Artistic inspiration comes from a variety of sources: nature, people, other works of art, a piece of music and dreams. Dreams, especially, are the diamonds mined from the unconscious.
For the father of the Surrealist movement, Salvador Dali, dreams, visions and symbols supplied fantastical images for his work.
Dali described his paintings as “hand-painted dream photographs.” One of his favorite recurring images, bent and flowing watches, look as if they’re made of wax, melting away on a hot summer day in the desert.
Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (1931) is one of the best known surrealist pieces, and the piece utilizing this type of watch. For Dali, his inspiration for this came to him in two ways: from Einstein’s theory that time is relative, unfixed, and fluid. This idea, in turn, was demonstrated by a piece of cheese melt in summer heat, transforming into a runny mess.
His Soft Watch at the Moment of Explosion also showcases a squishy watch. In this piece, perhaps the constraints of time and space are shattered, where impossible scenarios and infinite opportunities become possible.
When asleep, the conscious brain disappears, and the sub- and un-conscious takes over. Images from myth and movies, from work and waking morph into odd, awe-inspiring or awful. Dali was able to harness his dream landscape and hallucinogenic imaginings – without psychotropic drugs. His Sleep appears to be the dreamer dreaming the dream, supported by surreal crutches, the waking world far off in the distance, just an echo of memory.
If the artist is focused, in tune and aware, they can awake and capture the dream. Oftentimes, the dream is elusive. In its stead, a waking meditative state can harness the subconscious. When an artist, whether a painter, writer, sculptor is deep within the creative process, it produces a trance-like meditative state, where the “real” world falls away. It is replaced with a state of hyper-awareness, focusing the artist’s mind and intent, propelling the brain and body forward.
Like Dali’s The Meditative Rose, the petals of the process open, one by one, letting the fragrance of imagination in.
Eccentric, strange and bizarre, Salvador Dali’s genius was recognized by master in other disciplines. Dali was sought-after in the movie-making process. Famous filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock thought Dali perfect, employing him to create the dream sequence in his film, Spellbound, providing the perfect atmosphere for the film.
With their metaphysical leanings, Dali’s paintings invoke the mystical and mythical – the very things that resonate with the human soul.