Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Expand into a multi-sensory mode of awareness by imbibing visions, charts, explosions inexpressible in phrases alone.

Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Postby admin » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:08 am

Dali
by Ignacio Gomez de Liano
© 1982 Ediciones Poligrafa, S.A.

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Image

Table of Contents:

• Text
• Signature
• Pictures
1. Judgment of Paris
2. Cannibalism of Objects
3. Paranoiac Face
4. Study for "The Outskirts of the Paranoiac-Critical City"
5. Portrait of Freud
6. Crepuscular Old Man
7. Grandmother Anna Sewing
8. Self-portrait of the Artist at his Easel in Cadaques
9. Portrait of Jose M. Torres
10. Portrait of the Cellist Ricard Pitxot
11. Self-portrait with Raphael's Neck
12. Self-portrait
13. The Llane Beach at Cadaques
14. Cadaques
15. The First Days of Spring
16. Bathers at El Llane
17. Port Alguer
18. Anna Maria
19. Crystalline Still Life
20. Venus with Amorini
21. Port Alguer (2)
22. Seated Girl from Behind (Anna Maria)
23. Girl Standing at the Window
24. Bay of Cadaques
25. Cala Nans, Cadaques, Embellished with Cypresses
26. Portrait of the Artist's Father
27. Cliff (also known as Woman Sitting on the Rocks)
28. The Bread-basket
29. The Girl with the Curls (The Girl from the Emporda)
30. Painting with Sailor
31. Cubist Self-Portrait
32. Venus and Sailor
33. The Barcelona Mannequin
34. Senicitas
35. Still Life
36. Amoeba Face
37. Honey is Sweeter than Blood
38. The Putrefied Donkey
39. Inaugural Gooseflesh
40. Portrait of Paul Eluard
41. The First Days of Spring
42. Spectre of the Afternoon
43. Vertigo or Tower of Pleasure
44. Premature Ossification of a Station
45. Bleeding Roses
46. First Portrait of Gala
47. The Persistence of Memory (The Soft Watches)
48. Gradiva Finds the Anthropomorphous Ruins
49. Shades of Night Coming Down
50. Agnostic Symbol
51. Partial Hallucination
52. Meditation on the Harp
53. The Invisible Man
54. Babaouo
55. The Phantom Wagon
56. Gala and Millet's Angelus Preceding the Imminent Arrival of the Conical Anamorphoses
57. Millet's Architectural Angelus
58. Masochistic Instrument
59. Gala with Two Lamb Chops Balanced on her Shoulder
60. Archaeological Reminiscences of Millet's Angelus
61. The Spectre of Sex-appeal
62. Enigmatic Elements in a Landscape
63. Weaning from the Food Chair
64. Apparition of My Cousin Carolineta on the Beach at Roses
65. The Ship
66. Atavistic Traces after the Rain
67. Portrait of Gala or Gala's Angelus
68. The Rider of Death
69. Perspectives
70. The Anthropomorphic Chest of Drawers
71. The Chemist from Figueres who is not Looking for Anything at All
72. White Calm
73. Soft Construction with Cooked Beans (Premonition of the Spanish Civil War)
74. Women with Flowers for Heads Finding the Skin of a Grand Piano on the Beach
75. Geological Justice
76. The Great Paranoiac
77. Solar Table
78. Cannibalism in Autumn
79. Lighted Giraffes
80. The Dream
81. The Enigma of Hitler
82. The Invention of Monsters
83. Spain
84. Metamorphosis of Narcissus
85. Transparent Simulacrum of a False Image
86. Impressions of Africa
87. Palladian Corridor with a Dramatic Surprise
88. Beach with Telephone
89. The Image Vanishes
90. The Infinite Enigma
91. Slave-market with the Apparition of the Invisible Bust of Voltaire
92. Spider of the Afternoon, Hope!
93. Soft Self-portrait with Grilled Rasher of Bacon
94. The Eye of Time
95. Jewel
96. Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second before Awakening
97. Half a Giant Cup Suspended with an Inexplicable Appendage Five Metres Long
98. The Bread-basket (2)
99. Design for the film Spellbound
100. Portrait of Picasso in the Glory of the Sun
101. Interatomic Balance of a Swan's Feather
102. The Three Sphinxes of Bikini
103. Atomic Leda
104. First Study for the Madonna of Portlligat
105. Dali at the Age of Six, when he Thought he was a Girl, Lifting the Skin of the Water to see a Dog Sleeping in the Shade of the Sea
106. Landscape of Portlligat
107. Raphaelesque Head Bursting
108. Christ of St. John of the Cross
109. The Angel of Portlligat
110. Galatea of the Spheres
111. Portrait of Gala with Rhinocerotic Symptoms
112. Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory
113. Crucifixion ('Hypercubic Body')
114. The Last Supper
115. Rhinocerotic Gooseflesh
116. Saint Helen in Portlligat
117. Living Still Life
118. Meditative Rose
119. Sistine Madonna
120. Velazquez, Painting the Infanta Margarita, Surrounded by the Lights and Shadows of Her Own Glory
121. The Dream of Columbus
122. Virgin of Guadalupe
123. Gala Nude from behind Looking in an Invisible Mirror
124. Birth of a Divinity
125. The Battle of Tetuan
126. Salvador Dali in the Act of Painting Gala in the Apotheosis of the Dollar, in which One may also Perceive to the Left Marcel Duchamp Disguised as Louis XIV, behind a Curtain in the Style of Vermeer, which is but the Invisible though Monumental Face of the Hermes of Praxiteles
127. The Station at Perpignan
128. The Tunny Catch
129. Cosmic Athlete
130. Hallucinogenous Bullfighter
131. Hour of the Monarchy
132. Op Rhinoceros
133. Unfinished Stereoscopic Picture
134. Ruggiero Freeing Angelica
135. Gala Looking at the Mediterranean Sea
136. Soft Monster in Angelic Landscape
137. In Search of the Fourth Dimension
138. The Palace of the Wind
139. Patio-Garden of the Dali Museum-Theatre in Figueres
140. The Road of the Enigma
141. La Pieta
142. Othello Dreaming Venice
143. The Three Glorious Enigmas of Gala
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 25178
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Postby admin » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:13 am

DALI
by Ignacio Gomez de Liano
© 1982 Ediciones Poligrafa, S.A.

Just a few days before shutting myself up to write these pages, I visited Dali at his house in Portlligat. When I found myself once again in that bay, so often caressed by Dali's brushes, of which Meifren used to say that it ought to be made the subject of continuous and assiduous practice for painters, I did not see it as a patch of sea but as a lake whose waters reflected, in Dali's own phrase, 'the dramas of the sky at sunset.'

That bay comes into view like some landscape 'at the world's end'; like a geological eyebrow surrounding the great blue eye of the water; or, to use a surrealist image, like the white of an egg protecting and nourishing the meaty, marine yolk of Portlligat. Portlligat seems to concentrate the essences of Dali,s personality, with its two opposite poles: that of the morning and that of the evening. The first is 'gay, ferociously analytical and structural'; the second, 'morbidly melancholy, grey, motionless. '

In the morning that planetary landscape is simply a happy, light-reflecting strand on which at any moment Ulysses and his fellow sailors might be about to land. In the evening -- and it was in the evening that I now made my way to the painter's house -- it is the Stygian water that Patinir saw, the Island of the Dead imagined by Bocklin. But do we not always find these two poles in Dali? The chiaro of his lights and his open spaces, the scuro of the elongated shadows and the disquieting portents? In his painting is there not always a soft, abysmal ultraromanticism, which is nevertheless controlled, imperiously and categorically, by the rigours of the analysis and the compositive structuring?

Absorbed in these reflections, I had by now come up to the door of the house. As I gazed at the cypress that rises -- like an emblem of the place, a sort of genius loci -- out of an old fishing-boat, I was suddenly reminded of that woman of the village who has now passed into history as the famous Lidia de Cadaques, from whom Dal!, fresh from his first success in Paris, bought a tumble-down fisherman's shack, the embryo of what was to be the fantastic house in which he and Gala, Gala and he, lived for so long; that house to which they always returned from their travels beyond the mountains or beyond the ocean.

I evoked the figure of that delirious Lidia de Cadaques, whom the artist once called the 'godmother' of his extravagances, and who was convinced that she was the model for the eponymous heroine of La Ben Plantada by Eugenio d'Ors, from whom she believed she received messages in code through the articles that Catalan philosopher and aesthete published in the press; on one occasion, for instance, she thought that an article published by d'Ors under the title Poussin and El Greco referred cryptically to two very well-known characters in Cadaques, one of them nicknamed Pua and the other, a Greek diver, El Grec. It always pleased Dali to see in the interpretative delirium of that surrealist Lidia-Dulcinea of the Emporda an excellent example of his own artistic method, based on the systematization of delirious hallucillJltions.

When I was admitted to the house, Dali received me in his studio. My eyes went quickly and voraciously all over the room and I was astonished to see how much Dali had painted since my last visit to him, only three months earlier.

Established at different heights on their respective easels, the pictures seemed to be leaning forward to greet me; they actually seemed to be making signs to me to look more closely at each and everyone of them, to try to fathom the depths that merely began on their coloured surfaces. Those pictures were not altogether strangers to me. From Madrid I had followed, though only fragmentarily and at second hand, their birth and development. And from this accumulation of references I had gradually formed an idea of all these works. And now I had them here in front of me, within the white walls of the studio, with their definitive forms and figures -- and with that disconcerting feeling, too, that one never fails to experience when one compares the present with what one imagined of it in the past.

I knew that Dali, having happily recovered from his long illness, had returned to his favourite, inexhaustible themes: Velilzquez and the great masters of the Italian Renaissance. And I knew that he had said one evening in a brotherly way to his friend, and fellow painter, Antoni Pitxot: 'You're just getting old enough now to devote yourself to the great masters... When we reach a certain maturity, they should be our best companions.'

First of all, then, I examined the different pictures alluding to, or 'commenting on,' the story of Mercury and Argus as it was represented by Velazquez in one of his most enigmatic works, and the last one he ever painted, which now hangs in the Prado. How can one escape the mysterious, latent, almost furtive attraction of this canvas? Mercury, the conductor of souls, the god of thieves par excellence, has already drugged Argus, the demigod who was all eyes, all vision, all alertness, but whom Velilzquez presents in the guise of a poor old cowherd. The painter captures Mercury at the moment when the cunning god, having safely put the old man to sleep, is rising furtively with a catlike movement and getting ready to carry off the heifer with the crescent-moon horn (the soul or that unfortunate maiden, Io?) and take her outside the picture, out of the work, beyond any pictorial representation. Not for nothing is the heifer's horn pointing westwards, towards the setting .sun.

In the studio in Portlligat I examined Dali's most recent variations on the theme: Argus and Mercury floating in the clouds, Argus and Mercury lulling each other to sleep and concealing themselves in space and colour.

Apart from these hermetic (and, if I may be permitted a weak joke, Argonautic) pictures, one of the outstanding new works was Dal!-i's version of the Infanta Margarita as painted by Velazquez in The Maids of Honour. But in this Portlligat version, instead of the Infanta's head there is an enormous spherical pearl, shining as brightly as a star. Is this intended to be a kind of visual pun based on the synonymity of Pearl and Margarita, the Infanta's name? Well, yes; but it is also more than that, for the fact is that the heads of the different figures surrounding the looking-glass that can be seen in the background of Velazquez's picture correspond exactly to the stars visible to the naked eye in the constellation of the Corona Borealis; and the star corresponding to the Infanta Margarita's head is in fact known to astronomers as Margarita, the same name as the little princess. Allusions to this and other coincidences bet.ween astronomy and Velazquez's great work can also be seen in Dali's picture.

However, the picture that very soon absorbed all my attention was another, the last of those so recently painted by Dali. One could see -- indeed, one could smell -- how fresh the oil was still. Dali had it on his left as he sat there dipping the tip of his brush into the colours on his palette, which he transferred with brief, nervous strokes on to a new canvas, a continuation of the previous one.

This picture, as I say, surprised me and disquieted me. I stood as though rooted to the floor, gazing at it and thinking about it. It was a Pietii, inspired in the famous work by Michelangelo which is in St. Peter's in Rome. But what a strange Pietii! How utterly strange was Dali's Pietii, and what a contrast there was between the background of 'white calm,' in which the sea and the sky blended together and lent each other their colours, and the figures of the Mother and her dead Son, which were painted with the grey of slate or volcanic rock, an Ash Wednesday grey, a storm-cloud grey. The Son's head is bathed in a spectral green light, and the figures seem to be floating in a luminously nuanced space in which they are wrapped as though in a cloak.

The body of the Mater Dolorosa is pierced by two great holes -- two great holes that are like eye-sockets of a gigantic skull. Through the hole on the left we can see a rock gilded by the sun, the form of which is like a morphological echo repeating that of the reclining head of the dead Son. In those planetary rocks, the rocks of a lunar landscape, like fossils in daydreams, which are the vestiges of some geological collapse at this last appendix to the Pyrenees, the Cap de Creus, or 'Cape of Crosses,' Dali had once again found the vision of the Sacrificed Son and the Mother of Sorrows, the almost mythical Pietii, whose plastic form is that of an ash-grey grotto floating in the solar space.

At that moment I remembered that it was Shrove Tuesday and, therefore, the eve of Ash Wednesday, the grey door that leads into Lent. And Dali seemed to have been waiting for this to occur to me, for the moment I made some allusion to the date he replied:

'Precisely so. And, if you look carefully, you will see that this Pieta is a carrus navalis. a "naval carriage.'" And he added: 'The word "Carnival," you know, comes from carrus navalis, from this "naval carriage.'"

This philological observation sounded convincing enough to me and, in fact, reminded me that when I had arrived in Cadaques a few days earlier I had noticed at the entrance to the village a sort of cart in the shape of a boat, decorated for the festivities and looking rather like one of the solemn 'floats' used in Spanish religious processions, though it was obviously of an absolutely profane character.

It was another evocation or association, provoked by my contemplation of the picture, that finally made Dali's Pietii seem really disquieting to me. For this Pietii, from the strictly pictoral point of view, was in fact a kind of echo or replica of that other canvas which, over' half a century ago now, when the artist was only twenty-five years old and had just set out on the great adventure of Surrealism in Paris, he painted during a stay in Figueras and entitled The Enigma of Desire. In the 1929 picture we can also see in the sculptural block -- which is again reminiscent of the rocks on Cap de Creus -- two enormous holes, like eyes, and an allusion to the painter's mother that is repeated like a call or a supplication. Almost a hundred times we read, written on the rocky mass, the words ma mere, ma mere, ma mere...

I felt that that exclamation uttered in 1929, with all the insistence of a litany, could also be half-heard in the 1982 canvas, in the figure of the Mater Dolorosa with the Son sacrificed on the cross resting on her lap. Rock and grotto of ashes. Carms navalis of the pagan procession of Carnival.

Then Dali stopped painting, pointed at the picture of the Pietii again with his brush and said, simply and firmly:

'It is a disguise. If you look properly, you will see that it is a disguise.'

Indeed, the two great open 'eyes' in the centre of the sculptural-group did give it something of the character of a mask. It was a strange model for the masks that are usually worn at the Carnival parties and fancy-dress balls. Dali, then, was not prepared to abandon his disguise, to take off all those masks that have so prodigally and for so long abounded in his life. Disguises which, in fact, are the result of the long hours that Dali has spent ever since he was a boy in the contemplation of the metamorphic rocks of Cap de Creus, of which he has written: ' ...as though they were ghostly quick-change artists of stone, I discovered in that perpetual disguise the profound significance of that modesty of nature to which Heraclitus was referring in his enigmatic phrase: "Nature likes to conceal herself." And in this modesty of nature I perceived the very principle of irony. Observing how the forms of those unmoving rocks could ','shake," I meditated on my own rocks, those of my thought. '

But in these new rocks, these rocks seen by the painter from the imposing vantage point of the years, there is one small detail of difference: the mask for Shrove Tuesday in 1982 is really the disguise of Ash Wednesday. It is neither more nor less than the Pietii, the group formed by the Mother of Sorrows and the Son who lies lifeless on her lap.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 25178
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Postby admin » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:13 am

The Theatre of Memory

Two days after the visit referred to in the preceding section I was packing my bags to return to Madrid. I telephoned to Portlligat to take my leave of the painter and to know whether he had any further remarks to make to me regarding the book I was preparing to write about him and his work. When I asked him this, Dali at once said, with the utmost clarity:

'Write a lot about the Museum. I want you, above all, to write about the Museum.'

There was no need to say any more. I knew perfectly well what he meant when he spoke of the 'museum,' for it was a subject that had frequently occupied our summer conversations in Portlligat, since the day about five years ago now -- that I told him, after visiting the Museum-Theatre in Figueras, that one of the things about it that had most surprised me was that it constituted a true Theatre of Memory, just like the one designed during the Renaissance by the Venetian humanist and hermeticist, Giulio Camillo. But this point is one that needs some elucidation.

What did Giulio Camillo's Theatre of Memory consist of? Viglius Zuichemius, who was staying in Padua in the year 1532, wrote a letter to his friend Erasmus, the famous Dutch humanist, in which he told him that everybody there was talking about a certain Giulio Camillo and his Theatre of Memory, the building of which -- never finished, on account of financial difficulties -- was being paid for by the King of France, Francis I. At a later date Camillo was to reveal the. hermetic secret of his Theatre of Memory to the Spanish Governor in Milan at the time, Alfonso Davalos (that Marques del Vasto who was the patron of the poet Ariosto and was the subject of a portrait by Titian)

'Giulio Camillo calls his Theatre,' writes Zuichemius to Erasmus, 'by many names: he is as likely to say it is a mind structured or constructed as that it is a mind and soul with windows. He maintains that all the things that the human mind can conceive, and that cannot be seen with our bodily eyes, can be expressed by means of certain material signs in such a way that the spectator can instantly perceive with his eyes everything that would otherwise remain hidden in the depths of the human mind. And it is because of its physical aspect that he calls it a Theatre.'

I immediately realized that Dali's Museum-Theatre in Figueres complies with the two fundamental rules of the art of memory which inspired the theatre of Giulio Camillo: the rule of places and the rule of images. According to the art of mnemonics -- invented by the lyric poet Simonides of Ceos and the sophists, continued by the Roman rhetoricians, reformed by the Schoolmen of the Middle Ages and renewed by the Renaissance humanists -- certain images and, in general, places have the power to arouse memories, which anybody's own experience can confirm, as when, on returning to a place from which we have been absent for a long time, by the mere fact of being there again many things that we thought we had forgotten come crowding back into our memory.

Camillo's great achievement consisted in the faCt that he gave organic shape to the symbolic contents of the memory in a theatre of the Vitruvian type, which he had previously adapted to the peculiar character of his intentions. The Theatre of Vicenza, designed by Palladio, can give us a very fair idea of what the materialization of Camillo's 'theatre of Memory might eventually have looked like. Perhaps we should attribute to some hermetic-mnemonic origin the strange 'metaphysical' atmosphere that pervades Palladio's theatre, of which Dali himself has written that it is one of the three places that have produced the most profound impression of mystery in his spirit -- 'the Theatre of Palladio, in Vicenza, the most mysterious and divine "aesthetic" place' (the other two being the ,staircase of the 'Chabanais' and the subterranean entrance to the tombs in the Escorial).

The Theatre of Figueres -- or of Figures, I am tempted to write -- in fact constitutes a system of mnemonic places analogous to those imagined by Giulio Camillo in order to give a face to the mind, to make patent what lay hidden, to open windows in the soul, and thus to make that soul a place of enduring consistency.

The second great rule,· or master key to the art of memory, has to do with the images of the things we want to remember. These images must be carefully positioned in the different places in the Theatre of Memory; besides that -- all the writers insist -- they must be strange and unusual, surprising and emotive, in order that the things we wish to fix in our memories by their means may not be easily effaced. Certainly, nobody can doubt for a moment that the 'images' that people Dali's Museum-Theatre are strange and unusual, surprising and emotive! They create aesthetic atmospheres, they awaken psychic resonances with their scenography. Frequently they are ineffaceable.

Dali once told me that when (in his Paris days) he painted one of his most famous works, which was in fact entitled The Persistence of Memory or The Soft Watches, when he showed it to Gala he asked her: 'Do you think that three years from now you will have forgotten this image?' To which Gala replied: 'Nobody who has ever seen it will ever be able to forget it.' Is it not the same case with many of the images invented by Dali, many of the images that go to make up Dali's Theatre of Memory?

Dali's museum is related not only to the Renaissance Theatre of Memory but also, and even more explicitly, to the 'Combinatorial Wheels' in the Ars magna of Ramon Llull, the great 13th-century Majorcan philosopher and visionary. By means of a symbolic artifice, which I will explain at a later stage, Dali has set his Theatre in motion, making it revolve 'like a wheel in· combination with other similarly revolving wheels, in such a way that all the figures in the Theatre of Figueres gaze at themselves in all the others, and with all the others entwine and combine.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 25178
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Postby admin » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:17 am

The road through Dali's memory

The road on which we are now about to set out is a symbolic itinerary. The territory it crosses is that of the Museum-Theatre of Figueres, a region over which Dali has deposited down through the years all his basic artistic and psychological experiences, rather as though they were the alluvial sediments left by a great river at its mouth.

The first thing that attracts our attention -- before we have even begun our tour, at milestone zero as it were is the sculpture that stands, all alone, in front of the Museum-Theatre. It stands precisely between the Theatre and the Church. And this church, as a matter of fact, is the parish church of Figueres, in which Salvador Dali was christened with a name that, for the artist himself, was to represent a whole programme of 'salvation of art.' For Dali, once he had properly digested the avant-garde experience and gradually begun to .settle into his own work and the memory of history, set his sights on 'the perenniality of the acanthus' and committed himself to the quixotic enterprise of saving art from the impoverishment, trivialization and primitivism into which it had been cast by the constant rush and other circumstances of this age of the masses which is the 20th century.

The sculpture with which our itinerary begins, stands in a no-man's-land, in the smooth public space between the two great dramatic scenographies of Time. It is a hieroglyphic figure which announces the Theatre and, with the empty eyes of its ovoid head, gazes meditatively at the Church.

Its body is formed from an ancient olive tree with a twisted trunk, like entrails or like the dragons that guard the underworld. The breast of the sculpture is outlined by little figures in relief representing the men of the people; and protruding as its heart -- a heart out in the open -- we see the head of a Roman patrician. Above it is that of the Emporda philosopher Francesc Pujols.

On the back, in the penumbra of the collar bone, smiles the remote countenance of Ramon Uull, a blend of algebra and mysticism, of combinatorial rotation and ascent by the ladder of being. (Is not the olive the Uullian tree of the species?).

The Figure is in the symbolic posture of Melancholy, the temperament of the philosopher and of the man who remembers, the saturnine humour of speculation and reminiscence. Its powerful hand strokes the head, or egg, from which all comes forth.

And now our eyes can inspect the facade of the Theatre. In the centre a Diver, with the diving-suitlantern as a celestial vault or Neptunian dome. This idea of penetration and immersion is repeated and multiplied by the female figures on the balconies accompanying the Diver. They are women whose torsos and bemes are pierced with amoeba-shaped holes: dematerialization of the body in pure space and energy. Giulio Camillo called his Theatre of Memory 'a soul with windows.' The figures in the Theatre of Figueres are bodies that open like windows, that become windows.

While the Diver represents the visitor who will be plunging into the abyssal spaces of the Museum-Theatre, the female Figures are the space itself, the multiplied and penetrated place itself. The long loaves of bread that they bear on their heads (a motif that is as important in Dali's painting as that of the perforations) open and satiate the appetite: bread is matter and communion. They are leaning on crutches (another essential motif in Dali's work) which should be seen as 'crutches of that reality thanks to which they remain, in away, suspended above the earth during sleep.' Like the Pythagorean Y, which, according to Dali, expresses 'the mystery of bifurcation', about these crutches our painter from Figueres has said: 'And ever since then (he is referring to a childhood experience) that anonymous crutch has been for me, and will always be till the end of my days, the symbol of death and the symbol of resurrection.'

Above the Diver and the female Figures stretches the series of suits of armour, with their allusion to external appearance, to the skin as carapace, to exhibition -- an armed exhibition of strength, for the Museum-Theatre is also a set of exhibitions, in which is represented that which is frequently inhibited in the spirit.

Above this again -- in the serrated outline of the facade -- there are figures waving a greeting, welcoming us.

The vehicle for our itinerary is parked in the Patio-Garden. Its interior is watered with secret rains. It is the intestinal lust of the jungles and the ocean depths. I call it a 'hepatic vehicle,' because the liver -- the pictorial viscus par excellence, which gives the eyes a golden tinge constitutes the roots· of the human plant, the seat of dreams. On the bonnet of the car rises the opulent, colossal figure of Mnemosine-Ester, the goddess of profound memory. Mnemosine has her arms open and is gazing at a figure without a body, a figure which is only clothing, placed at the middle window of the hemicycle (in front of the stage). This figure's dress is made up of miniature patches or squares of memory. Its being is nothing but externals. Its being is only appearing. The Dress-figure is flanked by two Chain- figures, which personify the practice of connecting or linking the different places in the Theatre of Memory. The Renaissance philosopher and mnemonicist Giordano Bruno recommended this practice, and added that all magic is condensed in the art of establishing links.

Crowning the Patio-Garden there is a frieze of twenty-five washbasins: attestation for an attentive and well- attended act of purification.

What drama is performed in Dali's Theatre of Memory? What mystery is celebrated there? The great backdrop to the stage is sufficiently explicit. It represents the bust of a man. In his breast there is a heavy open door, of Mycenaean or Egyptian appearance. This figure, with its sorrowfully drooping head, resembles the one that the artist used, in his illustrations for Dante's Divina Commedia, to represent the logical Demon (Canto XXVII of the Inferno). But in the Theatre of Figueres a certain dreaminess has softened the figure of that infernal character who, like the Greek god of Time, crushed human limbs between his jaws.

What does one enter by this heavy door of the backdrop? One enters the interior of an Island. The Island is a Garden. The Garden is a Labyrinth. Sharp-edged cliffs separate this intimate place, this Backlinian island, from the ocean swell, from the continuous attacks that come from outside, while long lines of cypresses pierce the night sky with their lugubrious lances. This drama of solitude, drama of isolation, is modulated by the remaining images that can be seen on the stage: bullrings, in which the audience is a heap of skulls -- the animal is sacrificed and carried off on a grand piano, followed by a train of prelates, mitres and night-flying birds. Bullrings as the frame for the double image of Venus and the Matador.

There we can see the valiant knight, Sir Roger, with his long, sharp sword, killing the dragon who has carried off the fair Angelica. There, too, we can see, on an altar, a soft Christ crucified. The stage of the Museum-Theatre is the arena, altar or grotto where the passion and death of Appearance are performed. The crystal cupola that covers this space (seen from the patio, it reflects the tower of the church) proclaims through its shape -- a geodesic dome -- that the drama is taking place in 'The great theatre of the world.'

And now our tour takes us up to the First Floor. There we find: Newton, the pendulum. Velazquez, the ruff from the Maids of Honour. A female torso is transformed into a face. Perseus blends into Christ. Above all this, a self-portrait of Dali. On the opposite wall, a portrait of Gala. Under her, a little boy wearing a warlike helmet.

On the vaulted ceiling of this noble drawing-room, the Palace of the Air, a sky painted by Dali -- reminiscent of those created by the Jesuit painter of the Baroque age, Pozzo -- with some of his best-loved themes and memories. The hands of a man and a woman, Dali and Gala, are holding up this sky, this Palace of the Wind. Next to them, the bust of the 'Logical Demon,' wheels of triumphal chariots or Uullian combinations, Danaean showers of gold, the plain of the Emporda.

In a prominent position opposite the entrance door to this room hangs the painting that represents an ancient river-dweller. Beside the three great goddesses -- the Three Graces -- he pours the water from his inexhaustible pitcher. This is Time. On the other side of the partition on which this picture of Time hangs, in the room that gives on to the central balconies of the facade, complicated relationships are being woven around 'genetic imperialism.' There we see Dali's huge, heavy book, Dix recettes d'immortalite, with its interior multiplied in mirrors that take in the gilded fishbone-throne, which, equidistant from the two covers of the volume, ascends as though it were a staircase, with vertebrae for steps.

As though echoing this throne, on the other side of the room, there is the portrait of the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, in naval uniform. He is surrounded by different images alluding to 'genetic imperialism': helicoidal towers arising out of the dream, like structures of deoxyribonucleic acid. Next to Jacob's ladder, the tree of Jesse, the genealogy of Christ and the motto Tetracedron abscisus vacuus. The common denominator of this room is immortality through genetic transmission and its imperial legislation.

Now we return to the apartment that is the Palace of the Wind. In the room on the left a great number of slippers have left their prints on the ceiling and the glass screen through which we can perceive a Wagnerian love scene. Prints of passion? Dangling from the ceiling of this room, like a serpent or a helicoid, is a string of teaspoons (Dali's favourite gnostic symbol), at the bottom of which a little female face smiles at us with an Art-Nouveau smile. Looking at this face is the molecular whirler of the atomic head, While in distraction, like the famous Thornery of the Island Garden in Aranjuez, a woman on the beach, painted by Bouguereau, extracts a thorn that has entered the sole of her foot. Image of distraction: the eye lets itself be submerged by the nonspatial point of the thorn. Distraction is the only experience that admits no reflection on itself.

In front of this room, and on the other side of the Palace of the Wind, we come to one of the key spaces in this Theatre of Memory of Dali, this Museum of Dali's memory. It is presided over by a tapestry representing The Persistence of Memory. The soft watches seem to be saying to us: This is the decisive moment, this is the Time of this Theatre. Only the soft endures. The hard does not last. The soft is time: the wave. 'As for the Witches, they must either be soft or not exist at all!' Dali has said. The soft watches hang in the picture like a couple of fried eggs. And fried eggs, in Dali's imagination, constitute the earliest of all memories of prenatal life, as well as being the expression of the incessant movement of the retinal phosphenes.

Let us pause for a moment in front of The Persistence of Memory, for -this work is connected .- like the cogwheels of a watch -- with the rest of the Museum-Theatre. The principal motif of the picture is a watch hanging flaccidly from the branch of a tree standing beside the sea in a sort of finis mundi; or land's end, a lonely landscape of cliff and shore. And the watch hanging from the tree has adopted the exact shape of a famous theme of legend that has been very frequently depicted in painting, above all in Spanish painting: I refer to the theme of the Golden Fleece. The soft watch hanging from the tree, then, is a metaphor of that Golden Fleece that Jason went in quest of with all those other great Greek heroes, the crew of the good ship Argo, when they set sail for Colchis, in the region of the rising sun.

The soft/hard semantic duality that constitutes the structural principle of the representation, is rather like an echo of another morphological duality: the hardness of the horn of the ram and the softness of his skin. As a metaphor of time, the Golden Fleece represents the sun rising in the sign of Aries -- the Ram of the zodiac and is tinged with heraldic eroticism, since the origin of the Order of Knighthood of the Golden Fleece, the supreme grand master of which is the King of Spain, is associated with the pubic hair of a maiden who took the fancy of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. The wool trade and the dewy fleece of Gideon round off the semantic constellation in which the Order of the Golden Fleece is situated.

In the same way as the dial of the watch, that instrument emblematic of royalty, the Golden Fleece, or ram's skin and wool, expresses superficiality in the pure state, the realm of pure appearance, without which painting would not exist.

The marine background of the picture is echoed by the great bed that we find in this room. It is in the form of an enormous shell supported by four dolphins, those warm-blooded aquatic mammals so highly esteemed by the Greeks, who saw in them the beings that reincarnated the souls of shipwrecked sailors.

The enigmatic theme of the sphinx appears in different elements in this room. In the corner beside the balcony the eye is caught by the skeleton of an anthropoid. Its bones are covered with gold leaf; they are Sublimated. Underneath the vertebrae, in the hollow of the breastbone, we see Bernini's head of St Teresa in ecstasy. In this ensemble Dali has endeavoured to harmonize contraries.

Quite recently Dali has hung a new picture here which completes the symbolic value of this room of The Persistence of Memory. It is a picture of some Uullian wheels, their rotation being achieved by means of the movement of the phosphenes provoked by an optical contrast of colours. With this picture, placed on top of a poster that represents Le visage de la chance, Dali is clearly affirming that his Museum-Theatre is a Theatre of Memory that revolves around itself like Ramon Llull's combinatorial wheels.

To the right of the stage there is a corner with scenography that constitutes a complicated reflection on the theme of the Golden Fleece. Hanging from the ceiling, above an elongated bone armchair with a figure reclining on it of which only the head can be seen, there are a great many buckets, of the type used for drawing water from a well. The theme of the fleece-watch is represented here by the ropes, cloths and draperies that descend in the typical curve of the catenoid. And on the wall we see the actual horns of a ram. Beneath them there is a sword, which is an allusion to the imperial function, to the civil power. The curve of the horns is repeated, in stylized form, in the moustaches of the warriors and in other motifs in this locus memoriae.

But let us continue our tour of the images in this Theatre. The polymorphic power of images may be observed in 'the face of Mae West which can be used as a drawing-room.' In this room the image becomes a place. The hair becomes draperies. The eyes, landscapes. The mouth, a sofa. The nose, a fireplace. Another instance of this polymorphism of the image, of its transformation into a place, can be found in the showcase devoted to the wheelbarrow in Millet's Angelus, the picture that was used by Dali as the motif for the initiation of his paranoiac-critical method.

Above Michelangelo's Moses, which is on the left of the stage, we can see an octopus, and above the octopus the threatening head of the rhinoceros (its horn is a characteristic example of a logarithmic curve, as frequently employed by Dali). Here once again we find the contrasting duality of soft/hard, terrestrial/aquatic, visible/invisible. At the feet of the Moses we see Ramon Llull's combinatorial wheels. Like Moses on the top of . Mount Sinai, Llull had his moment of illumination on the top of Mount Randa, in Majorca. From there the land all around looks like a vast revolving wheel.

And, exactly as though by Llullian wheels, the Theatre of Figueres is surrounded by three circular passages. One is called rue Trajan, the street of Trajanus -- thrice Janus .:...- that Spanish emperor who set out from Triana (Traiana) to conquer Rome and to create Rumania (the ancient Dacia). One of these circular corridors is presided over by a great picture by Antoni Pitxot entitled Allegory of Memory (it is also known by the name of Journey to the Centre of the Earth, doubtless because of the deep grotto depicted in it).

Three female figures, whose limbs are anamorphoses of rocks, stand out in the centre of the resounding grotto. They form the classic group of the Three Graces, a chorus in which the oneness of Venus is tripled. But their respective placing (one of the figures stands apart from the other two and is repeated in the back of the grotto and in the foreground) differs from the classical version, which expressed the three operations of Liberality -- give, receive, return -- or the Neo-Platonic trinities -- commented on by Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola -- of Beauty, Chastity and Pleasure (in Botticelli's Spring, for instance) or of Beauty, Love and Pleasure (as, for example, in the Medal of Pico della Mirandola). The figure that is repeated three times, and which is very clearly separated from the other two, undoubtedly symbolizes Memory. The key to Pitxot's interpretation may be found in Ramon Llull's Book of Contemplation, in which the three powers of the soul are embodied in three noble and beautiful young ladies. The great Majorcan philosopher describes their operations as follows:

'The first remembers what the second understands and the third desires; the second understands what the first remembers and the third desires; the third desires what the first remembers and the second understands.'

In Dali's Museum-Theatre there is a room, communicating with the stage, which is very properly known as the treasure, because it contains images which can be of assistance to the visitor on his mnemonic journey through the Theatre. Presiding over this room is the famous Bread-basket, which speaks to us of the nutritious character of the images exhibited in the Museum, and also of the communion of art.

It is true that the Museum-Theatre of Figueres, with its delirious flowerings, has much of the character of a hell, but it is a hell that has become aurified, transcendental, transfigured. To this it has come by the ways that explore the labyrinthine confines of consciousness and bring out into the light of day all that we keep hidden in the most secret corners of our psyches. The Theatre, therefore, is a work of publicity. A colossal window.

The pictures and images of the memory, however, prepare one to forget just as much as they help one to remember. What happens with these images is what happens with contraries that resolve their differences in unity: in the harmonized unity of opposites there is a serene comprehension that resembles memory in its presence, but resembles oblivion because the soul is soothed and calmed in an infinite absence.

But the Museum-Theatre is a place of transformations and one in transformation. One day it may be possible to specify the colours and frames of the loci memoriae. Another day may see the unwinding of a chain, or Ariadne's thread, that will link the places together and help anybody who is lost in space to find himself in time. On yet another day Phrygian caps may be distributed among the visitors, to teach them that the object and the goal of the journey through memory is the conquest of the Golden Fleece, the Soft Watch.

But Mnemosine-Ester still awaits us in the Patio-Garden-Stalls. The bonnet of the surrealist vehicle is pointing to the door, to the way out. The way out? Can one, then, go out of the place one is in?

The first thing we see is the collar bone of Melancholy, the head of Ramon Llull. Turning left, we go round the Museum, and we raise our eyes to the statue of Meissonier, the meticulous painter of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, with the wheelruts of the carts and the hoofprints of the horses on the snow. Meissonier is standing on dark pedestals formed- by tractor wheels. And one recalls the phrase one heard spoken by Dali himself, the day before this itinerary, in the shelter of the white-walled patio in Portlligat:

'The positrons, neutrons and protons must not be left out.'

'Of course they won't.'

Eatables

Man's most philosophical organs are his jaws. This sentence of Dali's is not a resume of the philosophy of Count Keyserling, according to which the driving force of human life and culture is to be found in hunger, but reveals one of the most profound bases of the artistic personality of Salvador Dali.

Perhaps it may not be altogether gratuitous to explain that in the Castilian language the words substancia ('substance') and medula ('marrow' or 'pith') are concepts that are just as valid for metaphysics as for gastronomy. The 'richness' of a broth is its substance, in the same way a, the substance, on the metaphysical plane, is what forms the ontological foundation of a being. Unamuno preferred to speak of the medulla or marrow of beings, as though he were talking about a Castilian stew, of the stock from which it is often said that it would 'revive a corpse.'

In Dali the eatable is frequently confused with the real. The most real is the most eatable. The most real is the richest -- food. His painting, therefore, has to be supremely eatable: the most substantial food, the most exquisite viands for the ravaged palates of the 20th century, in which he has endeavoured to infuse the salivary secretions of the Homeric banquets, those feasts that not infrequently included the roasting of whole herds of Mycenaean oxen.

Dali has told me that when he was still a child he saw all the objects of his consciousness as though they were sweets and all sweets as materialized objects of consciousness. Thus his first childhood ambition was to be a cook, from which he passed to the stage of wanting to be Napoleon. And so a synthesis of Dali might be that of a cook-Napoleon, that of an aesthetic glutton brought up among the unbending and imperial rigours of the Escorial. As a matter of fact, one of the 'thinking machines' invented by Dali is based on the idea of the 'eatable Napoleon,' in which, Dali himself says, 'I have given material form to those two essential phantoms of my childhood -- oral delirium of nutrition and dazzling spiritual imperialism.'

That is why Dali has not the slightest objection to declaring that fifty little glasses of warm milk hanging from a rocking chair have the same significance for him as the plump thighs of Napoleon.

It is, perhaps, in the astonishing illustrations that Dali did in the early nineteen-thirties for Les chants de Maldoror by Lautreamont that one may most overwhelmingly perceive this identification that Dali establishes between Napoleon and eatables; the identification, too, of our age with meat, with the carnality that makes one's mouth water, stimulates the secretion of the salivary glands and even arouses aggressiveness. According to Dali, the marrow of the bone, or medulla, possesses the value of truth, but ... , before that sublime moment of spirit-eatable is reached, what a singular and tenacious battle between the molars and the bone!

Viscera and bones, shreds of flesh and flayed muscles, limbs that have been chopped up or are slashing pieces out of themselves, fragments of physiognomies, transformations of facial features into concretions of bones or intestinal pulp, knives, scalpels and viscera-watches: all of these abound in the aforesaid illustrations by Dali to Les chants de Maldoror, in many aspects the key work of Dali's Surrealism in the thirties. In his preface to the exhibition of that work, at the Galerie des Quatre Chemins in 1934, Dali says:

'No image is capable of illustrating Lautreamont and Les chants de Maldoror in particular -- so "literally" or in such a delirious way as the one that was created some seventy years ago by the painter of the tragic, cannibalistic atavisms, the painter of the ancestral and terrifying encounters of sweet, soft, high-quality meats: I am referring to that immeasurably misunderstood painter, Jean-Francois Millet. Millet's tremendously famous Angelus is exactly what, to my mind, would be the equivalent in painting of the celebrated and sublime "Chance encounter. on a dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella" ... : the fork bites into that real and insubstantial meat that tilled land has been for man down through the ages; it sinks into it, I say, with that ravening intentionality of fertility peculiar to the delirious incisions of the scalpel, which, as everybody knows, in· the dissection of any corpse is only seeking secretly, on various pretexts of analysis, the synthetic, fertile, nutritious potato of death.'

In the same preface we also read: ' ... and not so much as a raw chop, taken as an average model of the eatable signs, has been placed on the table of the male, when the silhouette of Napoleon, "the starving man," is suddenly formed and drawn in the clouds on the horizon.' Between the cook and the starving man, between the creator of tastes and the recipient of 'savoury' experiences, we find the basic figure of Dali's personality, an oral figure on an imperial triclinium, sublimated in art.

In Dali's pictorial philosophy the eatable is broken down into different but interrelated phenomena: the mouth, the bread, the meat, the milk (as in the case of Vermeer's Maidservant Pouring Milk and the interest Dali has always shown in that work), the bones and the softness of the bones converted into meat and marrow, the act of chewing, often performed in Dali's paintings by a skull, which reveals the relationship between nourishment and death -- in other words, the mortality of the corporeal. Sometimes the terms nourishment-death- sex-aggressiveness are linked together, as is the case in the picture entitled Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano, in which the action of sodomizing is performed by the jaws of a skull.

The beloved mythical woman, so important if we are to understand the psychography of Dali, may take on the attributes of certain eatables. Thus, to a journalist who was surprised that the artist should have painted a portrait of his wife with two grilled chops balancing on her shoulder, Dali replied: 'I like chops and I like my wife; I see no reason why I should not paint them together.' A year after this episode, in the 1934 painting The Spectre of Sex-appeal, an enormous sausage, semicircular in shape, forms the upper portion of a female torso.

The two canvases that best synthesize the occult character of the eatable, which is what relates it to death, destruction and war, are the ones entitled Soft Construction with Cooked Beans (Premonition of the Spanish Civil War), painted in 1936,"and Cannibalism in Autumn; which was done in 1936-1937. In the first of these two pictures we see a dark, savage hand squeezing a dry nipple, while a tongue, like one of the soft watches, dangles from a fleshy excrescence, and there are beans at the feet of the figure -- or, rather, of the monstrous mechanism of flesh. In the other picture Dali has painted, with hallucinatory exactitude, a macabre banquet, well supplied with knives, forks and spoons, at which there is no lack of meat or fruit. The marvellous landscape that wraps the 'cannibal' figures in the soft golds of an autumn evening is a powerful contributory factor in giving the whole scene the unmistakable characteristics of a hallucinated reality.

Of particular importance in Dali's work for their plastic and symbolic values are two eatables, bread and fried eggs, and two kitchen utensils, the cup and the spoon.

We find the fried egg in several important works by Dali. In the 1937 Long Siphon it is matched, simultaneously, with the carapace of a turtle and a woman's breast. In Fried Egg without a Frying-pan, done in 1932, it appears as the sole motif of the picture, hanging from a string, which places it in morphological connection with motifs like that of the soft watches or that of the Coca-Cola bottle hanging from a string in the 1943 Poetry of America. In The Sublime Moment, painted in 1938, a couple of fried eggs like two bulging eyes appear on a plate under a telephone, another characteristic element in Dali's painting in the thirties (the telephone may sometimes be replaced by a lobster, and in Poetry of America it hangs from the Coca-Cola bottle, in a very evident example of 'reduplication of suspension,' a device Dali is very fond of using in his pictorial compositions).

For Dali the fried egg is undoubtedly the paradigm of all matter that is at once soft and consistent. A traditional symbol of birth and cosmogenesis, in Dali's painting it is also tinged with erotic suggestion. In the passage headed Intrauterine memories (Chapter II of The Secret Life of Salvador Dab) the artist explains the symbolic meaning and values the fried egg possesses at his deepest level of thought. He writes: 'The intrauterine paradise was the colour of hell, that is to say red, orange, yellow and bluish, the colour of flames, of fire; above all, it was soft, immobile, warm, symmetrical, double, sticky. Even as long ago as that, for me all pleasure or enchantment was in my eyes, and the most splendid, impressive sight of all was that of a couple of fried eggs in a frying-pan; that is probably the reason for the confusion and excitement I have felt throughout my life since then in the presence of this unfailingly hallucinatory image. The eggs that I saw before I was born -- fried in a pan, without a pan -- were magnificent, phosphorescent and very minutely detailed in the folds of their slightly bluish whites.'

It is no part of my intention, of course to ascertain whether Dali did not did not in fact have prenatal sensorial experiences which left traces in his memory, or even whether what he tells us is true or false. What really matters to us in the present instance is that the lines transcribed above provide us with the clue to the symbolic function performed by the fried egg in the imaginari universe of Dali, within the fundamental category of 'the eatable.'

Bread -- and particularly the loaf of bread -- is at the opposite pole of Dali's system of 'eatables.' It is the 'hard' counterpart of the 'soft' fried egg. 'Bread,' says Dali, 'is one of the oldest themes of fetichism and obsessions in my work; the first, in fact, and the one to which I have been most faithful.' The artist goes on to compare the bread-basket that he painted in 1926, when he was only twenty-one years old (in the interior of this basket we see, on one side, the bread cut into slices and, on the other, the crust or heel of the loaf) with the somewhat barer, more meticulous version done in 1945 (here the crust of the loaf clearly resembles the horn of a rhinoceros, a morphological structure much studied by Dali and one which he used a lot in his work, especially from the nineteen-forties onwards). And he says: 'By making a precise comparison between the two pictures, everybody can study in them the whole history of painting, from the linear enchantment of primitivism to stereoscopic hyper-aestheticism.'

In the picture entitled Two Pieces of Bread Expressing the Feeling of Love, painted at Arcachon in 1940, the central -- almost the only -- theme is, in fact, two hunks of bread and some crumbs. It is the 'hard' counterpart of the 1932 Fried Egg without a Frying-pan. Whereas in this picture of the fried egg what matters is the curving form, in the picture of the stale baked bread the most important morphological feature is the phenomenon of crumbling. In speaking about this picture in his Salvador Dali (1973), Robert Descharnes tells us that Marcel Duchamp, who was staying with the Dalis at the time, played an anecdotal part in the execution of this picture. 'Gala and he,' Dali told Descharnes, 'used to play chess every afternoon, while I concentrated on painting these slices of bread. I was trying to get a very smooth surface on which rough-textured crumbs alighted. Very often things would fall on the floor -- the pawns, for instance -- and one day, before they were put away in their box, one of the pawns was left standing in the middle of my model for a still life. After that they had to look for another pawn to go on with their game, for I had now used that one and didn't want it to be taken away.'

So it is thanks to this incident involving Duchamp that in the work we are now studying we see a chess pawn standing between the two hunks of bread, giving the painting a certain metaphysical air to add to the mystical corporeity of the bread itself and inevitably reminding us of the still lifes, at once symbolic and realistic, of painters like Silnchez Cotlin and Zurbaran.

Bread also makes an appearance, of course, in religious paintings by Dali, like his Last Supper and the Madonna of Portlligat, both painted in the nineteen-fifties. In these pictures the presence of the bread has a more clearly religious tone, but this must be superimposed on, or combined with, the meanings already referred to, the basic one being perhaps a way of regarding paint as a sort of flour that is baked, is browned, acquires consistency and serves both as food and for communion. As a metaphor of the pictorial operation, the fried egg represents the 'soft' stage, meaning the application of the oil to the canvas, while the bread turning into a stale hunk expresses the stage at which the oil dries and acquires consistency.

Other eatables characteristic of Dali's painting are cherries -- particularly cherries in a pair, a grouping that Dali connects with the peasant couple in Millet's Angelus, and which undoubtedly expresses to some extent 'the mystery of bifurcation,' like the crutch or the Pythagorean Y -- and clusters of grapes. The cluster of grapes, with its various morphological echoes, constitutes the central theme of the picture Outskirts of the Paranoiac-critical City; Early Afternoon on the Shore of European History, painted in 1936. The cluster of grapes, whose shape -- like that of a molecular model -- could not fail to captivate Dali, is cryptically repeated in two other motifs on the same canvas: the rump of a sturdy horse and a skull with huge eye-sockets.

The two utensils connected with eatables that are most typical of Dali's imaginary world are the cup and the spoon. Two pictures painted in 1932 are good examples of this. In the one called Agnostic Symbol a spoon with an inordinately long handle marks the diagonal of the picture along almost its whole length. This handle is bent to curve round a pebble, the form of which recalls the heel of a long loaf of bread, and in the bowl of the spoon we see a diminutive pocket watch, similar to the ones in The Persistence of Memory. In this painting, at once simple and baroque, the spoon takes on the attributes of a road, or of a snake with a hyper-attenuated body.

In The True Picture of 'The Island of the Dead' by Arnold Bocklin at the Hour of the Angelus, painted in 1932. on the left-hand side of the canvas we see a stone cube, on the cube a cup and, sticking out of the cup like a pole, the extremely long handle of a spoon, the bowl of which is hidden from us in the cup. It is said of this picture that when its former owner, Baron Von der Heydt, showed it to Hitler, it made a very strong impression on him. In 1944-1945 Dali painted a new version of this work and gave it the title Half a Giant Cup Suspended with an Inexplicable Appendage Five Metres Long. The islet that can be seen in the background is inspired by the Illa de la Rata, off Cap de Creus. Regarding the very pure geometric composition of this work, we are told by Robert Descharnes in his above- mentioned book on Dali: 'This composition was painted in New York and California, at the time when Dali was having a series of absorbing conversations with Prince Matila Ghyka, a Rumanian who was a professor of aesthetics at the University of South California. Dali was well acquainted with Ghyka's works -- The Geometry of Art and Life and, more particularly, The Golden Number, an essay on Pythagorean rites and rhythms in the development of western civilization, which was published in 1931 -- because he had read them in Paris' before the war. The whole construction of this picture is organized on the basis of the development of a strict logarithmic spiral whose starting-point is to be found in the handle of the cup.'

Structurally close to this coupling of cup and spoon, in other pictures by Dali -- the 1936 Solar Table, for instance -- we find the grouping of glass and spoon (in the work mentioned the table and glasses are inspired in those of the casino in Cadaques). And in yet other pictures the glass / spoon arrangement is replaced by one consisting of an inkpot and a pen. A drawing done in 1938 and entitled September Septembered, which was later used as an illustration in The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, exemplifies different morphological relationships of such elements as a glass and a spoon, an inkpot and a pen, a girl and a bell, a cluster of grapes and a seated wet-nurse, etc.

In the Portrait of Picasso, painted in California in 1947, we see coming out of the Malaga painter's mouth a spoon with an extremely long handle -- like the one in Agnostic Symbol -- in the bowl of which there is a' tiny lute or guitar. It should be observed that the function performed in this portrait by the spoon and the carnation is entrusted to the crutches and a slice of grilled ham in the Dali self-portrait done in 1941, a work that is much less emphatic and much less baroque than the Picasso portrait.

I need hardly say that the morphological pattern of the cup and spoon, apart from its alimentary implications, possesses certain sex- symbolic values. But Dali, who has always been a great reader and admirer of Freud, never confines himself to painting symbols 'in the raw,' but endeavours to give them additional nuances and flavours; and he always manages to place them in a network of original meanings.

In the border areas between eatables and living animals we may observe Dali's preference for lobsters and other crustaceans worthy of the gourmet's attention, whose organisms constitute veritable marrow-bodies, or at least hard structures protecting a soft, nutritious mass. Sometimes the lobster appears in Dali's imagination as a double for the telephone, not only on account of its shape but also because the hard structure of the telephone receiver encloses a soft or verbal structure. In the first chapter of The Secret Life of Salvador Dali the artist develops some of his ideas regarding 'eatables' and in particular those that refer to crustaceans:

'The direct opposite of spinach is armour. That is why I am so fond of eating armour, and especially the smaller varieties, that is to say shellfish. By virtue of its armour, since that is what its exoskeleton really amounts to, the shellfish is a material realization of the extremely original and intelligent idea of wearing one's bones on the outside rather than the inside, contrary to the usual practice. In this way the crustacean can use the arms or weapons of its anatomy to protect the soft, nutritious delirium of its interior and keep it sheltered from all profanation, shut up like some solemn, hieratic vessel which should be left vulnerable only to the highest form of imperial conquest in the noble war of decortication: that of the palate.'

Dali then goes on to establish a comparison between the skuIls of little birds, with their savoury brains, and shellfish, even speaking in this context of the armour painted by Paolo UcceIlo:' '" and he did it with a charm and mystery worthy of his truly birdlike nature, to which he owed his name.'

In Dali's systematic arrangement of eatables, the shellfish or the crustacean combines and comprehends the softness of the fried egg and the hardness of the crust or stale hunk of bread. It is, therefore, the eatable 'of the perfect palate,' the most substantial of all foods. Besides, it is an eatable which, unlike fried eggs or bread, contains the idea of combat, cutting up and weapons (since its tasting comes only after the armour of the carapace has been dismantled, almost as when a telephone receiver is taken to pieces).

That is why the figures of the gluttonous cook and Napoleon, the man of blood, are associated in Dali's imagination; and also why, at the limits of the eatable, we are suddenly confronted with bloodthirsty hunting: The Tunny Catch, painted in 1966-67, is the canvas that best represents this border area. Of this picture, one of the largest and most ambitious ever painted by Dali, Robert Descharnes has said: 'In this great canvas, painted in Portlligat, the artist has brought together all his tendencies: Surrealism, 'Quintessential Pompierisme,' Pointillism, Action Painting, Tachisme, Geometrical Abstraction, Pop, Op and Psychedelic Art; [it is] comparable in importance to the great Persistence of Memory.'

In the explanation he himself gives us of this picture, which is subtitled Homage to Meissonier and was inspired by a description of tunny fishing delivered by his father with a 'Homeric' intonation, as also by an engraving by a dull, academic Swedish artist that hung in his father's office, Dali relates his painting to the cosmology of the Jesuit theologist Teilhard de Chardin: 'I realized then that it is, in fact, this very limitation and contraction of the cosmos and the universe that makes energy possible (...). The Tunny Catch, therefore, is a biological spectacle par excellence, since according to my father's description the sea -- which is a cobalt blue that ultimately turns absolutely blood-red -- is the superaesthetic force of modern biology. All births are preceded by the marvellous spilling of blood, blood is sweeter than honey, blood is sweeter than blood. And in our time it is America that holds the privilege of blood, for to America has fallen the honour of producing Watson, the Nobel prizewinner who was the first to discover the molecular structures of deoxyribonucleic acid.'

Descended from Cannibalism in Autumn, but with more abundant and more sharply contrasted stylistic correspondences, in its crudity and baroque character The Tunny Catch -- a sadomasochistic orgy of blood -- brings to mind the description given by a certain friar, one Geronimo de la Concepcion, in a book entitled Emporio del Orbe (1690), in which he is speaking of the tunny-fishing grounds off the Cadiz coast, where thousands of tunny fish used to be driven inshore to be killed, chopped up and salted. The sight of this bloodstained spectacle inspired Fray Geronimo to comment, with ill-concealed relish:

'So pleasurable is the spectacle, whether in the strength of the brutes, in the variety of harpoons and nets with which they are caught and killed, or in the way they stain the sea blood-red, that no bullfight could hope to equal it.'

At'the opposite pole to the bloodstained butchery of tunny fishing in Dali's imagination are those hard (though softened in the cooking), eatable, ordinary everyday beans, which constitute one of Dali's favourite dishes. Indeed, he even gives the recipe for them to the readers of his secret autobiography: 'They must be cooked with ham and bolifarra (a Catalan sausage), and the secret consists in adding to this mixture a little chocolate and a bay leaf.'

Although the shellfish, as we have seen, is the 'canonical eatable' in Dali's imagination, the 'fundamental eatable' is bread. The 'revelation of bread,' and of its aesthetic-symbolic potentialities, came to the painter one day early in the thirties when, .after a meal at which he had eaten to satiety of a dish of beans, he began to look, idly but pertinaciously, at a piece of bread. Unable to take his eyes off it, he tells us, he picked it up, kissed it at one end, sucked it to make it soft, stood it vertically on the table (like the famous egg of Columbus) and there and then decided 'to make surrealist objects with bread.'

When he returned to Paris, his motto was: 'Bread, bread, always bread, nothing but bread.' This bread of Dali's, however, was not to be the soft bread of charity, nor yet (at least not to begin with) the transubstantiated food of the Christian communion; it was 'a ferociously antihumanitarian bread, it was the bread of the revenge of imaginative luxury against the utilitarianism of the rational, practical world, it was the aristocratic, paranoiac, refined, Jesuitical, phenomenal, paralysing, hyperevident bread that the hands of my brain had kneaded during those two months in Portlligat.'

This denaturalization of surrealist bread -- its transformation into a luxury for the palate and an aristocratic revenge -- reminds me of the use Dali made of milk in an object of symbolic functioning (a 'thinking machine') in the year 1932, a use which was violently opposed by the communist poet Louis Aragon, then an active member of the Surrealists, on the grounds of certain moralistic and supposedly humanitarian considerations which had nothing to do with the matter being discussed, however respectable they may have been from the viewpoint of moral principles and in the field of social economy. Aragon, in fact, quite seriously and to everybody's astonishment, said: 'I am totally opposed to Dali's project; glasses of milk are not intended for the manufacture of surrealist objects, but for the children of unemployed workers.'

The operation of eating, its material and its complements constitute the basic nucleus of relationships in which we must place Dali's personality as an artist with, of course, the nuances proper to his particular case. Painting is, in this sense, cooking. Looking at a picture is eating. The taste for art is the counterpart of hunger and the gastronomic palate. Eatables and their principal utensils are thus the models for the specific pictorial product, a spiritual and sensorial fruit par excellence, which Dali, after the fashion of Vermeer, will leave to ripen slowly until it reaches the golden point of maturity.

Not only painting, but also poetry, was seen by Dali in the guise of eatables. During the time he spent in Madrid in the twenties, when he and Federico Garcia Lorca were inseparable friends, the Catalan painter's favourite word was 'eating.' The impression the poetry of Lorca made on Dali's spirit could not have been more 'eatable.'

'Lorca had a tremendous impact on me,' Dali tells us in his autobiography. 'The phenomenon of poetry, in its entirety and "in the raw," suddenly arose before me in physical shape, confused, with bloodshot eyes, viscous and sublime, vibrating with a thousand fireworks and flames of subterranean biology, like all matter endowed with the originality of its own form. I reacted by immediately adopting an attitude rigorously opposed to the "poetic cosmos." I said nothing that could not be defined, nothing of which the "outline" or "law" could not be established, nothing that could not be "eaten" (this was already my favourite word). And when I felt the incendiary, communicative fire of the poetry of the great Federico rising in frenzied, riotous flames, I tried to quench those flames with the olive branch of my anti-Faust premature senility, while I prepared the grills of my transcendental prosaicness, upon which at daybreak, when only the glowing embers of Lorca's initial fire were left, I would come to cook the mushrooms, chops and sardines of my philosophy (...) to satisfy for another hundred years the spiritual, imaginative, moral and ideological hunger of our age.'

The poetry that Dali personifies in Lorca is eatable, no doubt, but in Dali's way of thinking it is, above all, the fire that the artist will use to cook his artistic result. We might say, in other words, that the relationship between poetry and art is analogous to the one between fire and the food that is cooked with its help. In the artist's job, therefore, there are two essential moments: that of the incendiary fire, which is communicative and anarchical, and that of the 'laws' of cooking, i.e. the moment of the specific, definable materiality of the work. Thus, in the human eatable we have the harmonization of the most ancient impulse of the organism and the most precise legislation of the understanding. The eatable is not only a function of the blind organism but is also, though without losing that character, a function of the creative, civilizing intelligence. To paraphrase a well-worn phrase, we may assert without irony that Dali was a cook before he was an artist or, which comes to the same thing, that he has never ceased to explore the eatable roots of art and of aesthetic apprehension. This and no other is the basis of the praise Dali lavishes on saliva and dribbling. 'Yes, when I'm asleep or when I'm painting, I dribble with pleasure,' he says. And then he adds: 'It cannot be denied that every good painter dribbles. It comes from the concentration of his attention and from the satisfaction afforded him by the visions that pass before his eyes ...' But the painter's dribbling is paradoxical; it belongs to the canonical order of the 'crustaceans,' for it is a fluid which is transformed at the corner of the mouth into 'a veritable quarry of scales or flakes, rather like those of mica.' Dali, as Gilbert Lascault has said, lets himself be fascinated by the idea of a sort of dry and to some extent geometrical saliva, the paradigmatic expression of which would be the 'quintessential dribbling of the spider.' Dali, undoubtedly, is on the side of the spider's saliva -- as against that of the dog. He is on the side of a saliva that is thread, line, exactitude.

I must point out, however, that Dali's painting is not only eatable but also, and more particularly, a convertible eatable.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 25178
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Postby admin » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:19 am

Convertibles

Ever since the nineteen-twenties one of the most typical and personal characteristics of Dali's painting has been the presence in it of pictorial motifs taken from reality which are themselves and, at the same time, something else: a watch that is a round of Camembert, a horse that is a woman's body or a cluster of grapes, a cloud that is a countenance, a rock that is a motor-car, a bust of Voltaire that is a couple of old ladies, a Venus de Milo that is the face of a famous bullfighter, and so on.

Things are themselves and something else; they are what they are at first sight, and also what they are made by the illusive play of perception. Reality, in conclusion, is surreality, and vision is, at bottom, the reality resulting from the play of perception. While Velazquez painted things, not as they are but as they appear on the painter's retina, so that it has been said of his art that it is painting in the first person, Dali, for his part, paints things neither as they are conventionally nor as they impress themselves on the retina of the person who is looking at them, but as realities that play with the eye, deceiving it and seducing it, and set off in the spirit at the same time a train of psychic associations and the shrill, disquieting whistle of their echoes and intimate resonances.

If the eatable is the matrix-pot in which Dali cooks his art, the convertible ,is the condiment with which he seasons it. To play with the paranomasias of language, we might say that in Dali's painting the eatable is the substance and the convertible the essence.

In works like The Invisible Man, painted between 1929 and 1933, or the 1938 Infinite Enigma, the painted reality is the equivalent of a strange sort of puzzle: the reality can be broken down and recomposed; it is a game of composition. Painting, then, means composing a visual reality on the basis of the elements in play. Painting in the surrealist fashion means recomposing those pieces; it means assembling the reality in accordance with the particular laws of the systematizing paranoiac delirium.

The systematizing-delirious process has been described and studied by Dali with remarkable brilliance in his most important theoretical work, The Tragic Myth of Millet's Angelus, written in the early nineteen-thirties. Dali's thesis -- and it was to be confirmed by Jacques Lacan, who made no bones about letting himself be 'instructed' by Dali in his own field -- is that the active character of paranoia places it at the antipodes of hallucination. Contrary to the automatism of early Surrealism as preached by Andre Breton, the paranoiac process presupposes a method and a criticism. Lacan, like Dali, was to confirm the fact that the interpretation to which the data of perception are submitted by a paranoiac subject forms part of the hallucinatory delirium. The psychiatrist and the artist thus reached the same conclusion: that the phenomenon of paranoia is of a pseudo-hallucinatory type. Dali, for his part, was to choose the 'double image' as his example revealing the fact of paranoia, since the double image (as, for instance, the perceptibles in The Invisible Man or in Infinite Enigma) can cause to appear, quite clearly and sharply, 'the consubstantiality of the delirium and the fact of interpretation,' as Patrice Schmitt expresses it.

Linked up with the paranoiac process, the double image is, in Dali's own words, 'the representation of an object which, without the slightest figurative or anatomical modification, is at the same time the representation of another subject which is absolutely different.' Dali adds that it is on account of the lack of coherence with reality, and the element of gratuitousness in their character, that simulacra can easily adopt the form of reality. 'And we cannot tell whether it is not, in fact, behind the three great simulacra -- namely rubbish, blood and putrefaction -- that the yearned-for "land of treasures" is hidden.'

In Dali's painting the double image is the fundamental vehicle for ghosts; a vehicle that crosses the territories of destruction and reunification, of breaking things down and building them up again. Its active presence in psychism makes one realize the high proportion of the phantasmagorical that there is in reality and thus imposes on the mind the conclusion that reality is reversible and the objects of reality convertible. Psychism, therefore, is in this sense the nucleus of relationships in which the universal convertibility of the real takes place, and for that very reason the real, in the depths of its being, is full of fantastic possibilities.

In Le Surrealisme au service de la revolution (Paris, No. 3, December 1931), Dali relates how he discovered his 'Paranoiac face':

'In the course of some studies, during which I had become obsessed by a long reflection on the faces of Picasso, and particularly those of his Negro Period, I happened to be looking for an address in a pile of papers when I suddenly came across the reproduction of a face, utterly unknown to me, which I thought was by Picasso. Then, in a moment, this face was effaced and I realized the illusion (?)'

When he later showed the 'face' to Breton, the latter thought it was a portrait of the Marquis de Sade, a conclusion which fitted in with the sort of subject by which he was preoccupied at the time. The image in question, however, was really a photograph of a large hemispherical African hut with a group of negroes sitting or lying about in front of it. The 'hallucination' came about because, if the photograph is laid on its side, it seems to be reconstructed with surprising verisimilitude in the form of an elongated head with something of a Cubist air about it. That reproduction of the form had 'objectified' the subconscious desires and yearnings that Dali was feeling at the moment when his eye fell on the photograph, and this led him to speculate about the ability possessed by our subconscious longings, our most intimate desires, to recompose reality. The double image merely makes material and evident this reality-structuring power that has its roots in the impulses of the subconscious.

From the Face of Mae West which can be Used as a Drawing-room, a work that hangs in the Museum of Figueres, to the Hallucinogenous Bullfighter, Dali has never ceased to explore, develop and execute artistically the potentialities of the double image, the most extreme example of which is to be found, perhaps, in The Great Paranoiac, painted in 1936. In the same line are Perspective (1936-37), Woman's Head in the Form of a Battle (1936), Spain (1938), and others.

It is true that behind these representations there is the historical memory of those anamorphic pictures that were so fashionable among certain Baroque painters of the 17th century, such as Arcimboldo. But with these painters this was an exercise of their virtuosity that we should consider in the light of such cliches as 'life is a dream' or 'reality is receptive,' which were immensely popular in that age, whereas what we have in Dali is a voyage of exploration through the hidden contents of the subconscious, an investigation in depth of the fantastic, delirious roots of reality, and one carried to such lengths that reality appears to be nothing but the useful, conventional setting of a fantasy.

The fundamental category in which we must place the phenomenon translated by the double image -- an object that is also something else -- is that of convertibility, which we find recorded for the first time in Heraclitus' maxim: 'Everything is converted into fire, and fire into everything, just as gold is bartered for merchandise.' Other maxims of the philosopher of Ephesus, as well as the anthropology of the Platonists, develop this theory, according to which the human soul is converted into that which occupies it, while reality is the matter on to which the soul projects its own activity. The Neo-Platonists of the Renaissance -- Pico della Mirandola and Giordano Bruno in particular -- went so far as to see man as a being placed amidst all the possibilities of reality, from which he receives an influence.

It might be said that Dali's exploration of the 'double image.' of the 'dualism of reality,' is a direct descendant of that anthropology -- initiated with Heraclitus and Plato and, in the Christian era, with St Augustine according to which man is a double being, made up of worldliness and transcendency, and the natural world is nothing but a breeding ground or seedbed of the spirit.

In the biography of Salvador Dali, however, our attention is at once attracted by certain anecdotes which may be of assistance in explaining those features of his personality that predisposed him to the discovery of the double image and to its later exploration in painting.

'I was twenty-two years old,' Dali tells us, 'and I was studying at the School of Fine Arts in Madrid. My constant desire to do, systematically and at all costs, exactly the contrary of what all the others were doing. led me into extravagant behaviour that soon became notorious in artistic circles. In the painting class one day we were told to paint a Gothic statue of the Blessed Virgin directly from the model. Before leaving the room the teacher had told us repeatedly that we were to paint exactly what we "saw.'"

The young Dali ended up painting. instead of the Gothic Madonna. a pair of scales copied from a catalogue. He countered the astonished comments of his teacher and classmates with a laconic 'You may see a Madonna. like everybody else. but what I see is a pair of scales. '

In later life Dali was to 'explain' this particular vision by adducing the association of ideas between Virgo and Libra in the signs of the zodiac. professing to see in this mythicization an anticipation of his future philosophy of painting; 'that is to say the sudden materialization of the image suggested. the all-powerful fetichist corporeity of visual phantoms.'

In his Secret Life Dali tells us how at the age of nine. during a summer spent in Cadaques, he discovered the phenomenon of protective colouring when he observed. among some plants growing in profusion along the shore. a tiny insect with the appearance of a leaf. 'The discovery of this insect made an enormous impression on me. for I thought I had found the key to one of the most mysterious, magical secrets of nature. And there is not the shadow of a doubt that this sensational discovery has had its influence since then on the crystallization of the invisible. paranoiac images that fill most of my present pictures with their ghostly presence.' Elsewhere he adds: 'Much later. when the Great War broke out and I saw my first camouflaged ships sailing along the horizon off Cadaques. in my book of personal impressions and reminiscences I wrote something like the following: "Today I found the explanation of my cuntsnout (for that was the name I had given my little leaf-insect). when I saw a mournful convoy of camouflaged ships passing. What was my insect protecting himself from when he adopted his camouflage. his disguise?'"

Disguising himself. as a matter of fact. was one of the painter's most absorbing passions in his childhood; a passion, incidentally, which was to grow even stronger with the years. Paraphrasing Dali's own words, we may wonder: what is Dali protecting himself against when he adopts a camouflage. when he disguises himself? And should one speak of it as camouflage. or rather as exhibitionism? Is not all exhibitionism a disguise. a double image. of the reality being exhibited? Is it not, perhaps. that the protective camouflage is the counterpart of the Napoleonic necessity the ego feels to make its presence felt by exhibiting itself?

Whatever the answers we may give to these questions, a modicum of doubt will always remain as to the authenticity. not of the fundamental experience of the double image but of those others in which the painter's mechanical virtuosity and his powerful imagination may perhaps play too great a role. Can we accept at their face value assertions like 'I cannot understand why. when I order a grilled lobster in a restaurant. they never bring me a boiled telephone?' And then Dali is always saying things like 'chilled telephone. peppermint telephone. aphrodisiac telephone. lobster-telephone. telephone with a black case for the dressing-tables of mermaids that have nails provided with ermine covers. Edgar Allan Poe telephones (with a tiny dead mouse inside each). Bocklin telephones installed in the interior of a cypress (and with an allegory of death inlaid in silver on the back). walking telephones and moored telephones. screwed to the back of a living turtle..., telephones ..., telephones ..., telephones ....'

Is there any genuine artistic experience in the 'recomposition of reality,' the reprocessing of objects. as exemplified in the preceding paragraph? Or is it not, rather, a mere combinatorial process that is set off as one starts up a mechanism? It is not easy to decide when there is a genuine artistic experience, and when what is set before us is nothing but the aseptic result of a combination of elements. The answer, however, might be found in the fact itself of paranoia. in which the delirious experience is closely bound up with the psychic activity of an interpretative (or semantic) mechanism. which informs the consciousness of the phenomena of perception in a paranoiac way. To put it in other words, the hallucinatory delirium and the interpretative mechanism are the two complementary faces of one and the same psychic fact.

The most important contribution Dali has made to Surrealism -- and one of the most important made to the art of our time -- consists, to my mind, in the creation of enigmatic images that are capable of arousing concealed or forgotten meanings in our conventional vision of things and of thereby provoking the apparition of extremely elaborate symbolic and associative structures.

And thus the good offices of the paranoiac-critical method have succeeded in making Dali's 'convertible eatable' one of the most exquisite, attractive and energy-giving foods with which to satiate the hunger and need our society feels to consume new symbolic realities and to discover the secret mechanisms that regulate them.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 25178
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Postby admin » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:20 am

An autumn afternoon in Portlligat

Not so long ago. one afternoon early last autumn. the painter Antoni Pitxot and I went to visit Dali at his house in Portlligat. As we had done on previous occasions, we went straight into the oval drawing-room around which it might be said that -- like one of those LluIlian wheels with which the painter is so obsessed the whole house revolves; that house which. like a dazzling white flight of steps. climbs up the steep rocks round the bay in the direction of the old watchtower a not infrequent motif in Dali's painting.

This oval drawing-room, the strange echoes in which one cannot fail to perceive, is Gala's favourite room, perhaps -- the notion now occurs to me -- because the painter's wife identifies herself there with the spatial figure which in ancient Greece symbolized the goddess Hestia divinity of the home and of the private life of women, as against the square shape of arenas and agorae presided over by Hermes. god of commercial exchanges and gossip in the market-place.

Opposite the fireplace in this room, which is embellished with a rustic ogee arch and flanked by two elephant's tusk, there is an icon of the Black Virgin of Kazan over the lintel of the door by which one enters. Among the numerous objects that fill all the available space in the room -- particularly worth remarking is a vitreous head of the adolescent Nero -- my attention was drawn that afternoon to an egg of enormous proportions finely drawn in black lead with the theme of Leda and the Swan. so familiar in Dali's work. and also with a loving inscription. The model for the Leda. needless to say. was Gala herself. As I gazed at this drawing I let my fancy stray into the game of analogies which led me to compare the shape of the egg with that of the room we were sitting in,' so that I decided to christen this apartment in my thoughts the 'room of the egg'. Do we not know, after all, that the egg occupies a pre-eminent place among Dali's pictorial 'eatables?' The evocation of the Temple of the Egg, in Anatolia, which I first saw depicted in G. R. Hacke's The World as a Labyrinth, certainly came later.

We had hardly been sitting there chatting to Gala for five minutes when the door opened and in came Dali, in radiant humour. In that voice of his that is hoarse rather than olive-smooth, he was lilting snatches of songs: old folk-songs of the region, Cadaques carnival ditties, probably from the turn of the century and long since forgotten -- though Dali remembered the lyrics, usually either satirical or salacious, with infallible accuracy. The same simple, catchy tune, rather better suited to a palais de danse than to the echoes produced by the acoustics of the oval drawing-room, served to accompany the different lyrics, all of them alternating the humorous and the ribald: voyages 'across the sea to Naples,' monks misbehaving, references to establishments that were all the rage in Cadaques in the early years of the century, like Casa Laris.

After these ditties Dali, still in this magnificent humour, recited a famous Catalan poem and then some Aragonese quatrains, two of which struck me particularly. The first, which breathed a certain air of what we might call folk-palaeo-futurism, ran:

Wheel rolling up,
Wheel rolling down;
The first thing you see
Is the tillygraph pole.


The other dated, presumably, from the time when Dali joined the ranks of the Surrealists, and went as follows:

The painting of today
Is the Surrealist kind;
And Don Salvador Dali
Gives it most of its fame.


The musical prelude had finished. With a sudden change of subject, Dali asked us all: 'What is it that most differentiates animals from man?' It was an enigma according to all the rules, possibly like the one the legend tells us caused the death of Homer, mortified by his inability to solve the riddle -- to do with lice that he was asked by some children playing on the beach. In the silence that followed the question, Gala, Antoni Pitxot and I looked at each other. One of us ventured the idea that what most differentiates animals from man is intelligence, or perhaps memory -- an answer which, when you really come to think of it, is not altogether convincing, since undoubtedly there are some animals (like the elephant) endowed with proverbially excellent memories; and, as regards intelligence, we may frequently see certain animals performing actions that presuppose syllogistic reasonings or another type of indifference.

Dali repeated his question, and the rest of us sat puzzling over it again. When we finally gave up, Dali said emphatically: 'What most differentiates animals from man is suicide.' And he added: 'Animals never commit suicide.' His three hearers, however. at once fell into the temptation of casuistry and began to argue the cases of the scorpion and the beaver, which do on certain occasions take their own lives; but in the end none of us could maintain that these were cases of authentic suicide. For not only is suicide a voluntary act, which in itself would be a differential feature between man's possibility of suicide and that of the scorpion or the beaver, but in a person committing suicide there is also the desire never again to have a desire of anything. There is, therefore, a will that rebels against itself. An animal, we concluded during this conversation, lives in satisfaction and in being, whereas man lives in dissatisfaction and in a strange mixture of being and nothingness.

Dali repeated: 'The idea of killing themselves does not occur among animals.' And then he said: 'The brain of an animal cannot send out the signal of self-destruction.' Continuing along these lines, we spoke of man's singular imaginative capacity and of the peculiar 'sickness' entailed in being a man. And Dali gave greater force to this idea with a veritable aphorism: 'The artist is an authentic sickness.' Was it not Dali who discovered in the thirties that a critically controlled paranoiac process can be an invaluable method of artistic creation, of explanation of the subconscious capable of being materialized in art?

In contradistinction to the situation of animals, which do not possess that most characteristically human possibility of killing themselves, Dali quoted the case of 'that Greek philosopher who threw himself into the volcano to kill himself.' He was referring, of course, to Empedocles, whose personality and philosophy we discussed for a while. Dali saw Empedocles' supreme act of hurling himself into the crater of Etna as an imperiously human action. Then Gala intervened, suggesting the possibility that Empedocles threw himself into the volcano, not in order to disappear but because, convinced that he was not going to disappear, he was seeking an enduring legend in which to perpetuate himself by such a death.

At this point Dali said, speaking with great emphasis: 'In the Torre Gorgot there will be a lay figure that kills itself.' In the last few days Dali's mind had evidently been playing with that idea of the legendary last action of Empedocles, and at that moment, when discussions were going forward regarding the enlargement of his Museum-Theatre in Figueres by the acquisition of the Torre Gorgot, he may have been trying to free himself from that idea with the simulacrum of a lay figure killing itself. Thus suicide had been exorcized, and the subject that now began to absorb our attention was that of the Torre Gorgot. 'In that tower,' said Dali, 'we can have all the things that have to do with the Uullian Wheels.' He was, of course, speaking of one of his favourite themes, one which had occupied us on previous afternoons and to which I have already referred in the present text.

As a matter of fact, the first afternoon I visited him in the early autumn he welcomed me with a little speech that went approximately as follows: 'I am going to tell you where it was that Ramon Uull discovered the Theatre of Memory. It was when he galloped into a church on his horse and there raped a naked woman, whose body he opened and found among the viscera a cancer. That cancer was the Theatre of Memory, and I have painted the Uullian wheels of memory that you can see over there.' As he said this he pointed to a corner of his studio behind me. Turning round, I saw a picture on which a green circle was painted within a broad red circular crown, after the fashion of Uullian wheels. In the centre one could make out, like a faint shadow, the face of a woman. The surprising thing was that, on account of the phenomenon of perception originated by the contact of the complementary colours red and green, the wheels seemed to be 'really going round', without stopping for a moment. 'Even if you take your eyes off them,' added Dali, 'you will go on seeing how the wheels go round.' This was so, in effect, and one could also feel that one perceived them when, after taking one's eyes off the picture, one fixed them on the white wall that served as a background for the painting. The only comment that it occurred to me to make to the painter at that moment was that he had discovered the perpetuum mobile, or eternal circular motion, and that the most curious feature of the case was that this movement was not caused by the force of a machine but by the structure of our perception.

'The movement of the wheels in this picture is incessant,' rejoined Dali, 'thanks to the phosphene they irradiate, which never stops. The phosphenes are in perpetual motion and are a simulacrum of the shower of gold that is represented by my Museum in Figueres. In the painting of the ceiling on the first floor there is a representation of the golden shower of Danae. In case you didn't know,' he added, turning to Gala and Antoni Pitxot, 'I must tell you that there are threads hanging from the ceiling with real coins attached to their ends.' I have not been able to ascertain whether this is so, but it occurred to me that it might well be regarded as an 'aerial' version of the ancient custom of burying some gold coins (telesmata) when laying the foundations of a house or any other building.

The picture that gave rise to this conversation was to be hung in his Museum by the painter himself a few days after this visit -- a ceremony which was duly reported in the press at the time. After trying various different positions, he finally followed the suggestion proffered by his wife and hung it in the room on the first floor which contains the tapestry of The Persistence of Memory, over a large- scale poster painted by Dali for the Freoch National Lottery, so that under the 'Dalinian-Uullian' wheels with their phosphenic movement one could read the description of the poster: Le visage de la chance par Dali. Thus were memory and fortune, fortune and memory combined in the Uullian wheels of the Theatre of Memory. Nor was this placing an insignificant detail, for since the picture of the wheels had been situated on the first floor, or piano nobile, and (as Dali pointed out) 'noblesse oblige,' these same wheels laid an 'obligation' - like an Ariadne's thread interwoven with a game of perception -- on the rest of the Museum-Theatre, obliging it in fact to become a rotatory apparatus of memory, analogous to those designed by Giordano Bruno in his De umbris idearum.

But let us return to that afternoon when Dali brought up the subject of suicide in the form of a riddle, and then went on to talk about the Torre Gorgot. His very words, as we have seen, were: 'In that tower we can have all the things that have to do with the Uullian Wheels.' Later on we will see exactly what 'all the things' alluded to by Dali were, and with that we will be entering into the subject of the relationship between literature and painting, into the terrain of piela poesis, in which we will undoubtedly find important clues that will help us to understand the artistic personality of Salvador Dali.

Suddenly the telephone rang. Dali was anxious to learn the decision arrived at by the Board of Trustees of the Museum, who on that very afternoon (the feast of Our Lady of Ransom) were to meet to discuss the enlargement that involved the Torre Gorgot. From the other end of the line came the word that it had been decided to acquire the tower. Delighted with this good news, we all shook hands with one another and Gala ordered pink champagne to toast the happy event. Dali, as usual, confined himself to dipping his middle finger in the bubbles.

We were still celebrating this good news, and about to go on with our conversation, when some unexpected visitors were announced. The newcomers had hardly got beyond the drawing-room door when Dali seized me by the arm and asked me to accompany him to his studio, so as to go on with our conversation there; so we slipped out, leaving to his wife the task of entertaining the visitors. After passing through the photograph room in which the walls are entirely lined with photographs taken at different stages in the painter's career -- and going down several staircases that threaded their way through the extremely intricate geography of the house, we finally arrived at the studio. Then Dali said: 'That man· we've left upstairs wants to show me some slides made by madmen. But naturally,' he added with a touch of irony, 'I haven't the slightest interest in seeing them, for I know rather more about the subject than he does. What I want is a more human communication.'

In the studio we began to talk about Jason, the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece, themes to which we had already devoted several hours of conversation and which, since they frequently recur more or less explicitly in his work, are capable of evoking a great many artistic and literary associations. Then I brought him a reproduction of a picture by a painter of the school of Rubens called Erasmus Quelinus, the original of which is in the Prado. It represents the moment when Jason is making off with the Golden Fleece, which he has just stolen in Colchis with the help of the king's daughter, Medea, that magic, passionate woman who fell in love with the foreign hero from far-off Greece.

As we were looking at this reproduction, Dali called my attention to the attitude of Jason. 'You can see what a hurry he is in,' observed the painter. 'He has just had the shock of seeing the statue of Mars, looking down at him from his altar with a reproaching, threatening air.' Dali then told me that he intended to paint the Golden Fleece in a special way, with real gold, and that on Jason's other arm he would place a paraboloidal mirror - at least I think that is what he said -- that would act as a shield. Since he wanted to show me more clearly the meaning he wanted to give to this theme and the way it would appear on the canvas, he asked me to find him a piece of paper to draw the figure on. As it happened, however, while I was looking all over the studio for some paper I came across a leather-bound book that was lying on the floor. When he saw me with this book in my hands, Dali exclaimed: 'Oh! Give it to me! I have been searching for it for ages and couldn't find it anywhere.'

When I put the book in his hands, Dali decided that we must examine. one by one, the many engravings it contained. This book was a volume of medium format, and certainly of rather singular characteristics, beginning with its title, which was Highway of the Cross. The original author's name was Hercino, but this was a Spanish translation published in the latter half of the 18th century.

Dali seemed very pleased indeed to have the book in his hand, and said: 'It is like the Stations of the Cross, but it is something more: it is the Highway of the Cross.' After a pause he added: 'I will make enlargements of the engravings to put in the Torre Gorgot, like the engravings of Piranesi's Carceri d'invenzione in the Museum.' As he opened the book he said: 'It will be the Highway of the Uullian Wheels, a highway that will finish at the big pool there.' It was Dali's intention to transform that pool into an authentic pool of the Uullian specula of the Cross. Then he told me that Gala had found the book in a second-hand bookshop and that it contained some really surprising engravings, all of them accompanied by verses expressing the feeling of the drawing and a pious meditation corresponding to the scene depicted.

I was' at first unable to see how this Highway of the Cross could be used as Uullian Wheels, but the painter dissipated my doubts by telling me that every engraving in the book presented a theme relating to the cross -- as I was at once enabled to confirm for myself -- so that it might be said with absolute exactitude that the cross was combined, in rotation as it were, with all those images. Not only, however, are the images combined with the different crosses which, in their emblematic passage through the book, end by creating a veritable forest (like the one imagined by Ramon Uull when he saw the universe of knowledge and the sciences in the form of a wood), but besides that, together with the cross there are two other figures that are unfailingly repeated in all the engravings: that of the Soul and that of Jesus, represented respectively by a child and a child with a halo, as had been the custom in religious emblems since the 16th century. Thus the Soul, Jesus and the Cross would travel in perpetual combinations and permutations along that Highway of the Uullian Wheels of the Cross, as Dali was so pleased to inform me.

As we made our way through the Highway of the Cross, we came to an image that appealed to Dali particularly: it showed the Soul in the attitude of renouncing music (in the form of a lute), the pleasures of the senses (represented by a goblet brimming over with fruit and flowers), human love (symbolized by a heart, which the Soul is treading underfoot) and even knowledge and science (a book thrown on the ground). When he showed this engraving to Gala and Antoni Pitxot later, Dali exclaimed, as though in unanswerable elucidation: 'La musique d la merde, les plaisirs d la merde. Tout pour la Croix.'

In these remarkable 18th-century 'Stations of the Cross' that we were inspecting, there were scenes such as the one that showed the Child Jesus with a cudgel belabouring the Soul, who is hanging from a cord as though he were a length of cloth hung out for fulling. In some of those engravings, indeed, there were scenes that might easily have been dreamed up by an ardently surrealistic imagination. Nor was cruelty lacking a mystic form of cruelty, naturally -- on that Via Dolorosa, that extremely eventful road of the cross. Was there not one scene that showed the Child Jesus, seconded by an angel, barbarously nailing the Soul to the sacred wood? And another with the Child Jesus himself nailed to the cross and -- which was the stupefying feature -- with two heads, one 'of which was that of the Soul? And what can one say of that other image in which on one and the same cross we see the Soul nailed to one side, while on the other the devil peers out, his face that of a pagan satyr? Then there was a cross used by the Child Jesus as a wheelbarrow, which inevitably reminded me once again of the paranoia-critical analyses Dali makes in The Tragic Myth of Millet's Angelus of the wheelbarrow, laden with sexual evocations, that appears in the French painter's famous canvas.

'But in the whole of the Highway of the Cross there were three engravings in particular that appealed to Dali - and, I should add, to me -- much more than any of the others. In one of them the Child Jesus appeared using the cross as though it were a drawn crossbow, a complicated, powerful bow such as Apollo himself would not have disdained to use in that famous passage in the first book of the Iliad. Then, in counterpoint to the crudity of this crossbow-cross, there was an engraving the subject of which was neither more nor less than Jesus using the cross as though it were the harp of David. In both engravings -- the crossbow-cross and the harp-cross -- the drawing was excellent; they made me think of that sentence in Heraclitus that says: 'The name of the bow (bios) is life (bios); its function is death,' and even more of that other one that runs: 'They do not understand how in diverging it converges on itself: the harmony proper to a stretching in opposite directions, ,as in the case of a bow or a lyre.'

Undoubtedly these images constituted an adaptation of the mechanical and utilitarian toys that found such favour in the Age of Reason to pious ends that did not neglect the taste for such ingenuity that characterized the Baroque age. Since they were also strange, unusual figures which, in their ability to impress the imagination so strongly, conformed to the precepts of mnemonic art, these images would be excellent pious reminders and milestones along the Highway of the Cross. And were they not at the same time very evident examples of double images: objects that are both themselves and something else?

'I want to get to the ship,' said Dali suddenly. 'I want to get to the ship,' he repeated, seeing my surprised expression -- understandable enough, however, seeing that only a few days before, during the visit to the Museum-Theatre mentioned above, I had said to Antoni Pitxot, while my thoughts were still running on the ship Argo: 'There is no ship; there should be a ship in the Museum, if the symbolic quest for the Golden Fleece is to have a suitable instrument.' And what a ship we found just a few pages further on in the Highway of the Cross! What a ship it was that Dali discovered for his rotating Theatre of Memory! What appeared in the book was a vessel with a mast in the shape of a cross, in which the Soul plied the oar, which was also in the shape of a cross, while the Child Jesus piloted the craft, which he did with a very odd-looking tiller, for it, too, and now for the third time, was in the shape of a cross. The Church is often spoken of figuratively as a ship (perhaps on the analogy of the 'ship of state'); well, in this case we had that ship before our very eyes, quite literally crucified.

Our 'way of the Cross' was interrupted by the Mayor of Figueres, who telephoned to confirm the decision arrived at regarding the Torre Gorgot. Dali took the call himself, and when he hung up he said to me: 'You heard me speaking to the Mayor, eh? I've been speaking to the Mayor.' A few minutes later we returned to Gala and Antoni Pitxot, who were still in the oval drawing-room. And all four of us travelled once again that 18th-century itinerary, combinatorial, delirious and crucified. A proper king's highway. An itinerary travelled by the memory through a Tower-Museum already enlarged in our imagination. It is a pity that I did not record in my memory (that Simon the Cyrenian of the intelligence) the pious verses that accompanied the images in the Highway, for had I done so I could now advance in vivo the paraphrase of Horace's ut pictura poesis that I would now like to expound, in the certainty that it will help us to gain a more thorough understanding of some important aspects in Dali's work, which become intelligible only when one measures in all its vastness the poetic or literary contagion suffered by painting in this century -- and particularly by Surrealist painting.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 25178
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Postby admin » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:22 am

Pieta poesis

The separation -- for it is a question of separation rather than divorce -- of painting and poetry, arts of design and literary arts, is a fairly recent phenomenon which, although it has spread considerably in the last few decades, cannot really be said to be an accomplished fact. It is a phenomenon, moreover, which has not prevented the proliferation of the intellectual figure of the art critic, who, besides taking over from the poet and endeavouring to perform, after painting, the role the poet played before painting, fills the pages of newspapers and reviews with his facile prose and ubiquitous presence, so that sauces may not be lacking for the viands regularly served up in the galleries devoted to the exhibition and sale of works of art.

In view of the silence of abstract art -- in which the artist is usually almost totally convinced that the world begins and ends with him, and in which his urge to achieve supreme originality throws him into the expressionistic jungle of primitivism if not into wastelands marginal or previous to the word, since his world is the mere spectre of colour and space -- the only possible response is the word, poetical or not, in the second act of the performance, that in which the writer will officiate as a priest whose principal function is to baptize the newborn babe before tossing it into the mass of what are called spiritual assets.

And yet an atmosphere heavy with literature was always to hang over Surrealism and its painters. But in this school, as we will see later on, the voice invoked was analogous to that which, according to Andre Breton, 'made Cumae, Dodona and Delphi tremble'; and the fusion of 'the two arts' which was the aspiration of that grand master of the order of the surrealists was to be understood as entailing the ascendancy of painting over poetry or, to use Breton's own words, 'it appears to be in painting that poetry has found a broader sphere of influence.' Later on we will examine this curious phenomenon glimpsed by Breton. For the moment I will simply say that in the same passage Breton speaks of Dali as an artist in whom the two arts are blended and says that 'the reading of some fragments of his poems produces only the effect of giving life to a few more visual scenes, which, surprisingly enough, are endowed by sight with the glow peculiar to this artist's pictures.'

The definitive -- or supposedly definitive -- separation between painting and poetry only came about when the painter, in emulation of the poet in his endeavours to attain the extreme of pure poetry, sought to rid himself of his intellectual impedimenta and, in all the arrogance of his beautiful colours and his abstract lineaments, proposed himself and his work as an altar without a saint, as an asset in themselves, as a pure, angelical being whose nature, instead of being intellectual, would be simply material and tangible. These artists had forgotten the prophetic words written two hundred years earlier by Jean Jacques Rousseau, in his Essai sur l'origine des langues, with its suggestion of Utopian visions, of the exploration of unknown islands and of antimechanistic polemics. I cannot resist the temptation to transcribe the following long but pithy passage from Chapter XXXI -- De la melodie -- of that work.

'Imagine.' writes Rousseau, 'a country in which the very idea of drawing was unknown, but where many people spent their lives combining, mingling and relating colours, and believed that doing so made them outstanding painters. If you spoke to them of the emotion aroused by beautiful pictures and of the delight of being moved by a poetical theme, their sages would at once begin to go deeply into the subject, comparing their colours with ours and trying to determine whether our green was tenderer or our red more glowing; they would seek those combinations of colours that can move men to tears or excite them to wrath. The Burettes of that country would assemble in a patchwork of rags a few distorted pieces of canvas from our pictures; and then they would ask themselves in astonishment what it was that was so wonderful about those colours.'

After this description of the art of a country whose love of analysis, optics and sensualist philosophy has led it to the most academic sort of abstract art, Rousseau, who is letting himself be won over by this enlightened taste for Utopias and the exploration of unknown lands, adds:

'If somebody in a neighbouring country began to form strokes, the outline of a drawing, some sort of figure however imperfect, it would at once be regarded as an absolute daub, a capricious, Baroque attempt at art, and for the sake of preserving good taste they would continue to abide by that simple beauty that really expresses nothing, but brings out the brilliance of beautiful nuances, great sheets of colour, spreading gradations of tone without a single stroke of drawing.'

Rousseau then goes on to propound the hypothesis, in that country of scientific artists and abstract canvases, of a scientist coming to the experiment of the prism and the decomposition of light, and giving a lecture to his colleagues that might be summed up as follows:

'All that mysterious talk about drawing or the representation of figures is just the charlatanism of the French painters, who believe that their imitations transmit heaven knows what motions of the soul, when everyone knows that there are only sensations. They will tell you all sorts of wonderful things about their pictures, but you just let yourself be guided by these nuances of mine.'

Certainly Dali's art is poles apart from the art that Rousseau foresaw and vainly attempted to exorcize, but neither can it be said by any means that it corresponds to the Geneva-born philosopher's own taste in painting or to that of the century he lived in, for except in his most literally realistic pictures Dali's painting contains a great deal of pure research into what we might call pictorial physics, and a great deal, too, into the type of energy that corresponds to each type of representation; and in his art -- at least in his most significant works -- there is also a sort of symbolic-poetical saturation that is capable of touching hidden registers in the psyche and the perception to a degree rarely if ever attained in the history of painting.

I have elsewhere studied the relationship between painting and poetry in the Renaissance and the Baroque, within the context of Dali's work, since I am of the opinion that in this Catalan painter's work we can find a great rapport with the cultural memory of those centuries; it would be as well, however. not to go too far with analogies between Dali's art and that of those 'ages, for his work also teems with elements expressive of our own age, with all its discoveries and conflicts.

To pinpoint the relationship between painting and poetry, let us turn to a classic in the field: Lessing's Laokoon. Poetry and painting resemble each other, according to. the great German aesthete, inasmuch as both of them 'put absent things before us as though they were present; they show us appearance as though it were reality; they both deceive, and their deception pleases us.' Well now, while the painter can only paint the reality of a moment or a moment of reality, since the figures he creates are static and impervious to time, the poet, on the contrary, can avail of that recourse (denied to the traditional painter) which consists in being able to show us the flowing line traced, between situations and conflicts successively opening and closing, by the development and manifestation of human reality, one of the fundamental components of which is time. The painter imagines states of things, the poet actions, which does not prevent our glimpsing, or being able to glimpse, in the states painted by the former the action that has put them there or the action that may spring from there. The 'poet, on the other hand, is obliged to represent his actions through the composition of a series of states linked to one another, whose correspondences are temporal, in accordance with the laws of linguistic discourse.

While the poet possesses the faculty of representing two types of action, the visible and the invisible, in the painter's work everything must be translated into the language of visible, static images, which for that very reason usually have a more intense capacity of impressing the sensibility.

What is it that radically differentiates painting from poetry? The use of different media of expression. The pictorial signs are colours and figures arranged in space; those of poetry are articulated signs that follow one another through time. In one the procedure consists in the juxtaposition of the elements in space; in the other it is a question of their succession in time.

There are boundary areas between painting and poetry. When poetry attempts to emulate painting, we have descriptive poetry. When painting in turn attempts to emulate poetry, we have -- Lessing tells us -- the allegorical and hieroglyphical painting so typical of the Baroque.

With regard to Spanish painting in what Spaniards call their Golden Age (i.e. the 17th century), in which the general opinion has always been inclined to see the dry, bare, authentic vision of a realism without any tricks or trompe l'oeil (a rather sui generis realism, it must be admitted, peopled as it is with rogues, court jesters, mystics and dour princes), the art historian Juliiln Gilllego insists that 'the picture is meant to be read; all the other merits of painting are simply the support that gives greater brilliance to this intellectual and visual content.' Nor is this author, in his Vision and symbols of Spanish Painting in the Golden Age, attempting 'to find rules for deciphering'; but in that study he does offer us 'valid interpretations of certain elements in Spanish painting of the 17th century,' and indicates 'the existence of a mechanism of reading.'

This complicity of the poetical and the pictorial which was so fashionable in the 16th and 17th centuries (those periods in whose mirror Dali is so fond of looking at himself and his work) reappeared, buoyant and all-pervading, in Surrealism, with the elements proper to our own age. No other '-ism' can compare with Surrealism in its aspiration to fuse 'the two arts'; while Surrealist pictures have an air of pictorial hieroglyphs, Surrealist IX>ems can sometimes constitute veritable literary ideograms, in which not even the use of different types of lettering is neglected, in order to transmit an iconic image intermingled with the poetical one.

In a way similar to that of Romanticism, whose love of the exotic, the anti-classical and the subjective made it in so many aspects the forerunner of Surrealism, this latter movement endeavoured 'to go back -- as Breton said -- to the sources of poetical imagination and, which is still more difficult, to remain close to them.' The great revelation that the Surrealists wanted to make to the world was neither more nor less than the radical revelation of the Image, of which Pierre Reverdy said: 'It is a pure creation of the spirit.'

Considered in aesthetic terms, the Surrealists' contribution to art can be summed up as a radical scheme for forcing the poetry/painting analogy in order to bring about -- with its unforeseeable consequences -- the embrace of two realities that are distant from each other. To quote Reverdy again: 'The more distant and exact the concommitances of the two realities to be brought together, the stronger the image will be and the more emotional force and poetical reality it will have.' This delving into the sources of the imagination and worship of the power of the creative imagination and the strength of the image -- already advocated, among the Romantics, by Coleridge, and earlier still by Plotinus and the Gnostics -- were the requisites and components of a new poetic and a new aesthetic; and they also established the stratigraphic plane that makes it possible to discover -- like a treasure hidden at a depth of many fathoms -- together with the principle of the fusion of the poetical and the pictorial, the dividing line that separates these categories from 'the regulatory intervention of reason' or from morals.

The possibility of reconciling terms so distant from each other, if not opposed, was the hypothesis on which 'the free exercise of reason' rested, according to the ideas of Breton and the Surrealists. Theirs was a radical position, which entailed the need for a multidirectional dialogue between things and their representations. That is why the Surrealist venture has with equal facility led to discoveries of great importance and incomparable examples of the trivial and the meaningless.

It is in Situation surrealiste de l'objet, situation de l'objet surrealiste, written in 1935, that Breton expounds most clearly his theory of the fusion of painting and poetry. 'To tell the truth,' he writes, 'it seems to be in painting that poetry has found a broader sphere of influence; poetry has taken root so firmly in painting that the latter can in our day aspire to share with poetry to a great extent the vastest objective of all that can concern it, which is -- to use Hegel's words again that of revealing to the consciousness the faculties of spiritual life. At the present moment there is no difference as to fundamental purposes between a poem by Paul Eluard or Benjamin Peret and a canvas by Max Ernst, Miro or Tanguy. Released from its preoccupation with basically representing forms of the external world, painting now uses in its turn the only external element that no art can dispense with: inner representation, the image present in the spirit.'

It should be observed that Breton refers the assimilation of the poetical and the pictorial to the image, the common denominator of the two arts. Since painting, according to Breton, is in closer contact with the sources of the image, it therefore follows that poetry acquires a vaster sphere of influence in painting. It should also be observed that that image is not the mere mental correlative of external objects, nor yet a sort of platonic idea, but the spontaneously produced and productive fruit of spiritual life, of the psyche. Following the example of Marcel Proust, who saw the operation of writing as the act of translating the mysterious book that is written with hieroglyphical characters in the interior of the soul, the Surrealist artist was to endeavour to pour into the glass of a tangible -- i.e. spatial and chromatic language the mysterious signs that spring spontaneously from the depths of the spirit. And so, according to the Surrealists, it is painting that is particularly called upon to perform the feat of revealing the faculties of the spirit to the consciousness, and it will only be able to do this by 'transubstantiating' itself into poetry, by in fact becoming poetry itself.

It is a few lines below this passage that Breton declares: 'The fusion of the two arts usually takes place in so integral a fashion today that for men like Arp or Dali it is a matter of indifference -- and I use this expression advisedly -- whether they express themselves through the medium of poetry or that of painting (...). Painting is the first art that has succeeded in ascending many of the steps that separated it, as a mode of expression, from poetry.'

Just as the twelve-tone system swept away the tonal arrangements of earlier music, so Surrealism was to declare the suppression of the differences which, according to Lessing, separate poetry from painting and vice versa simply because they use different media of expression. Poetry is no longer the be-all and end-all of art, for painting can boast of sharing with it the sceptre of spiritual creations, and even with certain advantages that raise it above its erstwhile superior. In this way the painter, if he abides by the Surrealist aesthetic, runs the risk of becoming the translator who gives shape on a flat surface to the ideas of the poet, by whose substance he is nourished.

It is this very attempt to blend the poetical and the pictorial that is, in general terms, the source of the facility with which the Surrealist painter engenders monsters and places on one and the same plane the pleasant and the repulsive, the beautiful and the deformed, the trivial and the magnificent. While the painter trained in the classical tradition accepted unquestioningly certain beautiful and unambiguous types for representing realities, so that in his pictures Venus is always depicted as a ravishingly seductive creature, Juno is stately and matriarchal, Minerva arrogant and rather mannish, and so on, for otherwise his pictorial figures would be unrecognizable, the poet has always been able to permit himself the liberty of presenting us with a combative Venus of gigantic stature and ferocious attitude, with reddened cheeks and bloodshot eyes, without the poetical imitation thereby suffering any great impairment, since this melodramatic image only occupies a moment, a single instant in the flow of the literary discourse. This vision I have sketched of Venus, or of any other reality that corresponds pictorially to a formal type, 'is only (Lessing tells us) a moment for the poet, since he has the privilege of linking it with another episode in which the goddess is Venus and nothing but Venus, and linking it, I say, so nearly and precisely that we, the readers, never lose sight of the goddess of love, even in the form of a fury.'

Well, it is this, privilege of the poet that the Surrealist painter has attempted to take to himself, transforming what was only a moment in the poetic discourse into a full-blown picture, and without being daunted in this undertaking by the lack of the 'connection' insisted on by the Neoclassical aesthete.

Dali's ability, as observed by Breton, to express himself with equal success in poetry and painting has been proved again by the Catalan artist several times in the course of his life, as for instance in his singular Secret Life of Salvador Dali, or in the Author's Prologue to his novel, Hidden Faces, in which he wrote: 'But as long ago as 1922 the great poet Federico Garcia Lorca predicted that I was destined for a literary life and suggested that my future, in fact, lay in the "pure novel.'" Later on he says: 'One day in 1927, as I was sitting in the spring sunshine at a table outside the Cafe Regina in Madrid with the late Federico Garcia Lorca, we planned to compose together an opera of great originality (...). That day in London when I heard the news of the death of Lorca, the victim of blind history, I told myself that I would write our opera on my own.'

Although that opera, as far as I know, has never been composed, what cannot be doubted for a moment is that Dali is one of the painters of our century who have written most and best, this alternation of brush and pen being entirely spontaneous in him. Breton included him in his Anthologie de l'humour noir, and before that his writing· had made a powerful impression on writers of the quality of Lorca. In the following chapter we will be analysing Dali's poem Saint Sebastian or Saintly Objectivity, not only because it is a text that exemplifies the relationship between poetry and painting, but above all because in it are expounded two categories that are vital to our understanding of Dali's aesthetic.

My theory of the literary contagion in the pictorial will enable us to find an explanation of the more disquieting presences to be found in Dali's painting, such as the double images or the convertibility of objects.

An image -- any image -- is, when considered as such, a phenomenon quite inconsistent with any sort of 'convertible' fickleness, since immobility is essential to it. Only when that image is linked to, or forms part of, the psychic process of apprehension, of the discourse of semantic interpretation, can it be said to be at once itself and something else. In other words, only when the image becomes an element in a poetical process -- using this term in its fullest sense -- is it transformed, without ceasing to be what it is itself physically, into a pictorial text that must be read, presenting itself as a puzzle for solving. For that very reason the convertibility we have observed in the objects in Dali's paintings cannot be explained in exclusively pictorial terms, but as a component of an interpretative and therefore literary system.

Even the 'eatable' nature of Dali's painting can only be understood within the framework of pictorial-poetic references that I have proposed. We have seen how Dali's 'eatables' constitute symbolic structures and belong to a system for interpreting reality. That is why the representation of a fried egg hanging from a cord, or of two crumbs of bread and a chessman, or some beans, or a cup with the handle of a spoon -- all these representations, in short -- are meritorious not only on account of their pictorial qualities but also because those pictorial qualities express an idea that can be transmitted through words. There is no predominance of the poetical over the pictorial, but a fusion of 'the two arts.'

This poetical-interpretative contagion in Dali's painting thus accounts for Surrealist pictures like the one with the 'soft watches,' in which time is represented plastically through the viscosity of matter, since time is a fluid wave. All Dali has done is to transfer to the object - the watch -- the 'fluid' attribute with which time is usually represented. The other symbolic values of the object should also be seen from the same viewpoint of the fusion of the literary and the pictorial.

Besides, as soon as we have accepted the intrusion of the poetical at the very core of the pictorial, we can have no more talk of 'monstrous figures' in the traditional sense of the expression, for since all are potentially monstrous no single one is so any longer. The problem will not lie in avoiding or softening the deformed and monstrous, but in making it poetically significant, without the pictorial fact losing thereby the aesthetic qualities that belong to it.

A fact that should be taken into account in this regard is that Salvador Dali is among the great painters of this century who have done most in the way of illustrating literary works (Les Chants de Maldoror, La Divina Commedia, Don Quixote, La vida es sueflo, Tristan and Isolde, etc.); and not in any superficial or marginal way either, for some of his most important paintings have sprung from the reading of such works. For all these reasons I think it may be affirmed that Dali is the author of the best-known 'mute poems' or 'speaking pictures' of our age, as well as being an evident exemplum of what has come to be called 'the civilization of the image.'

Quite recently Dali himself afforded me confirmation of what I have here described as 'literary contagion 'in the pictorial,' when he told me the genesis of his latest picture, on which he was still working when I wrote the above lines (22 June 1982).

In the conversation I had with Dali in the castle of Pubol on 19th June last, after examining the picture entitled The Three Glorious Enigmas of Gala, which hung before us in the drawing-room. where we were talking, he told me that the picture he was then painting was called Rome. Seeing that the title intrigued me, he added that he had called it that because it was a historical picture, 'and history is Rome.'

In this picture we can see -- or will see, when it is finished -- a Roman head much battered by blows of stones, and an arm hanging like that of Marat in David's celebrated picture. At first I did not quite see the connection between the figure of the dying revolutionary and the other, 'Roman' elements. Then Dali explained:

'The relationship lies in the fact that Rome means persecution, martyrdom, which is what my figure represents.'

After a pause he added:

'This picture is connected with my tragedy, which is entitled Martyr.'

Then he sent for the blue folder in which he keeps everything he has written in the last few years with a view to inclusion in that unfinished tragedy. He asked me to read one of the papers aloud, a scene in which the character of the Heresiarch apostrophizes Rome in solemn, superb Alexandrines. Dali then went on to tell me the plot of the play.

To sum up, then, this is a case of a literary theme at the basis of a pictorial motif or subject. Rome, of course, is not simply a translation into visual terms of the tragedy Martyr, but we cannot doubt for a moment that the tragedy is at the genesis of the picture and that we may therefore speak of an equivalence between the pictorial and the literary, of a way in which the phenomenon Breton called 'the fusion of the arts' may occur. The literary and the pictorial form two lines following a parallel course in Dali's artistic personality and creative work: two lines which at this moment can be given the names of Martyr and Rome.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 25178
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Postby admin » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:23 am

Saint Sebastian and the Putrefied Beings

Saint Sebastian or Saintly Objectivity is a long poem, dedicated by Dali to his friend Federico Garcia Lorca, which in July 1927 appeared in the first number of the review 'El Gallo,' edited in Granada by Lorca himself. A testimony of capital importance to the mutual contagion experienced by poetry and painting in Dali's work, it is a poem of great visual power and at the same time a detailed description of a picture, in which we already find foreshadowed the main lines of the painting Dali was to produce in the heyday of his Surrealist period -- in Paris in the thirties.

And it is something else: this poem constitutes a veritable statement of aesthetic principles, in which, by a process of opposition and integration, the aesthetic of rigorous precision, transcendentalized geometry, ironic nakedness and agnostic elegance is harmonized with what Dali calls 'the aesthetic of putrefaction' -- which, localized in late Romanticism, takes the form of an oversentimental, lachrymatory and affected vision of the world. The singular quality of Saint Sebastian or Saintly Objectivity did not escape Garcia Lorca, who wrote enthusiastically to the painter's sister, Anna Maria: 'I have received "L'Amic de les Arts" and have seen your brother's prodigious poem. We have translated it here in Granada and it has made an extraordinary impression. Especially on my brother, who did not expect it, in spite of what I told him. It is truly a new prose, full of unsuspected relationships and extremely subtle points of view. Seen now and from here, it acquires in my eyes a charm and a light of the most brilliant intelligence which redouble my admiration.'

A reading of the poem will assure us that it was not only the warmth of his friendship that made Lorca write in such fervid terms. In this poetical text we are presented with Dali's aesthetic in a full-length study as it were, and in it we can find key elements that the artist was later to develop in that fundamental text of Dalinian Surrealism, The Tragic Myth of Millet's Angelus, which with its critical-systematic rigours of paranoiac delirium was to cause a revolution within the Surrealist revolution. For Dalinian Surrealism was to be composed of large doses of that 'putrefaction' which he so shrewdly discerned in the decadent art of the late 19th century and its post-Romantic plaintiveness, and also of large doses of heliometrical ultra-precision, of the Saintly Objectivity needed for fixing the medusan, piliform, filamentous, fluid volumes of turn-of-the-century art.

That Dali perceived 'things rotten' as a dialectical contrast to Saintly Objectivity is a conclusion that can be quite clearly reached from the poem, the last paragraphs of which concentrate, in fact, on putrefaction. They read, partly, as follows:

'Putrefaction: The opposite side of the Saint Sebastian multiplying glass corresponded to putrefaction. Through it all was anguish, obscurity and tenderness still, because of the exquisite absence of spirit and naturalness. Preceded by some verses or other of Dante, I gradually saw the world of "things rotten": the tearful, transcendental artists far from any light, practising in all the genres and ignorant of the exactitude of the calibrated double decimetre. The families that buy artistic objects to put on the piano, the clerk from the office of public works, the associate committee member, the professor of psychology ... I couldn't go on. The delicate moustache of a booking- office clerk moved me greatly. I felt in my heart all its exquisite, Franciscan poetry.'

Despite the complexity of the poem and the disconnection of some of its parts, the text can be divided into two main sections: an introduction and the vision of Saint Sebastian. The introduction may be summed up in a phrase: 'Irony (as I have said) is stripping; it is the gymnast hiding behind the pain of Saint Sebastian. And it is also this pain itself, because it can be counted.'

The possibility of counting -- precisely measuring something so 'soft' and unamenable to mathematics as the feelings was one of the central elements, if not the principal one, in Dali's aesthetic at that time. This desire to be able to count the martyr's pain; the wish that his suffering should be artistically enumerable, is analogous to the zeal for exactitude the artist displayed in the seascapes he was then painting. In these it was a matter of the greatest importance to Dali that the waves should be countable, for thanks to that possibility of achieving mathematical exactitude art was raised above nature and it could consequently be affirmed that the painted sea was more sea than the one viewed by our eyes, the physical sea. The irony Dali speaks of consists in the moment at which the pathetic becomes geometric. In other words, it is the moment at which the sainted martyr, already stripped, is transformed into a gymnast. This ironic nakedness of Saint Sebastian as a gymnast is related by Dali, at the beginning of the poem, to Heraclitus' phrase, 'Nature likes to conceal herself,' which he interprets, in accordance with an excellent passage written by Alberto Savinio in 1918, as a phenomenon of modesty on the part of nature with an ethical tradition. (We have already seen, earlier in the present text, how Dali, in a sentence taken from his Secret Life, invoked the above phrase from Heraclitus in referring to his contemplation-interpretation of the metamorphic rocks of Cap de Creus, 'ghostly quick-change artists of stone,' in observing which 'I meditated on my own rocks, those of my thought.'

In this same introduction to his Saint Sebastian, Dali compares the martyr's sublime patience to the elegance - or perhaps we should say the phlegm -- of Velazquez; and it is in terms of saintly patience that he interprets, on the one hand the slow mellowing of the pictures of Vermeer and, on the other, the exquisite death throes of the saint.

After the introduction comes the Description of the figure of Saint Sebastian. I will mention only schematically -- almost stenographically -- the most important themes, which are at once poetical, pictorial and aesthetic: an Italian space with geometrical tiling, reminiscent of Piero dena Francesca; pure, aseptic light that is like that of Florentine quattrocento painting, a light which, like the tramontana blowing through Cadaques, reveals the smallest details and makes them appear Vitrified; duality of the saint's head: one of the parts, 'completely transparent,' is formed of a sort of jellyfish substance and supported by 'an extremely fine circle of nickel,' the other part 'was occupied by a half-face that reminded me of somebody very well-known.'

The pain of the martyr is not felt by Dali in any pathetic way, but is seen by him as 'a mere pretext for an aesthetic of objectivity.' This aesthetic of objectivity that now made its appearance was the womb from which later writings of Dali (published in Paris) were to come - writings, for instance, like the 1935 essay entitled The conquest of the irrational, in which we may read: 'That the world of imagination and specific irrationality should possess the same objective obviousness, the same consistency, the same hardness, the same persuasive, cognitive and communicable thickness, as the external world of the reality of phenomena. What matters is what one desires to communicate: the specific irrational theme. The media of pictorial expression are placed at the disposal of this theme. The illusionism of the most abjectly parvenu and irresistible imitative art, the slick tricks of paralysing trompe l'oeil, the most analytically narrative and discredited academicism, can all be transformed into sublime hierarchies of thought on approaching the new exactitudes of scientific irrationality, as the images of specific irrationality approach the reality of phenomena and the corresponding media of expression approach those of the great realistic painters (Velazquez and Vermeer), etc.' Well, that association of exactitude and delirium, mathematics and hallucination, distorted vision and systematization of the distortion, which was to typify Dali's Surrealism, is already present, mature and clearly outlined, in the poem we are paraphrasing.

As regards the 'objectivity' of Saint Sebastian, in the text Dali deploys a rich panoply of themes, ranging from high-precision apparatuses, such as heliometers for the deaf and dumb ('an instrument of high physical poetry formed by distances and by the relationships between those distances,' which is used to 'measure the Saint's death throes') down to test-tubes made of the finest glass and things with a futurist -- if not absolutely Pop -- air about them, like 'charleston and blues dancers who saw Venus every morning in the bottom of gin cocktails at pre-aperitif time, film close-ups, polo players, greasy mascara, a Superieur Petit Beurre biscuit, barmaids playing Dinah on a little gramophone and mixing martinis for motorists, a race between blue Bugattis seen from an aeroplane as a day-dreamed movement of hydroids, white gloves on black piano keys, Tom Mix, Adolphe Menjou, Buster Keaton, post-mechanicist boulevards, Florida, Le Corbusier, Los Angeles, the cleanliness and eurhythmy of standardized tools, aseptic, anti-artistic stage shows, white laboratories and clinics, a chloroformed scalpel and American magazines with GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS, and the sunshine of Antibes and Man Ray, and a show-window full of shoes in the Grand Hotel, and mannequins, above all mannequins: 'mannequins, standing passively in the electric splendour of the shop-windows, with their neutral sensualities, their disturbing mechanicisms and articulations. Live mannequins, delightfully silly, walking with an alternating, contradictory rhythm of shoulders and hips, and squeezing their arteries into the new, reinvented physiologies of their clothes.'

In contrast to this parade of modernity, with its alternation of nickel and bakelite, perspex and high-precision speedometers, the new drinks and rhythms, which Dali embodies in the ironic, naked elegance of the dying athlete or martyr, the other side of the cocktail is a proliferation, like dark, sticky larvae, of things rotten and their swarm of tender, transcendental laments, their kitsch vases placed on the piano, not to mention the Franciscan clerks' moustaches, so different from the Velazquez-inspired, hyperfine, ultramodern antennae that Dali himself was to affect in later years.

The poem Saint Sebastian or Saintly Objectivity, first published in 'L'Amic de les Arts' in the month of July 1927, records the experiences of the exact painting of previous pictures, like the two 1925 portraits of his sister in the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art in Madrid, or Woman at the Window in Figueres (in which we can see a very pre-Pop Ford advertisement), painted in the same year, and consolidates and reflects the paintings Dali did in 1927 and 1928, such as the 1927 Apparatus and Hand and the 1928 Inaugural Gooseflesh. Observe in this last work -- which marks the inauguration of Dali's Surrealism -- the mixture of 'putrefied,' 'visceral' forms and 'geometrical numberings and pinpointings. In this canvas the painter goes so far as to number the shapeless elements with figures and letters, and to trace straight lines in perspective which indicate the position of the amorphous lumps in the space.

It may well be affirmed that decisive elements in Dali's Surrealism are contained, like seeds or DNA molecules, in the poetical, aesthetic prose of Saint Sebastian, for Dali's Surrealism combines the exactitude of the look with the irrational putrefaction of what is looked at, the soft viscera of sentimentality with the enamelled hardness of geometry, and even of radiography. The projection on to the canvas of such a combination produced many of Dali's great pictorial creations, among which I will mention only The Persistence of Memory, with its time-measuring apparatuses made of soft materials, which hang like golden fleeces - 'time is gold' -- from the bare bough of the tree or from the rigorously cubic platform.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 25178
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Postby admin » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:25 am

Between Maldoror and Dante

The tearing of flesh, savage, bloody sacrifice, hunger and its accompanying butchery, appear over and over again in Les Chants de Maldoror, that poem in which the almost adolescent Euro-American, Isidore Ducasse (Lautreamont), set out to denigrate Man and the Creator, and to sing of vice and crime, though he did explain to his publisher, Lacroix: 'Of course I have heightened the tone to create something new in the sense of that sublime literature which sings of despair only in order to torture the reader and make him desire good as a remedy.'

Whether he accomplished this purpose or not, the fact is that the barest list of some of the images that appear in the Chants constitutes a copious gallery of truculent paintings, very dose in spirit to Dali's Surrealism, particularly the works done in the nineteen-thirties. For at the beginning of that third decade in our century Dali discovered in the Montevideo-born poet a congenial artistic comrade, well fitted to excite his imagination to the point of a delirium of the most metamorphic cannibalism, one who could even encourage the Catalan painter in his zeal to confer on painting the exactitude of a geometrical enamel. In the tenth section of the second Chant, Lautreamont exalts the excellences of mathematics: 'Oh, severe mathematics! Never have I forgotten you since your wise lessons, sweeter than honey, filtered through to my heart like refreshing water; from my very cradle I yearned instinctively to drink from your springs, older than the sun, and I still continue, the most faithful of your initiates, to tread the sacred atrium of your solemn temple.'

I have elsewhere drawn up a list of the images appearing in that hymn to 'the delights of cruelty' which is Lautreamont's poem, with particular attention to those most closely connected with Dali's painting. Here are some of them: a man with the unmoving eyes of a fish, omnibuses crammed with corpses, characters formed of eroded stones, rivers of blood fed with cannon fodder, the Creator on a throne of excrement, voluptuously devouring human bodies and wagging a beard spattered with brains; insect-men, philosopheradolescents with claws and sucking organs; lice-men, blocks of lice-men, that are being sliced with an axe; clouds of locusts descending on the city; immense solitudes in which the human imagination is exalted with inconceivable games; gangrened breasts like torrents of rocks; shipwrecked sailors from whom the sharks make 'eggless omelettes'; skies with membranous forms; sadistic stabbings of babes-in-arms; legions of winged octopodes; gnawed skulls, which in the presence of crocodiles leap up in a repugnant vomit.

When Maldoror is about to quarter a little girl, the poet tells us, 'he prepares without a qualm to poke resolutely into the unfortunate creature's vagina. From that enlarged opening he withdraws in swift succession the internal organs: the intestines, the lungs ...' The poet takes quite a long time over this nauseating description, which culminates in the moment at which he sees the girl as 'a drawn chicken,' which proves even more repulsive since the description is put into the mouth of the poor little girl's mother.

But we need not go on with this parade of images, in which the poetic analysis of human carnality goes as far as the ablation of viscera, the flaying of muscles and the most monstrous metamorphoses. Over these realms of Maldoror glided Dali, with an attitude like that he expresses when he says that 'the cyclotron of Dali's philosophical jaws hungered to grind everything, to crush and bombard with the artillery of its interatomic neutrons ...,' or when he observes that Freud's skull is a Burgundy snail: 'The consequence of that is therefore evident: if one wishes to eat his thought, one must pull it out with a pin. Then it comes out whole. If not it breaks, and there is nothing to be done about it.'

And thus we come back to Dali's 'eatables,' to that highway formed by the mouth and the alimentary canal, with its traffic of foodstuffs -- raw, stewed, boiled, fried, rotten, roasted, etc. But what we find, along with this Maldororian Dali, is the 'eatable of cruelty,' the eatable that is the result of a bloodstained sacrifice. With this Dali seems to be trying to tell us that art is the terrible fruit of a ruthless quartering of reality, of an implacable analysis of phenomena and, at the same time, of a refined cuisine that is capable of transforming the viscera stolen from a corpse into an exquisite dish.

Osip Mandelstam, in one of the most brilliant essays of interpretation ever written on Dante and the Divino Commedia, says that, 'if the rooms of the Hermitage suddenly went mad, and the paintings of all its schools and artists were unhooked from their nails, to blend, mingle and fill the air of the galleries with futurist howls and all the colours in violent agitation, the result would be something similar to Dante's Commedia.' Not greatly different are the sensations aroused by the Divina Commedia illustrated by Dali, in which the painter presents us with a sort of compendium of his whole artistic career. In Dante's journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, Dali undoubtedly saw his own artistic itinerary from the most convulsive avant-garde to the most illuminist traditionalism. The most Mannerist of attitudes and the most tremulously sublime landscapes of Symbolist Romanticism, the most violently Baroque glory and the most twisted, distorted of monsters among the images of Surrealism, the most gluttonously abstract of stains and the most ruthlessly exact of drawings: all of these have their place in Dali's infernal and paradisiacal journey, his spatial Odyssey of colour and drawing.

The incessant impulse towards the creation of forms that may be observed throughout the Divina Commedia ('The poem is a strictly stereometric volume, the syllabic development of a calligraphic theme,' says Osip Mandelstam) is of the same sort as that which possesses Dali in his polarized creativeness as painter and poet.

Gli occhi lor, ch'eran pria pur dentro molli
Gocciar su per le labbra...
(Inferno, XXXII, 46-47).


On the subject of the above lines, Mandelstam comments: 'Thus the suffering goes through the organs of the senses, creates hybrids, produces the labial eye.' This labial eye, this suffering that creates hybrids, is not only a stimulating image of the relationship between painting and poetry -- the eyes and the lips -- but a perspicacious way of regarding Dante's poem, and one that also serves to define Dali's poetical-pictorial genius. This labial eye may quite fittingly be attributed to Dali who in his artistic work does not confine himself to merely occupying the visual imagination, but above all intensifies it, as though it constituted a monument wrought with rare materials which, apart from exalting the man to whom it is dedicated, honoured the materials of which it is made.

In the same way as Dante's poem, Dali's illustration of it -'and, in general, his whole painting oeuvre -- is imbued with all the forms of energy known to modern science,· all of which make an appearance in the course of an itinerary that goes from the most slithering line-twisting Surrealism of the Inferno to the most nuclear or abstract-expressionist explosion of the Paradiso' for as he makes his way through Dali's illustration; to the Divina Commedia, the viewer cannot help noticing that, while the starting-point is situated in the most specific irrationality, i.e. the obstinate insistence on drawing in the Inferno, little by little -- above all in the Paradiso the artist succumbs to the temptation of flights through space, m the course of which reality is presented in the form of airy stains, veined and iridescent; in the form of flashes and waves, as though in this flight the painting were seeking to rid itself of its corporal crust and dematerialized, to become a pure interplay of levitating colours, culminating -- on reaching the final goal of the Paradiso -- with the three circles of three colours and a single dimension, all of them substantiated in light.

Lautreamont and Dante, Les Chants de Maldoror and La Divino Commedia, represent two extremes of Dali's artistic personality. The corsair 'with long, fair hair and hps of Jasper,' and the seer with the hawklike profile, are the two genii of Dali's aesthetic. The faces Dante gave to the Middle Ages have been conferred by Dali on the Atomic Era. Between the adolescent poet, creator of bestiaries and anatomist of swamps, and the theologian poet, discoverer of hells and revealer of heavens, Dali has revolved with the concentric flights of his art from putrefaction to Saintly Objectivity, from the visc'era or intestines to the most refined clothing or jewels, from science to delirium, like an adolescent hybridized with an anti-Faust theologian, who exclaims in a sudden outburst: 'My mystique is cheese! Christ is cheese! Does not St Augustine tell us that in the Bible Christ is called "montus coagulatus, montus fermentatus," which must be taken to mean a veritable mountain of cheese?' A strange mystique, you may say. The mystique, in any case, of a strange world.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 25178
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Dali, by Ignacio Gomez de Liano

Postby admin » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:26 am

The perenniality of the acanthus

Once again I walked along the lane that leaves the cemetery of Cadaques and curves down towards the little bay of Portlligat.

This time I was visiting the painter on All Souls' Day. Perhaps it was thanks to this chronological circumstance that the melancholy bay, that lake which reflects 'the dramas of the sky at sunset', made me think more than ever of Bocklin's Island of the Dead. The weather was damp and the first signs of winter were in the air.

When I entered the painter's studio, Gala politely closed the book she had been reading to Dali, who was absorbed in the painting he was working on. He seemed rested and unworried. While he went on painting the picture on the easel in front of him, we spoke again of the Torre Gorgot and of his plan for a leaning, liquid tower. We also spoke about that wonderful Baroque poem, Paradise closed to many, gardens open to many, by the Granada poet Soto de Rojas, in the approbation of which we may read: 'I admired the vegetative eloquence, the studious plants, in whose green leaves one could read fables truly, their composition seeming, rather than a book, a garden.'

Dali, who did not cease to use his brushes throughout our conversation, must have noticed some sign of surprise in my face, since the picture he was painting was a monochrome oil, black and white being the only colours. He said: 'It must be because today is All Souls' Day that I am painting this picture in black.'

In the picture I saw a road starting out from the foreground at the bottom of the canvas, which it occupied entirely, and gradually losing itself -- two perfectly straight converging lines -- in the wooded background of the distant horizon. Once again the Highway. Like milestones on the route, a great number of sacks (reminding me of the ones lying in the wheelbarrow in Millet's Angelus and, in the way they were arranged, of the amorphous figures in Inaugural Gooseflesh) lined the two sides of the road. At a certain point on this road the sacks ascended in the same order into the sky, so that they seemed to be returning, on a higher level, to the foreground of the picture. Once again a circular movement, a Llullian combinatorial movement. Were they sacks of coal, sacks of potatoes, sacks of energy? Dali told me that they were 'sacks laden with information.'

I do not know whether it was because of All Souls' Day, but the fact is that the melancholy feelings induced by that date stirred me to seek the antidote and contrast of clearer, happier, more hopeful spaces; and then I thought of that hymn to the victory and perenniality of the acanthus that appears in the closing chapters of the Secret Life, in which Dali says: 'But at the very moment when nobody was thinking of it, we behold the acanthus reborn, green, tender and shining, among the cracks of a flamboyant ruin. And it is as though all the catastrophes of history, all the suffering of mankind, all the upheavals, storms and chaos of the western soul, were destined, with their transitory, tempestuous appearances and disappearances, simply to come at all times to nourish the perenniality of the acanthus, simply to maintain the ever renascent immortality of that tradition that is unfailingly green, fresh, virgin and original ...' Might not those sacks in the monochrome painting be laden with acanthus?

When I took my leave, Dali was still adding nuance to nuance, piling distance upon distance, travelling once more over his royal and combinatorial highway. The last image that I took away with me that evening was that of the faintly-seen, distant mountains in the background, pierced like a wood transformed into a target, by the swift, straight arrow of the road.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 25178
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Next

Return to Art & Intellect

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest