I’ve had a bit of a thing about surrealists ever since I visited Salvador Dali’s house in Spain, a long, long time ago. The floppy clocks, the faceless women, the strange titles. Debris of an Automobile Giving Birth to a Blind Horse Biting a Telephone is a personal favourite.
I was young when I visited Dali’s house and less bothered by the fact that I had no idea what it was all about. However, visiting the surrealists in Brisbane recently I found myself rather perplexed, less able to just enjoy the spectacle.
Why was there a table with the head of a wolf, why a woman’s face with eyes that are breasts and a crutch for a mouth, why was a coffin reclining on a chaise longue? Damn it, I wanted to know.
Luckily for me, the exhibition had special plaques for children. These also worked well for this baffled adult. ‘If you have to ask what a work is about, you have missed the point of surrealism,’ said one plaque. Looks like I had it right all those years ago. It’s the vibe.
It’s been said that if you can understand a surrealist poem, you must be reading something else. Take these examples…
I love benevolent seal
Long distance swimmer.
Say goodbye to the windows.
Trees blossom in the fall.
Like the paintings they do seem strangely meaningful even if you don’t know what the meaning is. John Lennon said that surrealism was just the way he saw his life.