Edmond Baudoin’s stunning new masterpiece, Dalí, is more of a surrealist experience than an explanation of surrealism. An educative conversation about the life of Salvador Dalí serves as a loose framework for the graphic novel, but the flow between text and images does not seem nearly so concrete. Rather, the narrative of Dalí’s life spins and intertwines with meditations about his art.
This latest instalment of publishers SelfMadeHero’s Art Masters series was not created for everyone. The creator, as depicted within the graphic novel, “play[s] at the paranoiac-critical message method. And so [he] pretend[s] to put into images Dalí’s subconscious at the moment of creation.” This exploration of Dalí’s life and work combines elements of historical context, autobiographical events and popular interpretations with Baudoin’s breathtaking, multi-media illustrations in a way that forces the reader to engage, making their own connections and questioning their own assumptions. However, without having seen Dalí’s images for points of reference or being able to recognise portraits of contemporary artists, the book could lose some potency.
While this may, at first glance, seem to be a poor introductory text compared to other popular selections in the non-fiction graphic novel genre, this novel is the perfect tool for those familiar with Dalí, yet unfamiliar with the paranoiac critical method.
Different voices, sometimes differentiated with different fonts, convey not only the major concepts but also some of the historiography. The young woman who discusses Dalí, first with a handsome man and then with a group of people on a boat until she finally meets the creator of the graphic novel, unites disparate figures both from Dalí’s life or in the form of other theoretical ruminators – ranging from a young boy with a hoop to small ants. One spread bends from a discussion of the paranoiac-critical on a boat to a panel in which a tall man clutches a paper reading ‘truth’ to his chest, declaring: “The paranoiac-critical method is purely and simply aimed at supplanting the automatism that is surrealism’s cornerstone.”
The disconnect between adjacent images reminded me of the way that my own mind can tend to work in the moments before sleep; the images have no consistent form or style and even blend into each other, rich with detail. Between the sometimes shocking, vivid and often intricate images that could leave you pondering the same page for minutes, this book makes a poor choice for a transit rider looking to gain public acceptance.
However, for an art history student, an art aficionado or anyone looking for a beautiful, thought-provoking way to spend a few hours, Baudoin’s Dalí will prove hard to ignore.
Dalí by Edmond Baudoin (SelfMadeHero 2016)
Photo courtesy of SelfMadeHero (illustration by Baudoin)