Surrealism started out in literary form, which is well documented in the exhibition. In respect of the artists I find the very intellectual approach to making the art somewhat off-putting as I see little or no emotional balance in the imagery, which I appreciate is my problem and no-one else’s. I tend to look at art intuitively and surrealism doesn’t allow me to engage in that way. This on one level makes the exhibition quite a challenge and I found myself reading the wall labels carefully in order to follow the narrative. However after about a third of the way through I couldn’t take in any more information. Unusually for me I decided to buy the catalogue which will allow me to catch up in my own time.
On the plus side it was a tremendously comprehensive show taking up the entire ground floor of Gallery ONE. There were those one expects to see – Ernst, Magritte, Tanguy, Dali –hanging alongside others whom I wouldn’t have thought of as being connected, Picasso being the standout example. Delvaux is included though he didn’t consider himself a Surrealist. I found it best to view the works for their own sakes and not get too concerned in the moment to grasp the thinking behind each one. The visual games are a wonder, whomever the artist or whatever the medium. As I progressed through room after room of mind bending imagery, Dali’s Mae West Lips Sofa came as light relief.
This is a milestone exhibition and I’m very glad I was able to catch it. If you missed the show in Edinburgh it will be at Hamburger Kunstahalle, Hamburg from 7 October to 22 January, and then at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam from 11 February to 28 May 2017. Museum Boijmans is a major lender to the exhibition, its collection clearly of equal importance (if not more so) to the SNGMA collection in keeping Surrealism alive in our consciousness.