Sleep – Salvador Dali

Is this my favourite piece of art ?  Difficult question to answer, after all it’s hard to name your favourite piece art I think, whether that be painting, sculpture, song, band etc.  However this has certainly been the piece of art that has fascinated me and lived with me for the longest.  I was looking at it again the other day and wondered how we become to be aware of art.  For me it was easy to remember, for reasons that I never quite understood, I spent quite a lot of my school life stood outside either the headteacher’s office or the school staff room, often being forced to stand facing the wall – I know what exactly was that supposed to achieve.  This often meant looking at random pieces of art that had been put on the walls and to be honest the only way I could tell the difference between that done by the kids or those of the ‘artist’ was that the latter was framed.

The first painting that I became aware of was outside my primary school staff room and I stood staring at it often !  I can see it now in my mind’s eye but have no idea what it was – it had two young children running through some sort of wheat/corn field.  I’m pretty sure that it was painted by one of the Dutch masters but I never found out and have never come across it since.  Many of the paintings were of a similar ilk and none of them did much for me.

Much changes of course when you go to secondary school and very early on at the comprehensive I went to I found myself in a similar position outside the staff room.  I was however totally mesmerised  at the bizarre sight of a massive green head supported on crutches.  It was one of those great lightbulb moments in life – what on earth was this, who had done it, when and what was going on in their head ?  I could have stayed there for hours looking at it and fortunately I got many chances to review it over the years.  It took me quite a while to find out who had painted it but I must have gone on and on about it as my parents bought me a large print of it and had it framed for my birthday a couple of years later.

I’m not sure what it really says, what was in Dali’s head when he painted it or what it says about me.  However I liked the idea that it presents of the time when you are asleep when there will be no muscle functioning (hence the crutches required) apart from the brain and no body is required (hence the massive head).  I’ve no doubt that many art critics and historians will be able to tell me exactly what is going on – I’ve always shied away from finding out.  I think that if I found out it would take some of the magic away, a bit like meeting your heros and realising how normal they are.  I just love it’s oddness and yes it’s surrealism – obviously I had no idea what that word meant when I was stood outside that staff room.

What I do know is that I need to thank those who made me stand staring at paintings outside staff rooms as it made me realise that outside the confines of our experiences at the time anything is possible and the power of the mind and imagination are unconquerable.  It gave me an interest in those prepared to think differently, in the oddness of life and art that exists to this day.  I’ve never seen the original which I believe is in some private collection somewhere so I don’t even know how big it is, but thankfully due to the thoughtfulness of my parents who always tried to find things I was interested in their present still hangs in my front room 30 odd years later.

 

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