Feature: Salvador Dali

Feature: Salvador Dali

etching (artist proof), n.d.
Collection of Gallery Stratford

Through his diverse body of work, spanning across a variety of methods, mediums and subjects, Salvador Dali stands as an important figure in the development of modern art as we have come to know it. Heavily influenced by the emergence of Freudian psychoanalytic theory, Dali looked to represent the detailed workings of the unconscious mind by way of his unique, often indescribable artistic language. His work provides for an intriguing documentation of modern experience, exploring at once the latent forces of inhibition, freedom, fear and desire that guide us all.

Although widely thought to have been a dedicated member of the Surrealist movement, it remains true that Dali was only formally attached this group of artists for a short period of time. Upon his expulsion from the group in 1937, Dali would appoint himself a ‘metaphysical hyper-realist’. For this reason, Dali should be realized in isolation, detached from both the perceived successes and failures of any major art movement of the mid 20th century.

Gallery Stratford’s permanent collection houses twelve etchings by Dali, all of which highlight prominent Shakespearean subjects. They provide, in the simplest of means, a fine example of Dali’s technical skill. The ways in which he articulates space and line are not to be overlooked even in these smaller-scale illustrations. Dali manages to capture the depth and magnitude of these subjects even with minimal sketch work.

But the etchings also provide an opportunity to understand Dali’s artistic vision on a more intimate level. He reintroduces, with charming originality, what are some of the most well developed subjects and narratives in the history of art. Dali’s Romeo, for example, operates in a metaphysical realm that sharply contrasts those more traditional, academic renderings from artists past. One will notice that Dali’s ideas do not falter but rather strengthen as his work is seen across a variety of mediums and subjects. It seems that these etchings pulse with the same strength and energy as his large scale oil paintings or bronze sculptures.

Dali often stated that his greatest work lie in ‘Dali’ the persona. Complete with perfectly crested moustache and intentionally distracting rhetoric, ‘Dali’ is, in every sense, an exaggerated, theatrical figure. And it is in this rethinking of Shakespeare that he is able to provide relevant discussion on the convergence of performance and reality and more generally, on the interplay of art and life.