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The Meaning Behind the Illustrations of Salvador Dali

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Salvador Dali was known for his surrealist artworks. The term surrealism first appeared in the writings of French poet Guillame Apollinaire who used it in 1917. It is known that surrealism is irrational, and hallucinatory. It positioned itself not from escape from life but as a revolutionary force within it. It was meant to free the human mind from the task of imitating nature. Artists like Dali were interested in what their dreams could review about their sub-conscious “hand-painted dream photographs”. With the actual painting size of 24 x 33 cm, we can see the he wants to give us this powerful impact with this little artwork in order to see the different forms of reality. He wants us to think about his work and not just react or compliment it. He wants us to use our curious minds. The melted clocks, stopwatch with ants, presented flesh, cliffs, the bodies of water and the dead tree will make us wonder, what is this painting really all about? What is the meaning behind these illustrations?

First, as for the appearance of the painting itself, it looks mysterious because it is not the usual ideas that we always see in paintings but it helps us open our eyes and find the hidden mystery of it. The artwork is a desert-like landscape adjacent to cliffs and the large body of water. It has a body of water, dead tree, cliff, sky, melting clocks, solid pocket watch, ants and a fleshy being. It consists colors such as bright blue, yellow brown, rusty orange, gray, nude and black in which it gave us a warm feeling about it. As for the objects in that painting, the first thing that caught my attention was the melted clocks. Time is one of the most important things to value in our lives. As the saying goes, “time is gold”, most of us humans value our time wisely in order to live our life to the fullest and to avoid regrets. However, the artwork seems to oppose. Almost all of the clocks that we have these days are stiff, you can barely see a clock that is easy to bend out. Nevertheless, for this one, the clocks were melted and it can symbolize that in our dreams, clocks does not rule our lives but instead it is just our memory and it is only in our reality where time rules us. Furthermore, as we see the ants eating away the face of the red clock, it can symbolize as rotting of keeping time. We should not just let the ants surround our time and just consume it without us noticing it.

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Second, the dead tree may also depict that the environment of the artwork is really warm and dry. This also correlates with the body of water that is illustrated as no waves, movement nor activity. It can be seen that there is really a reason for the clocks to melt and that is perhaps the heat and temperature within that artwork. Next, on the right of the painting, we can see cliffs surrounded by water and a few end with the horizon and its sky. Since I do not really have an idea what the cliff symbolizes, I searched through the Internet about it and they said that the cliff that was featured in the painting describes the cliffs of Cap de Creus peninsula which is the birthplace of Dali. With that being said, in my own opinion, maybe the place where he was born had a significant place in his heart where he felt things like dryness or not having a persistent image about the happenings that he experienced when he was there.

Lastly, there is a fleshy being with a melted clock, pictures like eyelids, nose and hair of a person. For me, it really looks like a melted person in which his/her body parts had already mixed with his/her melted flesh. Since it is a surrealist painting, this may symbolize that this person that Dali had included must have felt the dryness of the environment and he/she did not also valued his/her time as the time itself melted within his/her body. Along with this, the setting of the painting as it is said earlier, it is desert-like which means it is really dry and warm. Even though it is desert-like, the light source is unclear. Presumingly the light will come from the sun, yet following the shadows, the light seems to be on the upper left from outside the frame. As for the shadow, we can see that it is as if the light was blocked by an unknown object. Moreover, for the composition, we can see strong horizontal lines in the horizon and the shore. To further understand, you can use a ruler to make things clearly. The picture plane was most strongly divided by a diagonal line. Following the fleshy creature, the diagonal line connects the lower part of the image, the platform stretching several objects, and the cliffs. The diagonal line seems to be the borderline of the light and shadow. Also, the use of dark and light adds to the plasticity and sense of space.

In life, there are different points of views in life that we should consider every time. In every situations, there are a lot of point of view that we should respect. We are all humans and we are free to voice out our feelings and our own opinions. Additionally, regarding with the painting, possibly, the reason why we all have different interpretations of the symbolisms within this painting is that Dali had a great job of letting us widen our point of views with the paintings that we see. It is not just what we think they are, an artwork is so much more than what we think and it is within the artist with how they would interpret it within the public and how would they show their feelings and emotions through their unique ways of expressing it. Dali had required us to think and dig deeper.

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