Salvador Dali. The name immediately conjures up hallucinogenic images of dropping clocks and elongated body parts. He has never been one of my favourite artists and indeed many critics were captured by his narcissistic nature rather than his surrealist art. He was once quoted to have said “”every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali”
Nevertheless, his work has many loyal fans, even if I am not one of them. My exposure to Dali happened whilst I was spending a sunny week in Mallorca, thoughts of art and university far from my mind. One day, a bit of culture was called for. And so in the lovely city of Palma, a tiny exhibition of Dali sketches was discovered in a typical Mediterranean apartment, tucked away in some back street. The sketches I saw here were delicate pen drawings, often showing brutal and uncomfortable subjects. Initially, I was drawn to the soft colours and bareness of the paper, but as I studied the sketches, Dali’s love of the erotic and grotesque became profusely clear. His work attacks any kind of rationality and
in a sense, this is entirely reflective of Dali’s personality. I have to say, I was slightly repulsed by many of these sketches. However, a certain captivation began to take hold regarding the man himself. It seemed to me that the name Dali was more famous in the art world than any work he had produced. His obsession with projecting an image of himself means we will instantly recognise the waxed moustache and wild eyes, but give us a surrealist painting and we may not straightaway attribute it to Dali. He has become a cultural icon with the title ‘artist’ as an afterthought.
There are countless stories of Dali’s outlandish actions, one in particular happened in 1973, when Dali pushed over the projector at contemporary film maker’s screening, claiming the man had stolen Dali’s idea, an idea he had never written down or told anyone but he swore that the filmmaker, “stole it from my subconscious!”. It was antics like bringing Russian wolfhounds to exhibitions, dining with kings or going to a fancy dress party as the Lindbergh baby that gained Dali fame and repute. His involvement in movements such as Dadaism and the Surrealism, along with his eccentric political stance were all attempts to cultivate an eccentric image of himself. One critic said “it was Dali’s obsession with his image that was ultimately his downfall.” The fantastical stories that surround this man are essentially what interested me, far more than the sketches I was looking at. He was controversial, offensive, brilliant and arrogant. His work did indeed go on to influence many of today’s artists, and even today his moustache is as well known as the man himself. Whatever your feelings towards the work of Dali, you certainly cannot ignore the mad man.