Regular readers will be aware of the high esteem that I hold the mysterious, brilliant artist and co-founder of the Czech Surrealist Group, Toyen, through the many posts that have featured her extra-ordinary artwork. However while I have certainly noted the influence of the erotic upon her work ( notably At the Chateau La Coste), I have refrained from featuring her more explicit drawings that she produced for Edition 69 (see Dreams of Desire 34 (Emilie Comes To Me In A Dream) and throughout her career, instead concentrating on her marvellous paintings and lithographs (see The Myth of Light, Horror and The Shooting Gallery); however these erotic drawings and dry-points are exceptional in their technical execution, mastery of line (unsurpassed within the Surrealist group, with the possible exception of the supremely disquieting Hans Bellmer), visual wit and power to cause unease.
Below are some of Toyen’s illustrations for the Edition 69 series, which included Justine by the Marquis De Sade and Pybrac by that urbane decadent writer and pornographer Pierre Louys, which is without doubt the filthiest poem ever published. Also included are later dry-point illustrations from Radovan Ivsic’s Le Puit dans la tour/Derbis de reves (The Well in the tower/Debris of dreams).
Max Ernst’s 1932 collage Le Facteur Cheval is a homage to the extraordinary creator of the Ideal Palace, that marvellous folly that the Surrealists so loved: Ferdinand Cheval.
Born in 1836 in the Drome departement of France, approximately 30 miles south of Lyon, Ferdinand Cheval left school at 13 with an apprenticeship to a baker, however he eventually became a postman. One day in 1879 while doing his 18 mile round in the small village of Hauterives where he lived, Cheval in his haste stumbled over a stone. Stopping to examine the cause of his trip, Cheval was stuck by the strange shape and beauty of the stone and it reminded him of a dream that he had fifteen years previously and which he had almost forgotten. In the dream, which he found hard to express in words, he had built a palace or castle or caves. He had told nobody about this dream for fear of ridicule, it felt ridiculous to himself. However the stone had brought back the dream and he put it into his pocket to examine at leisure.
The next day he returned to where he found the stone and to his delight he found many more stones even stranger and more beautiful than the cause of his near fall. Cheval said that the stones “represents a sculpture so strange that it is impossible for man to imitate, it represents any kind of animal, any kind of caricature. I said to myself: since Nature is willing to do the sculpture, I will do the masonry and the architecture.”
For the next thirty-three years Cheval built his Ideal Palace, pushing a wheelbarrow on his postal rounds to carry all the stones he collected. He frequently worked late into the night with the aid of a oil lamp, binding the stones together with lime, mortar and cement. The images of exotic locales that he saw on the postcards and illustrated magazines he delivered on his route inspired his imagination and found expression in the eclectic mix of architecture of the Ideal Palace, where Hindu Temple, Arabic Mosque and Swiss Chalet (among others) styles somehow form a unified whole.
Cheval, as he feared, was scorned by the local community, and his visionary Ideal Palace was derided as the work of a madman. This changed however when the project was featured in national newspapers and tourists started visiting. In 1905 a tourist register was opened. Cheval declared the Ideal Palace finished in 1912 and inscribed on the building ,”The work of one man.” He also stated his desire to be buried underneath the Ideal Palace.
Although Cheval comes across as a charming eccentric he was obviously a man of dogged determination, so when he learnt that French law strictly forbade his burial upon the grounds of the Ideal Palace, he set about building his own mausoleum, at the age of eighty. He spent the next seven years building another fantastical and beautiful structure. One year after its completion Ferdinand Cheval died and was buried in the mausoleum that he had constructed.
As well as the Surrealists, who would often embark on pilgrimage to a site which they considered to be a monument to naive art and the transformative powers of the imagination, the Ideal Palace was much admired by Picasso and Anais Nin, who published an essay on Cheval. In 1969 the Minister of Culture, the novelist Andre Malraux declared the Ideal Palace a cultural landmark and later in 1986 the Facteur Cheval was featured on his own postage stamp: a touching and luminous irony.
Today the Palais Ideal Du Facteur Cheval Monument Historique receives 120,000 visitors yearly and is considered one of the most outstanding examples of Art Brut/outsider art in the world.
What you dream of will one day
Flare with entropic intensity
I am aware of co-existing
Simultaneously on several planes
Threading the needle
Into alternative dimensions
What is, was and will be
Blurring into a single instance
Memories are not to be trusted
That wasn’t me that did that
Not the I that I am now anyway
In this blighted shantytown
Of quantifiable materials
A dark grinding mill with
Ingenious sadistic machinery
Inside this infernal cathedral
A sacrilegious monument
To the eternal devourer
But beyond, maybe
The dancers will dance
To the music of the Spheres
Through to those imprisoned
Within delineated limits
It will only sound of silence
Myself I can hear her
Voice say with a precise
And clear elocution
The date of my summons
For my imminent execution
That is however
Only a matter of indifferent concern
For I have other selves
Existing other lives
In many places
At many different times
And at some point I will reach
The still centre that can
Never be diminished
Where the fictions of the ego,
The hallucination of space time
Vanish into an actuality
Where the divided selves
Fuse and become one
Where what you dream of
Is the source of all light.
A succession of balconies
The series of hotel rooms
At the cruciform sun staring
Sinking beyond depthless sea
Sipping slowly sweet drinks
And swallowing bitter pills
We succumb to the dreams
That engender existence
And surrender our identity
To counter-poised influences;
Our desires equidistant
Beneath the giant fronds
Amidst this lunar landscape
With its cratered valleys
Among the cankered beaches
Away from the horror
Of our unremembered home
This sun-scorched skin
Is a torrid equatorial zone.
The Spanish artist Francisco Goya (1746-1828), along with the English poet and artist William Blake (1757-1827) and the French pornographer and philosopher the Marquis De Sade (1740-1816) completed the Enlightenment by showing its reverse. These very different figures with very different opinions and beliefs instinctively realised that humanity cannot bear the harsh glare of reason for too long, and that you ignore the dark irrational impulses residing within the mind at your peril.
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is No 43 of the 80 etchings that comprise the satirical series Los Caprichos. Showing the artist asleep at his work desk, he is surrounded by the creatures of the night, including owls, which from the Middle Ages symbolised folly, and bats.The full epigraph for this etching states, ‘Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.’
Goya however was fascinated by these monsters produced by the sleep of reason. From 1790 onward Goya produced one searing work after another on the subjects of the Witches Sabbath, the disasters of war, the continued presence of superstition and the horrors of the Inquisition. In his home outside Madrid in the last years of his life he produced the brilliant yet extremely disturbing murals known as the Pinturas Negras (see Painting It Black and The Dog).
The last thirty years has seen an excess of rationality, a supposed end of history as the globe embraced free markets and liberal democracy and we all bowed to the logic that quantity would bring quality of life. As Goya, De Sade and Blake showed us at the end of the eighteenth century, examples that Nietzsche and Freud followed and expanded, reason only satisfies so much before it becomes too much. At the moment we are drifting off into sleep, waiting for the monsters produced to be unleashed.
Walking down the street I entered one of those passageways that are created when a city block is undergoing renovation. It was longer than usual and I was starting to feel hemmed in. Finally it ended and I had a view of the open sky again between the buildings. It was even greyer than usual, the clouds were pregnant with rain. As I carried walking along I kept on staring at the sky, I had this anticipation of some kind of inauguration. The clouds coalesced into an eye enclosed within a triangle inside a double circle. I saw the workings of the system, all the letters and words and symbols revealed their latent content to my new self. The weight of the revelation overwhelmed me and I passed out.
In fact I was sleeping on the bus driving through the countryside, the whole vision had been a dream. I looked out of the window and saw up ahead a massive sprawling council estate that seemed oddly out-of-place in the valley that was hundreds of miles away from any urban area. The ominous feeling that everything was off-kilter only increased as the bus inched closer to the development and I could see the smoke rising from the burning buildings. The bus pulled to a halt at a bus stop even though a riot was in full swing and it was being pelted with bricks and Molotov cocktails. A stone shattered the window and hit me on the temple and I immediately lost consciousness.
But I was actually under sedation the whole time and I was lying in a hospital bed. Coming too I briefly remembered my dream within a dream, before going back to sleep.
Then I woke up for real but it felt like those Russian dolls, you open it and inside is an identical smaller doll that opens to reveal yet another identical doll only smaller and so on. A nausea inducing object lesson in infinity.
Nightly, though sometimes in the daytime too, it has to be admitted, whenever I close my eyes, empty my mind and begin to drift, you appear against a shimmering, shifting background of various shades of blue. Sky, Klein, Royal, Electric. The hues of sex, sorrow and the sense of shame that can only be savoured because there is no succour to be found anywhere in this world.
An anthology of every one of your conceivable postures is imprinted indelibly upon my memory.
Sometimes you tentatively gesture with your forefinger, knowing full well that your feigned shyness is the ultimate aphrodisiac and that I will follow you wherever.
The red zonal markings of your target areas (mouth, tongue, the areola, the labial lips and the cleft of your cunt) beckon to me against the white hesitations of your flesh. You lead me into the shower where the water beats against our shoulders while outside the rain drums against the windows and the roof. I hold your glacial stare with difficultly (never have I known such icy depths) as we embrace each other with one arm (our other hands exploring our respective tropics).
Some nights I am rendered immobile. Yet you still approach, straddle my face with your firm flanks as you take me in your mouth.
While on the still deeper nights, you torment me with black echoes of our imagined union with a succession of strangers –your heavy breasts rubbing against the swollen nipples of a series of sluts or mounted from behind by a stable of studs.
During the interminable nights (and days too, if the truth be told) you taunt me, tease me, tempt me, tie me, bind me… I can never get enough, I will never be sated; this fire cannot be quenched.
Till the time when I unwillingly open my eyes and the vision vanishes, all my lust fades in the grey half-light of an ashen dawn and I am left with an unbearable leaden ache in the centre of my being that weighs down every passing moment. That is, until I fall asleep again.
As I noted in my previous post on the brilliant Brazilian photographer Nadia Maria, Heavenly Bodies, she derives much of her inspiration from the fleeting visions glimpsed before sleep and from dreams themselves, hence the dark evocative atmosphere she portrays so poetically in each image. Nadia Maria manages to capture perfectly the sense of imminent transformation that we all experience when we dream, where nothing is as it appears to be and everything has the potential to become something other. Here on the night-side the uncertain self is confronted with all the sublimity and terror of being.
Why were boys so oblivious? She watched and waited, wet and oh so ready, just inches away from their blatant erections. How ridiculous —a hard-on with nowhere to go. Would any of them even know what to do if they managed to get a willing partner to fuck? Had all their primal instincts been so dulled that a layer of cotton was enough to obstruct what their senses should have detected? What was it going to take? Her guiding a pair of shaking hands to her overheated, soaking flesh? Shoving him flat on his back to sit on his face and drown him in the flood from the delta between her thighs? She bit her lip in frustration.
She liked one boy in particular. Gloomy, androgynous and so very pretty —she had been immediately attracted to him. He was just her type. And although he was initially curt and surly, she could tell that he liked her too. They inevitably found each other at the same parties. And though his attitude remained inarticulately hesitant, his eyes told a different story. He wanted her. The question was how to transform this unstated desire into a demonstrated reality. Surely she wouldn’t have to make all the moves?
Back in her room, she slowly undressed in front of the full length mirror. She studied her body with clinical detachment. What would he see when he looked at her? Would he find the shape of her breasts pleasing? Would he stare at them, unable to resist touching them with his long, clever fingers, caressing them with his palms, running his tongue over the stiffening nipples and across the bruise-colored aureoles? And then would he suck them? Pull each tightened peak into his mouth, simultaneously gaining comfort and driving his lust? Maybe he would French fuck them, thrust his cock between them, rub the tip against her nipples until, at last, the moment arrived and every drop of come had been squeezed out, adorning her elegant neck with a glistening pearl necklace. The girl in the mirror touched those taut peaks, feeling them pucker in anticipation of something more. Would the boy know what to do? Would he know how? Would he be shocked and offended at her lust, the desires that she needed so desperately and immediately to fulfill?
She ran a hand over her heated skin to her navel. Maybe he would flood her belly button with his semen. Maybe he would trace a finger through it and write his name on her stomach or across her rib cage. Her own fingers swirled the four letters of his name. She was soaking now, heart beating rapidly, breathing quickened. What else would he do to her? Would he stroke the peeled wands that were her slender arms, the serpentine smoothness of the skin in the hollows of her thighs? Would he find arousal at the overripe strawberry of her anus? Or would he be satisfied with her breasts, her eager and willing mouth, her slick cunt? Her fingers trailed lower. The girl in the mirror sighed.
Absorption in such questions while you are alone and naked in a room in front of a mirror can only lead to one thing. Her body flushed with the heat of arousal, her depths drenched and aching to be filled with his length, she took one last look in the mirror and moved to the bed. She imagined him coming to her as she lay back and spread her legs wide. With both hands she lightly caressed the inside of her thighs, her need now urgent, the delay a sweet torture. When finally parted her labial lips, she was so wet she could easily insert three fingers. With a soft moan, she pushed in deep.
(This wouldn’t have seen the light of day without the invaluable editorial advice of Megan from Murmer and Sigh. Please visit her wonderful site.)
The ethereal portraits of Brazilian photographer Nadia Maria evokes the mysterious borderland between waking and dreams. Citing the hypnagogic visions glimpsed in the moments before sleep as the primary source of her creativity, Maria shows solitary figures (usually women) enmeshed in constellations of stars or seemingly about to undergo a transformation to an entirely different order of being. These photographs confront us with the beautifully bizarre revelations that we each experience nightly when we close our eyes and that we seek to dismiss every morning; though no light is strong enough to totally dispel that blissful darkness that is the source of all true inspiration.