• Roger Matthews

Rabbit Hole (Residency Week)

I started my journey by looking up the work Untitled by Jean (Hans Arp) -


I learned just how intentionally unintentional the process used was to create the abstract shapes. Arp noticed the scraps on the floor from a failed attempt at expressing himself, and then was struck by the pattern of the scraps. While he was not happy with the work he intentionally created, he found the unintentional shapes created the "expression" he was struggling to achieve. It is noted that the relatively ordered appearance shows signs he did not fully reliqinuish control.

I found his use of unintentionality interesting, very much in keeping with surrealism, and saw Jean Arp was linked to working with surrealism and the body -


I was not aware of this concept of surrealist work using erotic dimensions as a way of channeling non-Western art untainted by modernist rationalism. They pushed the boundaries of previous movements depicting sexuality by depicting mutilated, dismembered, or distorted bodies, which was argued as a connection to World War I's horrors.


An example of one of those pieces, The Lovers, is interesting in that it is not traditionally horrific at all, but instead is purely distorted. Two lovers attempt to embrace, but are wrapped in layers of fabric. It is described by some as depicting the inability to fully unveil the true nature of even our most intimate companions.

Rene Magritte, the artist, witnessed his mother committing suicide by drowning when he was 14, but argues his work is less literal and is a more pure surrealist approach by saying "...when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, ‘What does it mean?’ It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.”

So far I like both works mentioned because they both seem to be trying to express the unknowable - the unintentional abstract shapes of Untitled contain their own mystery as they come from the subconscious. The Lovers is created, craft wise, using more conventional methods, but the result in both cases do not attempt to offer meaning or explanation for the viewer. To me, this is the driving philosophy that drives my interest in "games", "interactive media", or whatever is the current trending word of the day. Offering a mystery with a layer of abstraction that might not ever fully potentially reveal itself to the person who engages with it.


I looked up more about Rene Magritte. I thought it was interesting it noted he depicted ordinary objects in unusual contexts, as this has been my favorite approach in my work recently. Also seems to like challenging observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality.

The wikipedia claims he saw his mother's dead body with her dress covering her face, but it also looks like this was discredited.


I looked up his first surrealist painting, but did not find it that interesting. Not that it was bad, but it feels unfocused. It's intentionally busy and colorful, contrasting the movement of the jockey with the stillness of the stage and the scene, but it doesn't convey much emotion or feeling to me. Apparently the exhibition was a failure anyway.


I realized he is the author of The Treachery of Images ("This is not a pipe"). While familiar, it's good to reflect on the idea represented in the piece.

"The painting is sometimes given as an example of meta message conveyed by paralanguage,[11] like Alfred Korzybski's "The word is not the thing" and "The map is not the territory", as well as Denis Diderot's This is not a story. "


Finally, The Castle of the Pyrenees is interesting in how familiar the image seems in regards to undoubtedly how often it has been replicated. Nonetheless, the scale and unnatural nature of the floating rock inspires a sense of mystery and wonder. Today, this might be recognizable as something within genre work (i.e. fantasy), but the rock, especially with the dark shadow on the bottom, creates an interesting and mysterious ominous tone.

I think I wrote my overall takeaway above already, so there we are then!

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Thesis Proposal (Residency Week)

1. What is your area of focus for your thesis research? Examining use of surrealism and ambiguity to blur the line between reality and fantasy, and how this approach can lead to creating a new immersi