portraits, sound recordings and various documents tracing 200 years of the history of women suffering from differing states of mental distress, many of which were swept under the umbrella of hysteria, but which now, once again, are seen as disparate pathologies.