BY BELISARIO RIGHI
The persistence of memory - Painting by Salvador Dalì - 1931
... Time flies in front of me every day faster and despite the fact that I live ten minutes in ten minutes, savoring them one by one and transforming the quarters of an hour into won battles, feats and spiritual feats of arms, all equally memorable one like the other, the weeks pass through me and I have a desire to cling with even more vital wholeness to every fragment of my most precious and adored time. From the Diary of a genius by Salvador Dalì.
The persistence of memory is a surrealist oil painting on canvas, 24x33 cm in size, by Salvador Dalí, made in 1931 and kept at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The work depicts a ghostly, deserted landscape, where the presence of some soft clocks with a plastic consistency, symbols of the elasticity of time, stands out. Dalì's soft clocks represent the antithesis between measurable cosmic time and its perception through memory which tends to dilate memories, and thus the clocks melt like cheese in the sun. The painting tends to focus the observer's attention on the three soft, almost liquefied clocks, but in reality there are four clocks. The fourth, not liquefied, is invaded by ants which, however, imply the sense of decay, of putrefaction. The work leads to reflections that lead to the relativity of time that does not flow for everything and everyone in the same way. Time for an insect, whose life is only a few days, cannot have the same value as it has for a tree that can live a thousand years, much less for a mountain, for which a thousand years are nothing. The concept of time for us human beings is relative, not only for the relationship it has with the entire universe, but above all for the placement in its flow of our moments, of our lived moments. Einstein, the father of relativity said: - Sit for two hours in the company of a beautiful girl and it will seem like a minute has passed, but sit on a hot stove for a minute and it will seem like two hours have passed. This is relativity. - How the painting was born was told by Dalì himself, in his book My Secret Life.
“And the day I decided to paint clocks, I painted them soft. It happened one evening that I felt tired and had a slight headache, which happens to me quite rarely. We wanted to go to the cinema with some friends and instead, at the last moment, I decided to stay at home. Gala, however, went out anyway while I was thinking of going to bed right away. To complete the dinner we had eaten a very strong camembert and, after everyone had gone, I sat at the table for a long time, meditating on the philosophical problem of hyper-softness posed by that cheese. I got up, went to my atelier, as is my habit, turned on the light to take a last look at the painting I was working on. The painting represented a view of Port Lligat; the rocks lay in an alboreal, transparent, melancholy light and, in the foreground, you could see an olive tree with cut branches and no leaves. I knew that the atmosphere that I was able to create in that painting had to serve as a background to an idea, but I still didn't know in the least what it would be. I was already about to turn off the light, when all of a sudden, I saw the solution. I saw two soft clocks, one of which hung miserably from the olive branch. Although the headache was now so intense that it tormented me, I feverishly prepared the palette and went to work. When Gala returned from the cinema two hours later, the painting, which was to become one of the most famous, was finished. " Dalí's pictorial technique refers to the Italian Renaissance, but only as regards the accuracy of the graphic composition of the drawing and the brightness of the chromatism, while it completely detaches itself from its formal balance, proceeding without the limits imposed by rational consciousness and sense. of the measure.
The Catalan painter gave the name of paranoid-critical method to psychic automatism, theorized by Breton, father of the surrealist movement, the Catalan painter gave the name of the paranoid-critical method. From paranoia, the turbid magma of the unconscious, the ideas that are realized in the instant in which the delirium is rationalized, or in the critical moment, take its cue. Dalì is the painter of drives, of the most unconscious states of mind depicted in the form of hyper-realistic hallucinations that made him the greatest and most prolific of surrealist painters. The persistence of memory represents the compendium of the cerebral-spiritual process and of the stylistic features that characterize Salvador Dalì's painting. The surrealist matrix is evident in the work, due to the placement in the spatial context of elements that logically are not relevant to the context, such as the clocks, the fetal embryo on the ground, the olive tree that rises not from the earth, but from a parallelepiped; elements of paranoid connotation such as ants, which have always been present in the artist's obsessive compulsiveness; the metaphysical concept of time; last but not least, the exquisitely Renaissance style perspective vanishing lines that give the scene depth, directing the observer's gaze to the horizon, merged between sky and sea, where anguish, unexpressed thoughts, moods, rationality and irrationality disperse, engulfed by the immensity of the Universe.