Blackwing Volume 54

Surrealism 101

Surrealism began as a literary movement in the early 20th century, but blossomed into one of the most influential artistic and ideological movements of all time.
Best known for its bizarre visual artworks and writings, Surrealism was founded on the principal that we are limited by our conscious minds. Poet Andre Breton was fascinated by the theories of Sigmund Freud, and used his writings as the foundation when writing the manifesto that introduced the movement. Surrealists created techniques and exercises to break free from these constraints and unleash the creativity of the unconscious.

Freud’s ideas divided the surrealists into two groups, the automatists and veristic surrealists. Automatists used the technique called automatism to illustrate emotions and fantasies in abstract forms. This technique suppressed all control over the conscious mind allowing the artist to create ‘automatically’ without much thought. Veristic surrealists, on the other hand, depict the unconscious as concretely as possible. They dove deep into the unconscious and aimed to create a reality through a metaphor.

Artists such as Dali and Rene Magritte arrange daily objects in unusual ways to create that strange and unnerving atmosphere in their images. Joan Miro, Jean Arp and many others created abstract work that has little to no resemblance of familiar places or objects. Even though the movement ended with the breakout of World War II, it had a deep impact on visual arts, literature, film and music that can still be felt today. Our future blog posts will explore how the techniques and principles from this 90 year old movement is impacting contemporary arts and culture, and also how you can use the techniques to unleash your creative side.

For a more in-depth look into Surrealism, here’s Peter Capaldi with more:


Image 1: Surrealists. Source:
Image 2: Shirt Front and Fork (1922) by Joan Arp. Source:
Image 3: The Listening Room, 1952 by Rene Margritte. Source:
Video: Exploring Surrealism with Peter Capaldi. Source: