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Salvador Dali: From the Real to the Surreal

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    Once he was satisfied with his abilities to mimic what hesaw in the world, he began to play with objects and space. He comprehended, perfected and finally transcendedrealism and his work became much more than paint oncanvas.

    In a forward that transpersonal psychologist Ken Wilberdid for Alex Greys book Sacred Mirrors: The VisionaryArt of Alex Grey, he stresses that “all of us possess the eyeof flesh, the eye of mind and the eye of spirit. We canclassify art in terms of which eye it mostly relies on. . . Eachof these eyes sees a different world the world of materialobjects, of mental ideas, of spiritual realities (respectively).

    And each eye can paint what it sees. The higher the eye,the deeper the art.” Dalis work seems to parallel thistheory. He began as a child genius of art. At the youthful age of 14,his charcoal drawings patterned techniques that ClaudeMonet is so renown for using. Dali was capable ofportraying Monets stylistic texture in a texture-lessmedium. By the time he reached his twenties, he perfectedthis impressionistic style using oil paint on canvas. I believethis is illustrated in The Three Pines, a painting which wascreated when Dali was 15. Vague line definitions andblending, vivid colors and values are just of few of thecomparisons that could be made between this and MonetsWater Lilies, Green Harmony.

    As he perfected this style, he became more realistic. Aperfect example is his oilpainting, Basket of Bread in which a simple woven basketsits on a white table cloth with four slices of bread inside. Asimple black backdrop provides an excellent subduedcontrast to keep your eye focused on the subject. The entire painting, doneby Dali at age 22, is so realistic that at first glance it seemslike a photograph. You can feel the folds in the cloth aswell as the harsh texture of the basket. The lighting andshadows are perfect for the object and not at all overbaring. His placement of the object in the lower half of thepainting gives the entire piece a good sense of depth.

    From this point, Dali encompassed and transcendedrealism into pre-surrealism and finally surrealism. He startedto incorporate ideas into his paintings and move beyond thematerial world. This signifies the beginning of the use of thesecond eye that Ken Wilber discusses and the continuationinto what I believe to be the third eye. To explain this, hereis another quote from Ken Wilber taken from his discussionof achieving the highest or deepest degree of art: “Thepurpose of truly transcendent art is to express somethingyou are not yet, but can become.” (Ken Wilber; OneTaste, p. 6) In Dalis painting, My Wife, Nude,Contemplating her Own Flesh Becoming the Stairs, hiswife is seated with her back to us, staring at a surrealdepiction of her from our point of view. She is painted inperfect realism with beautifully bright and natural colors.

    Smooth lines and delicate shadows give us a taste of Dalistalent with a brush. The definition and detail of her hairmakes it seem as though we can reach out and touch it. Itappears that a light breeze could sway it from perfection. By the title alone, we can say that she is sitting therecontemplating her image in the distance changing before hereyes. The image is not only surreal but majestic in nature.

    The value of the color differs from that of the realistic human. Inthe human, they are dark and defined, where in thecontemplated object they are pastel and soft. Thecontemplation barely resembles its originator anymore butholds just enough shape that you can place it. She watchesher image turn into a mechanical looking architecturalstructure with a hollow center. The object is vulnerable todestruction because of what little material is actually holdingit up. Stairs from the ground lead straight into the middle ofthe object and beautiful Romanesque pillars augment thehair. A statue stands atop a column inside the structurewhere the heart would usually sit.

    All of this can be taken literally as I am describing or youcan look deeper into it. A brief glance at my thoughts on it:Its a husbands view of his wife in which she sees herself asshe really is and contemplates from afar. She sees her bodyopen and unprotected with stairs leading you straight inside.

    She welcomes her lover; her husband. This beautifularchitectural shrine is dedicated to him and that is his statuebeside her heart. The statue stands tall and victorious thesame way she sees her husband. This is all just the tip ofthe iceberg.

    When I first read Ken Wilbers discussion of art, I could notagree more with him. Anyone can paint with the eye of theflesh, it just takes practice. To take the step to the eye ofthe mind, you must be willing to open yourself up and seewhat comes out. You have to have a certain amount oftalent to be capable of expressing ideas on the canvas. Notonly that but conveying them in such a manner that theymake people stop and contemplate. To paint with the eyeof the spirit you must encompass all of these and transcendyourself to a higher level of thought. Salvador Dali is myabsolute favorite painter because he can achieve thesethings. In his work, I see a natural progression from basicpainting from sight to something that includes so muchmore. Each step he took, he did not leave behind theknowledge that he learned before, but he incorporated itinto something so much more incredible.

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