10 Statements about Surrealism (based on Simon Morley “Surrealist Words” and “Images of Resemblance: Magritte’s Semiotic Explorations”)

  1. … someone turned the word away from its duty to signify. It was a matter of (1) considering word itself and (2) examining the reaction words could have to each other.
  1. Art must be based on thought expressed in the absence of any control exerted by reason, and outside all moral and aesthetic considerations. The mentally ill are the truly creative artists because such people as well as children could not conform to the regulatory norms of society.
  1. The main interest for Surrealists is content of verbal language, not its material form. “Word is a carrier of meaning rather than visual form” Andre Breton.
  1. In Surrealist work word and image become equal partners in a process of interpretation. Visual and verbal languages go in parallel, never intersecting.
  1. A thing is not resemble to what it represents. The image is not always the thing. “An object never performs the same function as its name or its image. One cannot smoke either an image of a pipe or its name” Rene Magritte. The object is not so possessed of its name that one cannot find for it another which suits it better. The interest of the Surrealists was in probing how words and images differ in their modes of signifying.
  1. There is no need in drawing the image that is resembled to its name. One can represent word senses in formless figures (as the word senses are abstract). They appear formless in a visual frame, but they are substantial. Our minds are able to catch these meanings. And this is a mode which allows making a thought visible. (“Living Mirror” (1927), “The Uses of Speech” (1927) By Rene Magritte).
  1. Surrealists paint as if they expect the viewer to linger in front of the art piece. It will take you a second and no benefit when looking at the similitude of the thing to what it represents. But surrealists valued making objects mysterious or numinous, taking time to discover the meaning.
  1. Legends and captions refer to the visual contents to which they are attached, not to themselves. Legends and captions stand outside the interpretive area of the work; they are authoritative and exempt from the full play of interpretation.
  1. The title may represent the image itself. The Surrealists called them “indicative”, they rejected titles of such kind. Sometimes the titles tend to become oblique and refer to things that are not part of common knowledge or experience. Surrealists seeked for surprising and enchanting titles, not determinative or identifying. Titles are designed to malfunction, engendering ambiguity and indeterminacy.
  1. By showing incongruities the Surrealists posed a problem, but they never offered a solution to it.

Nastasia Rozhkova

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