Word Count: 891From the real to the surreal,embodied it all. Once he was satisfied with his abilities to mimic what he saw in the world, he began to play with objects and space. He comprehended, perfected and finally transcended realism and his work became much more than paint on canvas. In a forward that transpersonal psychologist Ken Wilber did for Alex Greys book Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey, he stresses that “all of us possess the eye of flesh, the eye of mind and the eye of spirit. We can classify art in terms of which eye it mostly relies on.
. . Each of these eyes sees a different world the world of material objects, 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 this theory. He began as a child genius of art. At the youthful age of 14, his charcoal drawings patterned techniques that Claude Monet is so renown for using. Dali was capable of portraying Monets stylistic texture in a texture-less medium. By the time he reached his twenties, he perfected this impressionistic style using oil paint on canvas.
I believe this is illustrated in The Three Pines, a painting which was created when Dali was 15. Vague line definitions and blending, vivid colors and values are just of few of the comparisons that could be made between this and Monets Water Lilies, Green Harmony. As he perfected this style, he became more realistic. A perfect example is his oil painting, Basket of Bread in which a simple woven basket sits on a white table cloth with four slices of bread inside. A simple black backdrop provides an excellent subdued contrast to keep your eye focused on the subject.
The entire painting, done by Dali at age 22, is so realistic that at first glance it seems like a photograph. You can feel the folds in the cloth as well as the harsh texture of the basket. The lighting and shadows are perfect for the object and not at all over baring. His placement of the object in the lower half of the painting gives the entire piece a good sense of depth. From this point, Dali encompassed and transcended realism into pre-surrealism and finally surrealism.
He started to incorporate ideas into his paintings and move beyond the material world. This signifies the beginning of the use of the second eye that Ken Wilber discusses and the continuation into what I believe to be the third eye. To explain this, here is another quote from Ken Wilber taken from his discussion of achieving the highest or deepest degree of art: “The purpose of truly transcendent art is to express something you are not yet, but can become.” (Ken Wilber; One Taste, p. 6) In Dalis painting, My Wife, Nude, Contemplating her Own Flesh Becoming the Stairs, his wife is seated with her back to us, staring at a surreal depiction of her from our point of view. She is painted in perfect realism with beautifully bright and natural colors.
Smooth lines and delicate shadows give us a taste of Dalis talent with a brush. The definition and detail of her hair makes it seem as though we can reach out and touch it. It appears that a light breeze could sway it from perfection. By the title alone, we can say that she is sitting there contemplating her image in the distance changing before her eyes.
The image is not only surreal but majestic in nature. The value of the color differs from that of the realistic human. In the human, they are dark and defined, where in the contemplated object they are pastel and soft. The contemplation barely resembles its originator anymore but holds just enough shape that you can place it. She watches her image turn into a mechanical looking architectural structure with a hollow center. The object is vulnerable to destruction because of what little material is actually holding it up.
Stairs from the ground lead straight into the middle of the object and beautiful Romanesque pillars augment the hair. A statue stands atop a column inside the structure where the heart would usually sit. All of this can be taken literally as I am describing or you can look deeper into it. A brief glance at my thoughts on it: Its a husbands view of his wife in which she sees herself as she really is and contemplates from afar. She sees her body open and unprotected with stairs leading you straight inside. She welcomes her lover; her husband.
This beautiful architectural shrine is dedicated to him and that is his statue beside her heart. The statue stands tall and victorious the same way she sees her husband. This is all just the tip of the iceberg. When I first read Ken Wilbers discussion of art, I could not agree more with him. Anyone can paint with the eye of the flesh, it just takes practice. To take the step to the eye of the mind, you must be willing to open yourself up and see what comes out.
You have to have a certain amount of talent to be capable of expressing ideas on the canvas. Not only that but conveying them in such a manner that they make people stop and contemplate. To paint with the eye of the spirit you must encompass all of these and transcend yourself to a higher level of thought. Salvador Dali is my absolute favorite painter because he can achieve these things. In his work, I see a natural progression from basic painting from sight to something that includes so much more. Each step he took, he did not leave behind the knowledge that he learned before, but he incorporated it into something so much more incredible.