One day when i was at high school, i was walking home with a girl named Trudy. For some reason she mentioned Salvador Dali and i had no idea who she was talking about. She stopped and opened her school bag and pulled out two postcards of Dali paintings. One was The Persistence of Memory and the other was The Metamorhosis of Narcissus seen at right. As soon as i saw the images, i realised I had seen them before. That dream like realism with the long shadows and morphed limbs were unforgettable. The name Salvador Dali sounded like a perfect match for scenes he had created. 'Saal vadoor dah leee' - the way it rolls off the tongue is like a verbal version of the droopy exotic forms in the paintings.
I had a not insignificant crush on Trudy at the time, and the Dali images and their dip into the subconcious and eroticism seemed to compliment my lustful teenage imaginings. It is for this reason that I think nearly all teenaged kids like Dali's paintings. Dreams, sex, the unconscious, all very interesting to human beings developing their sense of self. Full rounded fleshy forms in a dream like space. It's the visual expression of the mental images inside every 15 year old boy's head, and I suspect in most girl's heads also.
To my naive young mind, Dali was an incredible genious. Now, i think of him as a loopy paranoid obsessive with a marvellous ability to draw and paint and who was exploited obscenely at the end of his life. I suspect the truth rests somewhere in between those two extremes.
Earler this yearI went to the Dali exhibition at the NGV and found it much less interesting than the simultaneous John Brack Retrospective.
In 1987 i discovered the Angry Penguins while learning about Nolan. Paintings by Arthur Boyd, John Percival, Albert Tucker and the great Joy Hester instantly appealed to me. The impact of Surrealism had obviously been absorbed by these artists but it's evidence was subtle when compared to Dali. The Images of Modern Evil series by Tucker that includes Victory Girls was dark and brooding. With their grotesque faces and bare breasts in your face, the Victory Girls and their grabby pig faced suitors were ugly and unforgettable. A Tucker painting called Psycho with it's ugly contorted subject trapped in a confined room, was an image that had burned itself into my impressionable 24 year old head. The red green colour combination left a grating vibration on the senses and i was forced to consider the emotional impact of colours and their combinations.
In 1988 i quit my job as a colour matcher at Dulux Australia and enrolled at Moorabbin Tafe in order to get a folio together to get me into Art school. It was here that I first met Howard Arkley. One of the first painters he put me onto was Max Ernst. Ernst's use of frottage and dripping paint to create his surreal landscapes and bird like female forms was really eye opening to me. Ernst made me consider the tactile aspects of painting and technique. Up until then, it was all about the image to me. Howard was a very astute mentor to his students and his advice and suggestions were very considered and usually just what was needed to expand one's outlook and development. Ernst's art is very earthy and real to my eyes. The tactility of paint and it's possibilities are always apparent. The NGV has two small imaginary landscapes by Ernst and to me they just want to be touched. One of my favourite artists who's work I have not seen enough of.
Dreams full of tits and bums, ahhh good old Surrealism