Marina Bay Sands Art-Science Museum
“Every morning, upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dali.”
Do you know him? I guess most of us do. Especially as kids when we loved licking our Chupa-Chups lollipops.
Never heard of him? It’s okay. If you know Chupa-Chups lollipops, you would have taken the time to appreciate his art.
Above illustration Courtesy of BBC Modern Masters
Quirky, Erratic, Surreal.
3 most commonly used words to describe Salvador Dali.
Those were my impressions of him when I arrived for Dali: Mind Of A Genius exhibition at the Art-Science Museum which runs from the 14th May to 30th October 2011.
However, I would like to add 3 more words to the list after viewing the exhibition.
3 more words which best describes what I felt from viewing his art.
Philosophical, Sentimental, Religious.
Melting Clocks. A recurring theme in the sculptures exhibited. Definitely the icon which best represents Dali.
Though the melting clocks eventually became a highlight on its own as a series of sculptures, it was first introduced through a painting.
Above illustration Courtesy of BBC Modern Masters
Painted in 1931, The Persistence of Memory is one of the most celebrated and recognized
paintings of the 20th Century. The three “melting” or “soft” watches placed in the
landscape of Dalí’s beloved Port Lligat have become nearly synonymous with Dalí’s
name since they first helped to introduce mainstream American audiences to Surrealism
in 1932. The painting’s combination of the everyday and the dreamlike, the symbolic
and the irrational, nature and technology, and the Dalinian confusion of softness and
hardness, accounts in part for its mass appeal, as it seems to both encourage and
confound analysis and explanation. The painting’s watches are, as the Museum of
Modern Art (MOMA) in New York once wrote, “irrational, fantastic, paradoxical,
disquieting, baffling, alarming, hypnogogic, nonsensical and mad—but to the surrealist
these adjectives are the highest praise” (MOMA, “What Is Modern Painting?”).
Inspired by the acclaimed The Persistence of Memory, Dali created variations of melting clock sculptures.
What’s different about the melting clock sculpture above is the presence of tear drops and the fig tree. The tear drops represent the anguish and helplessness of humans in not having the control to flex time, be it returning to the past to undo a mistake or to want time to show down in the present moment of bliss. By having the melting clock draped across the branches of the fig tree, Dali portrays the relation between time and the life-death cycle of living things. A disclaimer – these are strictly my interpretation from viewing the art piece and hearing the audio-guide.
Another characteristic which I noted of Dali is that a couple of his art-pieces were strongly influenced by literature such as the Bible and C.S. Lewis’ Alice in Wonderland. In fact, he created several bronze sculptures and sketches of scenes from the Bible and Alice in Wonderland.
No prizes for guessing which character the bronze sculpture depicts. Yes, it’s Alice. It’s Alice skipping with a jump rope. The Alice in this sculpture is a far cry from the Alice that I knew from the book. Well firstly Alice shouldn’t be in a evening down. She should be in a knee-length flowy sun dress instead. Secondly, her hair shouldn’t be bundled with roses, it should be in two ponytails. Lastly, she shouldn’t be depicted with such sensuality, she’s supposed to be an innocent yet fearless young lady. And what’s with the clutch?
Dali explored with several recurring objects in his sculptures, each object illustrates a certain facet of life.
For instance, the rose-bundled hair of Alice’s actually portrays Alice as a fashionista. This portrayal of a fashionista was inspired by another of his sculptures – tribute to fashion.
Now what’s with the clutch again? The lady fashionista was supposed to be holding on to a clutch. Unfortunately, it was cut off in the photo. The clutch actually depicts fragility when used to support the protagonist in the sculptures. In Tribute to Fashion, the clutch was held like a triton by the lady fashionista, thus depicting strength and authority.
What about the clutch in Alice’s sculpture? In my opinion, since it did not seem connected to the sculpture as a whole as Alice had no use for it, it seemed to be a pretty neutral object – neither depicting fragility nor strength. Maybe it depicts Alice’s youth? Maybe there weren’t any major events which brought out her fragility or strength yet.
This sculpture includes 3 recurring objects in Dali’s artwork.
Watches are not only potent symbols of
“time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” but their content is seemingly contradicted, and
made doubly meaningful, by their softness. The resulting effect—that of time and
machine coming apart—challenges our belief in a rational, natural, orderly and rulebound
Death & Sexual Desire
Life, Love & Hope
The other recurring objects featured in Dali’s work are:
Fear & Anxiety
Spirit & Apparitions
For those interested in Art History, here’s a documentary on Dali by BBC’s series on Modern Masters.
If you would like to visit the exhibition.
Admission Fees: SGD 30
Rental fees for Audio-guide: SGD 6
Visit the Art-Science Museum website for up-to-date information.