Surrealist automatism

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Andre Masson. Automatic Drawing. (1924). Ink on paper, 9 /4 x 8 /8" (23.5 x 20.6 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York Masson automatic drawing.jpg
André Masson. Automatic Drawing. (1924). Ink on paper, 94 × 88" (23.5 × 20.6 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York

Surrealist automatism is a method of art-making in which the artist suppresses conscious control over the making process, allowing the unconscious mind to have great sway. Early 20th-century Dadaists, such as Hans Arp, made some use of this method through chance operations. Surrealist artists, most notably André Masson, adapted to art the automatic writing method of André Breton and Philippe Soupault who composed with it Les Champs Magnétiques (The Magnetic Fields) in 1919. [1] The Automatic Message (1933) was one of Breton's significant theoretical works about automatism.

Dada avant-garde art movement in the early 20th century

Dada or Dadaism was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century, with early centers in Zürich, Switzerland, at the Cabaret Voltaire ; New York Dada began circa 1915, and after 1920 Dada flourished in Paris. Developed in reaction to World War I, the Dada movement consisted of artists who rejected the logic, reason, and aestheticism of modern capitalist society, instead expressing nonsense, irrationality, and anti-bourgeois protest in their works. The art of the movement spanned visual, literary, and sound media, including collage, sound poetry, cut-up writing, and sculpture. Dadaist artists expressed their discontent with violence, war, and nationalism, and maintained political affinities with the radical far-left.

Surrealism international cultural movement that began in the early 1920s

Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects, and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. Its aim was to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality".

André Masson French painter

André-Aimé-René Masson was a French artist.

Contents

Origins

Automatism has taken on many forms: the automatic writing and drawing initially (and still to this day) explored by the surrealists can be compared to similar or parallel phenomena, such as the non-idiomatic improvisation. "Pure psychic automatism" was how André Breton defined Surrealism, and while the definition has proved capable of significant expansion, automatism remains of prime importance in the movement.

Automatic behavior, from the Greek automatos or self-acting, is the spontaneous production of often purposeless verbal or motor behavior without conscious self-control or self-censorship. This condition can be observed in a variety of contexts, including schizophrenia, psychogenic fugue, epilepsy, narcolepsy or in response to a traumatic event. The individual does not recall the behavior. According to the book 'The Mind Machine' by Colin Blakemore, hypoglycemia usually leads quickly to unconsciousness, but as blood glucose level falls, there is 'a window of experience between sanity and coma in which self-control is lost', and the body 'behaves on its own'.

Automatic drawing and painting

Automatic drawing was pioneered by the English artist Austin Osman Spare who wrote a chapter, Automatic Drawing as a Means to Art, in his book, The Book of Pleasure (1913). Other artists who also practised automatic drawing were Hilma af Klint, André Masson, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Jean Arp and André Breton.

Austin Osman Spare English artist

Austin Osman Spare was an English artist and occultist who worked as both a draughtsman and a painter. Influenced by symbolism and art nouveau his art was known for its clear use of line, and its depiction of monstrous and sexual imagery. In an occult capacity, he developed idiosyncratic magical techniques including automatic writing, automatic drawing and sigilization based on his theories of the relationship between the conscious and unconscious self.

<i>The Book of Pleasure</i> book written by Austin Osman Spare

The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): Psychology of Ecstasy is a book written by Austin Osman Spare during 1909–1913 and self-published in 1913.

Hilma af Klint Swedish painter

Hilma af Klint was a Swedish artist and mystic whose paintings were among the first abstract art. A considerable body of her abstract work predates the first purely abstract compositions by Kandinsky. She belonged to a group called "The Five", a circle of women who shared her belief in the importance of trying to make contact with the so-called "High Masters"—often by way of séances. Her paintings, which sometimes resemble diagrams, were a visual representation of complex spiritual ideas.

The technique of automatic drawing was transferred to painting (as seen in Miró's paintings which often started out as automatic drawings), and has been adapted to other media; there have even been automatic "drawings" in computer graphics. Pablo Picasso was also thought to have expressed a type of automatic drawing in his later work, and particularly in his etchings and lithographic suites of the 1960s.

Painting practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

Pablo Picasso Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer

Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright who spent most of his adult life in France. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), and Guernica (1937), a dramatic portrayal of the bombing of Guernica by the German and Italian airforces during the Spanish Civil War.

Automatic drawing (distinguished from drawn expression of mediums) was developed by the surrealists, as a means of expressing the subconscious. In automatic drawing, the hand is allowed to move "randomly" across the paper. In applying chance and accident to mark-making, drawing is to a large extent freed of rational control. Hence the drawing produced may be attributed in part to the subconscious and may reveal something of the psyche, which would otherwise be repressed. Examples of automatic drawing were produced by mediums and practitioners of the psychic arts. It was thought by some Spiritualists to be a spirit control that was producing the drawing while physically taking control of the medium's body.

In psychology, the subconscious is the part of the mind that is not currently in focal awareness. The word subconscious represents an anglicized version of the French subconscient as coined by the psychologist Pierre Janet (1859–1947), who argued that underneath the layers of critical-thought functions of the conscious mind lay a powerful awareness that he called the subconscious mind.

Drawing visual artwork in two-dimensional medium

Drawing is a form of visual art in which a person uses various drawing instruments to mark paper or another two-dimensional medium. Instruments include graphite pencils, pen and ink, various kinds of paints, inked brushes, colored pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, various kinds of erasers, markers, styluses, and various metals. Digital drawing is the act of using a computer to draw. Common methods of digital drawing include a stylus or finger on a touchscreen device, stylus- or finger-to-touchpad, or in some cases, a mouse. There are many digital art programs and devices.

Hand extremity at the end of an arm or forelimb

A hand is a prehensile, multi-fingered appendage located at the end of the forearm or forelimb of primates such as humans, chimpanzees, monkeys, and lemurs. A few other vertebrates such as the koala are often described as having "hands" instead of paws on their front limbs. The raccoon is usually described as having "hands" though opposable thumbs are lacking.

Most of the surrealists' automatic drawings were illusionistic, or more precisely, they developed into such drawings when representational forms seemed to suggest themselves. In the 1940s and 1950s the French-Canadian group called Les Automatistes pursued creative work (chiefly painting) based on surrealist principles. They abandoned any trace of representation in their use of automatic drawing. This is perhaps a more pure form of automatic drawing since it can be almost entirely involuntary – to develop a representational form requires the conscious mind to take over the process of drawing, unless it is entirely accidental and thus incidental. These artists, led by Paul-Émile Borduas, sought to proclaim an entity of universal values and ethics proclaimed in their manifesto Refus Global .

Illusion distortion of the senses

An illusion is a distortion of the senses, which can reveal how the human brain normally organizes and interprets sensory stimulation. Though illusions distort our perception of reality, they are generally shared by most people.

Les Automatistes were a group of Québécois artistic dissidents from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The movement was founded in the early 1940s by painter Paul-Émile Borduas. Les Automatistes were so called because they were influenced by Surrealism and its theory of automatism. Members included Marcel Barbeau, Roger Fauteux, Claude Gauvreau, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Pierre Gauvreau, Fernand Leduc, Jean-Paul Mousseau, and Marcelle Ferron and Françoise Sullivan.

Representation (arts) art technique

Representation is the use of signs that stand in for and take the place of something else. It is through representation that people organize the world and reality through the act of naming its elements. Signs are arranged in order to form semantic constructions and express relations.

As alluded to above, surrealist artists often found that their use of "automatic drawing" was not entirely automatic, rather it involved some form of conscious intervention to make the image or painting visually acceptable or comprehensible, "...Masson admitted that his 'automatic' imagery involved a two-fold process of unconscious and conscious activity...." [2]

Surautomatism

Some Romanian surrealists invented a number of surrealist techniques (such as cubomania, entoptic graphomania, and the movement of liquid down a vertical surface) that purported to take automatism to an absurd point, and the name given, "surautomatism", implies that the methods "go beyond" automatism, but this position is controversial.

Paul-Emile Borduas

The notion of automatism is also rooted in the artistic movement of the same name founded by Montreal artist Paul-Emile Borduas in 1942; himself influenced by the Dadaist movement as well as André Breton. He, as well as a dozen other artists from Quebec's artistic scene, very much under restrictive and authoritarian rule in that period, signed the Global Refusal manifesto, in which the artists called upon North American society (specifically in the culturally unique environment of Quebec), to take notice and act upon the societal evolution projected by these new cultural paradigms opened by the Automatist movement as well as other influences in the 1940s.

Contemporary techniques

The computer, like the typewriter, can be used to produce automatic writing and automatic poetry. The practice of automatic drawing, originally performed with pencil or pen and paper, has also been adapted to mouse and monitor, and other automatic methods have also been either adapted from non-digital media, or invented specifically for the computer. For instance, filters have been automatically run in some bitmap editor programs such as Photoshop and GIMP, and computer-controlled brushes have been used to "simulate" automatism. [3] Grandview — a software application created in 2011 for the Mac — displays one word at a time across the entire screen as a user types, facilitating automatic writing. [4]

See also

Footnotes

  1. Chilvers, Ian and Glaves-Smith, John, A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art, second edition (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 45-46. ISBN   0199239665.
  2. The Surrealists: Revolutionaries in art & writing 1919–1935, Jemma Montagu, page 15
  3. Pathway Studio Gallery
  4. http://smarterbits.org/writing-with-grandview.html

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