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Posts Tagged ‘Salvador Dali’

Our London walks go abstract

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

When Salvador Dali painted Mountain Lake in 1938 a feeling of distinct unease was gripping Europe as leaders tried to avert war with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Of course, this didn’t work and, within two years of Dali completing the painting Europe was plunged into war.

We offer several London walks that look at London in the Blitz but for know we will tie up our look at Mountain Lake by looking at how its somber mood reflects the mood in Europe at the time it was painted.

The sense of foreboding that that emanates from the  picture is far from just being personal for Dali, for he is also commenting on the aforementioned feeling of general tension that was gripping Europe over the impending Second World War.

The telephone is intended to represent the talks that, at the time, were taking place between the British Prime minister, Neville Chamberlain and the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.

The phone, as was mentioned in an earlier posting, is being supported on a crutch. We also mentioned how, for Dali, the snail that is crawling up the crutch symbolised vulnerability, the hard outer shell with the soft interior.

Taken against the background of impending war the snail represents the fragility of the talks then taking place in the hope of averting the Second World War.

You wil also notice that the wire which streches from the telephone receiver and which is draped over a second crutch is in fact cur, so the telephone is not functional and dialogue between the two leaders is not possible – so Dali is making the observation that war is actually inevitable.

So a painting that at first glance seems to be a straightforward landscape  painting is in fact a glimpse into the Surreal world of the nightmares and dreams that lurk in Dali’s subconscious.

But it is also a very disturbing work because the peaceful tranquility of this mountain lake is, like that of much of Europe, about to be shatterred as talks between two leaders stall and plunge the world into its own horrific nightmare.

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London Walking – A Surreal Experience.

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

In our earlier post we took a look at a work in Tate Modern by the Surrealist painter Salvador Dali which is entitled Mountain Lake.

We explained how the painting emphasises an important point that we make time and again on our London walks, that you really have to look at things in London not just  see them.

So what is Mountain Lake about.

We ended our earlier post by explaining that the painting confronted some of Dali’s own deeply buried issues.

Before Dali was born his parents had had another son, who would have been his older brother, whose name was also Salvador. However, this son died before Dali was born and his grief stricken parents went to the Catalan region of Spain to recover from their loss.

It was a mountainous coastal region, and it is in fact the region that Dali Depicts in Mountain Lake.

Throughout his childhood Dali’s parents would take him on an annual pilgrimage to the region and his mother would often burst into tears when she beheld the beautiful landscape.

So Dali’s feelings about the landscape you can see in the picture were very mixed. he had happy memories of it but he also had some very sad memories, which could account for the dark and somber mood that seems to emanate from the work.

So when set against that background Mountain Lake  takes on a whole new meaning and you start to see something of the autobiographical aspect that Dali introduced into his painting.

But the painting’s sense of foreboding could also be taken to refer to a sense of unease and foreboding that was gripping Europe at the time that Dali painted it, for it was becoming more and more apparent that war was about to break out in Europe.

We will discuss this aspect of the picture  further in out next blog.

We have several tours that look at London in the Blitz and in addition our Shakespeare London walks cover the area where Tate Modern is located.

In addition you can join us on any one of our fascinating London walks that take you all over the historic streets of London.

Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Artist

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

London is a a City of Art and our Walks include numerous wonderful places where works of art can be seen. Indeed, we have been known to refer to our London walks as Walks of Art!

Last night, before we were called away to do a little bit of scary art of our own on the London Ghost Walks, we started telling you a little bit about a painting by Nikki de Saint Phalle, which can be seen in the Energy and Process wing of Tate Modern.

We explained how, at first, the picture, one of her Shooting Paintings, seems like a series of coloured streaks running down a plaster.

But we ended by telling you how Nikki de Saint Phalle actually made chance itself the main creator of the painting. Here’s how.

She would begin with a wooden base board which she would lay down flat on a surface.  This done she would fill plastic bags with different colours of liquid paint.

Having done this she would then cover everything with plaster so that she had a pristine white, rough mound of plaster piled against the background of the board.

She would wait for it to dry and then would be ready to “create” the painting.

The board would be raised upright and Nikki would then take a .22 rifle and shoot at the plaster.

The bullets would penetrate the plaster and would then rupture the plastic bags beneath causing the paint to run down the surface of the plaster in streaks of colour that mixed, mingled and pooled together.

Thus the element of chance effectively became the means by which the painting was created.

It was a revolutionary way to create a painting since it brought a new realism into art and, as a result, Nikki de Saint Phalle became famous and travelled all over the world to stage her Shooting Paintings.

The one you’re looking at in Energy and Process was created on the stage of the American Embassy in Paris on the evening of June 20th 1961.

Two American artists, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, fired the bullets at the plaster and created what you see before you. So this could be said to be a collaboration between de Saint Phalle and these two other artists.

Shortly after this was created Nikki de Saint Phalle was introduced by Marcel Duchamp to Salvador Dali, both of whose works we will cover in a later post.

However, Nikki de Saint Phalle stopped creating her Shooting Pictures in 1963 saying that she had become addicted to shooting “like one becomes addicted to a drug.”

We will continue our tour of the art inside Tate Modern later today with a look at the central hub of Energy and Process as we look at Arte Povera itself.

You can, if you wish,take a look at our various London walks or tonight you can join us on one of our Old City of London Ghost Walks.