Imagine holding the end of a live wire in each hand. Now imagine one end is shaped like a turtle and the other end is, let's say, Pavarotti's beard. Now bring them together. Feel that electricity? That's called art -- or... [more]
Imagine holding the end of a live wire in each hand. Now imagine one end is shaped like a turtle and the other end is, let's say, Pavarotti's beard. Now bring them together. Feel that electricity? That's called art -- or at least it's a metaphor for the Surrealist art of Max Ernst.
Ernst explained that the intention of his art was to "generate an electrical or erotic tension" by bringing together unexpected elements; the more unexpected the elements brought together, "the more surprising were the sparks of poetry that leapt the gap." While the elements of surprise and shock are integral parts of Ernst's art, they are also integral to the Surrealists' notions of subjectivity: conscious perception is a hallucination.
Ernst often merged objects into fantastical beings. For example, in "The Tottering Woman" (1923) a female figure articulated like a doll rises from the floor with the help of the horrific machine which has impaled her (or, perhaps, she is the machine). "Monument to the Birds" (1927) features intertwined blobs topped with bird heads; this piece is perhaps inspired by Ernst's own self-creation myth. In autobiographical notes he states, "Max Ernst had his first contact with the world of sense on the 2nd of April, 1891 at 9:45, when he emerged from an egg his mother had laid in an eagle's nest and which the bird incubated for seven years."
While Ernst left his visual elements to the whimsical inclinations of his subconscious, he often derived his forms from Dadaist experiments in chance. An example is Ernst's move from Cubist collage to frottage -- a technique he developed while zoning out on the wood grains in a hotel floor. He placed a sheet of paper over the floor, rubbed it with a soft pencil, and produced a pattern. He often layered these patterns into compositions or used them to texturize oil paintings (he created his forests of tubelike and serrated shapes using frottage). Frottage then gave birth to grattage, a variation that involved scraping textures into the surfaces of paintings. [show less]