Salvador Dali’s understanding of Freud was in the ambiguous transfer of desire to reality;where desire cannot be represented directly or consciously, it takes the form of a distortion of reality as an absurdity. A strange convergence of the elements of our everyday life in bizarre and impossible configurations. Thus, to describe surrealism as ”desire unbound” was misleading. The desire for the surrealists was absolutely bound, and it was the mechanisms of binding, bundling and subsequent distortions that gave the impression of inspired freshness and novelty. With regard to Jan Vermeer’s, ”The Lacemaker”:
”Dalí explained, “Up till now, The Lacemaker has always been considered a very peaceful, very calm painting, but for me, it is possessed by the most violent aesthetic power, to which only the recently discovered antiproton can be compared.” Dali’s figurative mode, and his admiration of classic painting created a rift and antipathy between Andre Breton, author of the surrealist manifesto, and Breton’s colleagues against Dali as well as the newer avant-gardist tendencies towards abstraction. Dali realized that underneath the Vermeer, lay lurking the root of the same dark impulses; unconscious desires, self destruction and despair that breton was ”inventing” in figurative art.
”The extravagant surrealist painter Salvador Dalí wrote: ” the first time I saw a photograph of [Vermeer's]Lacemaker and a live rhinoceros together, I realized that if there should be a battle, the Lacemaker would win, because the Lacemaker is morphologically a rhinoceros horn.” Like with DaVinci, what on the surface seemed like and obvious point, was, with deconstruction and attention to detail, in fact often subversive and subliminal messages.
”Dali’s contact with and celebration of the bizarre and unusual persisted throughout his career. Even in a “traditional” mode, he nearly always inserted paranoiac associations where one least expected them. For example, when he set out to create an homage to Vermeer, he painted a study of The Lacemaker composed entirely of exploding rhinoceros horns! To further mystify the public, he painted this piece, Paranoiac-Critical Study of Vermeer’s Lacemaker, at the Paris Zoo.The apparent incongruity of The Lacemaker with rhinoceros horns is resolved upon investigation of Dali’s obsession with perfection of form. The horn is an example of a planar logarithmic spiral, similar to that created in the gnomonic expansion of the golden rectangle. For Dali, the rhinoceros horn was a perfect organic shape, and he often used it in formal deconstructive analysis of pictorial composition.” ( Aaron Ross, The Grotesque in Western Art, 1990 )
Dali, in part through his understanding of Freud, realized that the figurative art world went beyond literal reproduction to reveal deeper and more hidden forms, with the technical mastery, a form of mask or disguise. The articulation was shaped by censorship. The desires in surrealism were no different than in any other art movement, the difference was in the mechanisms of the dreamwork, the way in which desire evades the net of censorship.
Like the surrealists were crudely, yet with much fanfare and hype, attempting to do, Dali realized that old masters like Vermeer, Rembrandt and DaVinci were also tapping into the energies and half formed thoughts and impulses of the lower levels of consciousness. Their work was also an articulation of veiled or subliminated impulses and desires; an intervention of what they perceived to be the inadequacies of reality. However, without Breton’s fluffy allusions of Freudian reductionism simplified to psychophysical regions which were governed by a hedonistic pleasure principle and marked by an absence of contradiction.Dali correctly saw the longings and displaced desires in the Old masters which like the surrealists attack against modernism, were also reflections of disenchantment with the existing state and their concept of desire was also founded on the notion of lack, wanting , and desire to be unbound.
”In some ways, surrealism represented a kind of Late Romanticism that rejected modernity in the same way that earlier versions did. So, for many surrealists, courtly love is a natural outcome for a psyche that refuses to conform to a bourgeois society that has enshrined science and logic. If bourgeois society promoted Enlightenment values, the surrealists would have none of it. If so much of modern culture stressed progressive values, surrealism for its part would champion dreams, fetishes, hysteria, mystery and nostalgia for the past.” The ruling classes had appropriated classic art, and canonized it, based on its monetization without really a comprehension of its own unsettling irrational and subconscious components hidden or ”censored” within the pictorial narrative.For all its hostility to bourgeois civilization, the very hand it would bite has adopted surrealism in a way it probably never would have anticipated followed the same pattern for renaissance art etc.and later swallow abtraction as a similar symbol of cultural imperialism and hegemony.
To the Freudian influence on surrealism was added the work of postmodernist icon and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan was close to surrealist circles himself. As a young psychiatrist, Lacan fell under the sway of Salvador Dali and by 1931 began to synthesize psychiatry, psychoanalysis and Surrealism.”Nonetheless, the two principal images used within Freudian psychoanalysis to conjure desire and its effects - ‘unbound’ energy within the unconscious, on the one hand, and a compulsive, fetishistic process, on the other – find strong echoes in the surrealists’ explorations of desire. ”Of contemporary psychology, surrealism retains that which tends to give a scientific basis to research into the origin and mutation of ideological images. In this sense it has attached a particular importance to Freud’s investigations into the processes of dreaming and, more generally, to all of Freud’s work which is the clinically based exploration of unconscious life.” ( Andre Breton )