Cornwall continued – plus Surrealism Research

The aim of Unit 2 is to explore photographic techniques studio or location based in order to develop ideas.

Objectives: By the end of the project you will be able to plan, develop and evaluate your photographic practice in response to suggested theme and demonstrate safe working practice when using a camera.

Context: The theme for this project is Dreams/Reality. By researching artists and photographers, you are to produce a set of images which show an experimental approach, and investigate the line between dreams and reality. It’s an opportunity to get creative and use your imagination! Use the photographic techniques you have learned during the past two terms (either studio or location) to produce a set of around 5 photographs. You are expected to develop a body of work which explores and analyses materials and techniques.

Cornwall and Clouds 



Sea and Rocks


 Locks and bolts 



Surrealism defies logic. Dreams and the workings of the subconscious mind inspire art filled with strange images and bizarre juxtapositions. Creative thinkers have always toyed with reality, but in the early 20th century Surrealism emerged as a philosophic and cultural movement. Fueled by the teachings of Freud and the rebellious work of Dada artists and poets, surrealists like Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, and Max Ernst promoted free association and dream imagery. Visual artists, poets, playwrights, composers, and film-makers looked for ways to liberate the psyche and tap hidden reservoirs of creativity.

Surrealism, is an artistic movement stressing on the artists subconscious, where the artist focuses on their imagination, for imagery or to exploit unexpected juxtapositions. These juxtapositions are unexpected, because the appearance of the forms/subjects don’t look real, and oppose reality. In surrealist artworks, the subjects look like out their out of reality, in fact some surrealist artworks are inspired by the artist’s dreams. It means the union of the conscious and the unconscious thoughts, as if a dream or a fantasy gets real, also known as surreal. The movement made artists find beauty in the unexpected and the uncanny subjects. The world surrealist suggests beyond reality, it’s a combination of both realism and imagination too.

Freudian references and Jungian Archetypal symbols are evident in the dreamscapes of surrealists. Elements as simple as sea and sky are such archetypes. The sea can signify the womb and attachment to ones mother as well as longing for women, whereas the sky can symbolise masculinity.

Rene Magritte, Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning – surrealist artists.  

Dorothea Tanning – American Painter and Surrealist – currently exhibiting at Tate Modern.

The Tate Modern Exhibition 2019 is the first large-scale exhibition of Dorothea Tanning’s work for 25 years. It brings together 100 works from her seven-decade career – from enigmatic paintings to uncanny sculptures.

Tanning wanted to depict ‘unknown but knowable states’: to suggest there was more to life than meets the eye.

She first encountered surrealism in New York in the 1930s. In the 1940s, her powerful self-portrait Birthday 1942 attracted the attention of fellow artist Max Ernst – they married in 1946. Her work from this time combines the familiar with the strange. From the 1950s, now working in Paris, Tanning’s paintings became more abstract, and in the 1960s she started making pioneering sculptures out of fabric. In later life, Tanning dedicated more of her time to writing. Her last collection of poems, Coming to That, was published at the age of 101.​ She died in 2012.

She says : ‘’I wanted to lead the eye into spaces that hid, revealed, transformed all at once and where there could be some never-before-seen-image.’’

Works from across Tanning’s career show doors left ajar or leading to other doors. The door becomes a surrealist symbol – a portal to the unconscious. While the door represents choice and possibility, doors may also be used to lock up our most secret fears and desires – or dreams. In 1984 Tanning incorporated a real door into her painting ‘Door 84’, dividing the composition in two.

In her sculptural installation’ Chambre 202 at the Hotel du Pavot’ only a half open door appears to offer any escape from the claustrophobic diorama. Pavot is French for poppy – a flower associated with dreams and hallucinations.

Tanning wants to ‘leave the door open to the imagination’.  Photos from Tate Modern visit.

René Magritte:  21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967 was a Belgian Surrealist artist. He became well known for creating a number of witty and thought-provoking images. Often depicting ordinary objects in an unusual context, his work is known for challenging observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality. His imagery has influenced Pop art, minimalist and conceptual art. René Magritte’s uses dreamlike aesthetic and evocative symbols. Clouds, pipes, bowler hats, and green apples: these remain some of the most immediately recognizable icons of Magritte. Magritte made the familiar disturbing and strange, posing questions about the nature of representation and reality.

In ‘The False Mirror’, Magritte posed a similar puzzle about observation. Here, an enormous eye fills the canvas, its iris a powder-blue sky dotted with clouds, its pupil a jet-black dot. The eye looks at the viewer, while the viewer looks both at and through the eye, as through a window, becoming both observer and observed.

Magritte reimagined painting as a critical tool that could challenge perception and engage the viewer’s mind. His was a method of severing objects from their names, revealing language to be an artifice—full of traps and uncertainties.

Max Ernst: (2 April 1891 – 1 April 1976) was a German (naturalised American in 1948 and French in 1958) painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was a primary pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism. He had no formal artistic training, but his experimental attitude toward the making of art resulted in his invention of frottage—a technique that uses pencil rubbings of objects as a source of images— and ‘grattage’, an analogous technique in which paint is scraped across canvas to reveal the imprints of the objects placed beneath. Like many Surrealist artists, Ernst was interested in the use of chance and automatism to try and produce new images from his unconscious mind. He often used techniques which created unusual and unplanned paint effects.

In his painting ‘Sea and Sun’ Ernst has created textured lines on the surface of the painting by dragging a comb through wet paint. The cloud-covered sun is reflected in the sea, which is suggested by combed waves in the lower half of the painting.  Ernst painted many seascapes, and this painting is one of a number of works which feature a large circle floating above the horizon. The work was also influenced by alchemical illustrations.


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