The Persistence of Time

the_persistence_of_memory_-_1931_salvador_dali

You’ve heard of Dali, haven’t you? For most people not closely related to art, his is the name that first crops up when ‘surrealism’ is mentioned. This is one of his earliest (and possibly his most famous) painting, The Persistence of Time. Surrealist art pieces generally make for good writing prompts because you could read so much into them, and indeed, each of you would see different things into the melting clocks, the parched tree, the ants, the white ‘figure’ (is it a cow? A human? A white elephant?) in the middle, the mountains in the background, the sharp edge of the table in the left corner, and the many other things I’m sure I’m missing.

The good thing is that the painting came with a title so at least there is some common ground. Imagine the amount of debate it would have caused if Salvador had named it ‘Untitled’.

Anyway, it’s not important whether you get all the images ‘right’ – there is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ with these things, regardless of what the art critics say – but it is important that you write about this scene. As I keep saying in all my posts about art, one of the most important elements of language that all writers must learn is the metaphor, and unlike all technical aspects of the craft this cannot be taught. It has to be learnt by looking inward, and what better way to look inward than to gaze at a surrealist painting?

If you really want to know what ‘they say’ about this (you really shouldn’t care), here’s the Wikipedia entry which will lead you to a bunch of ‘experts’ talking out of their asses about what Dali was ‘unconsciously thinking’ when he was painting this, etc. Knock yourself out, but after you’ve written about it, after you’ve figured out what it means to you. If you read the essay first, then you will only see through the essayist’s eyes, not yours.

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