More Surrealism

During the first 11 months of writing this blog, I was intent on rehashing my efforts to reach my older brother Michael, who is autistic, profoundly retarded and nonverbal. I believe that I have achieved a certain sensitivity to the plights of others through my experience as his sibling.

At the beginning of this month (December 2013) I shifted my attention to my own methods of self expression. I have been trying to find a way other than writing to express myself.


My medium has been pencil, for sketching and watercolors, for painting. For a while I thought that if I could translate a feeling to a certain color blotch or stain, juxtapose it with another and by doing so reveal and communicate my inner state to others. The only trouble was I couldn’t decide what different colors actually mean to me. I understand what the common associations are (i.e., red = hot, blue = cold, etc.) but I didn’t know if that was true for me.


Next on my checklist for exploration was expressionism. However, as simplistic as this may be, it seemed that the art made by expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, was the residue – that which was left over – from their acts of expression. I did not think that the action painting translated to the 5”x7” watercolor format, or watercolor for that matter.

Surrealism – manifesto restated

Surrealism might actually be a style where I could have some success at presenting my feelings on canvas (read watercolor paper). Although I quoted André Brenton’s Surrealist Manifesto yesterday, it is worth repeating here:

“‘I define Surrealism once and for all,’ Brenton wrote in the First Surrealist Manifesto, ‘as that pure psychic automatism by which we propose to express, whether in a speech, on the printed page, or by any other means, the true functioning of thought. Whatever thought dictates to us is to be immune from conscious control by our reason and shall be set down without regard either for aesthetics or for morality. Surrealism is based on a belief in the superior reality of certain hitherto neglected forms of association, in the supreme authority of the dream, and in the disinterested play of the thought processes.’” (from The Meanings of Modern Art (revised edition) by John Russell, New York: The Museum of Modern Art 1991, pg 199)

Really sir?

It might be true that practice of psychic automatism, prior to interception and control by the consciousness can give one greater insight. Perhaps it exposes the underlying process of the automaton who is writing, speaking or otherwise “communicating”. 

Is that the goal? To regurgitate the ‘true functioning of thought’ before it can be processed by the automaton himself and to leave interpretation to others; to spout off a dream and leave it for the professionals to determine its significance? Perhaps so.

From Miró – really!

Again, quoting from Russell (pg 203): “Miró said in 1933 that his work was ‘always born in a state of hallucination due to a shock of some kind – subjective or objective – for which I bear no responsibility.’ In other words, he switched off the conscious mind and just let the images come: initially under the pressures of hunger, later as the result of a faculty by then well developed.”

According to Russell, Miró “was not there to represent the ideas that came to him, but to list them, uncensored. By bringing into the open what is most often bundled out of the way, he would resite the locus of human uncertainty and put it where it belonged: in the unconscious.” [emphasis added]

Russell goes on to say: “This is of course a grossly simplified account of a complex, intermittent and often self-contradictory process. … It takes time to make a picture, … and although the notion of total automatism can be upheld as a philosophical position it is difficult not to believe that automatism is more effective when used as a booster, or as a form of overdrive, than when the artist allows it complete command of his actions. What passes for successful automatism may result from a dis-inhibited fancy, an original gift for metaphor, and the ability to move forward from ‘painting’ as a hitherto understood, to an amalgam of painting and object making.”

My goal is somewhat different

My goal is to go experience the psychic automatism, which I believe is a necessary step, but to go beyond and cultivate the associations and whatever else is dredged up and process them myself. My goal is to share matters of importance to me with someone else, in an intelligible way; someone who would then process my message on a subconscious level and realize, at some point consciously, the existence of a human connection.

This would be the kind of connection that I never had with my older brother. Perhaps that whole idea is surreal.

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