Demons And Death Make For A Trippy, Surreal Exhibition At Dulwich Picture Gallery
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A bird-man in a diving suit, a gangly-limbed monkey with a mane and a demonic creature sat atop a sleeping woman. All nightmarish visions, and all part of the British Surrealism exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
The curators of this quirky show have clearly had a lot of fun with the topic. The entrance is the most inventive I've seen, a chair suspended upside down near the ceiling, creating the feeling of entering through a mirror image. It's about to get a lot trippier, too.
Among the images inside, a woman made of ribbons dances in the moonlight, and a giant blue bird represents the Blitz as it flies overhead while people cower horrified on the ground. Even a typical reclining bronze figure by Henry Moore looks as if it's being pulled apart.
Surrealism wasn't just a type of art,but a movement itself, and this exhibition looks at the Brits who were part of it. It's surprising to learn that Francis Bacon was rejected for not being surreal enough — that's a tough crowd when Bacon's grotesque figures aren't cutting it.
Surrealism also took inspiration from the second world war — after all what's more disturbing than the horrendous loss of life caused by war? This horror is captured in a work depicting Death standing next to a pair of boots, where all that's left are bones protruding, the rest of the soldier having been blown apart.
For every painting of hairy spiders feasting on the flesh of some rotting animal, there's an abstract work that fails to capture the imagination. The show is let down by too many mediocre works which fail to live up to their outlandish and twisted neighbours. There's plenty of bad dreams in here, but it's not the full blown nightmare I was after.
British Surrealism is on at Dulwich Picture Gallery until 17 May 2020. Tickets are £16.50 for adults.
Last Updated 25 February 2020