Surrealism and Automatism

Following the surrealism and play workshop in our field sessions, I wanted to do some further contextualisation. The workshop was helpfully related to the subject work that I am doing, and so was a brilliant opportunity to inform the surrealist experimentation that I am doing.

Link to workshop blog post:

In the Surrealist Manifesto, Breton defines surrealism as:

“Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express – verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner – the actual functioning of thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern”

I am interested in surrealism, as a development on the theme that I highlighted at the start of this project, of ‘the removal of the notion of God or grand narrative’. The automatism embraced by surrealist artists “meant placing their trust in the creative power of a purely visual language” (Surrealism Movements In Modern Art By Fiona Bradley)
Surrealism attempts to remove a sense of logical order, embracing the use of the unconscious mind as a tool – distancing itself from a rational order or narrative through various playful techniques.

Automatic Drawing – used as a beginning for creative activity, to encourage spontaneity. Putting yourself in a receptive frame of mind.

Andre Masson

“André Masson began automatic drawings with no preconceived subject or composition in mind. Like a medium channeling a spirit, he let his pen travel rapidly across the paper without conscious control. He soon found hints of images—fragmented bodies and objects—emerging from the abstract, lacelike web of pen marks. At times Masson elaborated on these with conscious changes or additions, but he left the traces of the rapidly drawn ink mostly intact.”


Joan Miro 

“Miró balanced the kind of spontaneity and automatism encouraged by the Surrealists with meticulous planning and rendering to achieve finished works that, because of their precision, seemed plausibly representational despite their considerable level of abstraction.”



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