Salvador Dali

I recently finished Dali the Paintings, an amazing collection of Salvador Dali’s works accompanied by commentary and an interesting account of his life by Robert Descharnes and Gilles Neret. I’ve written about my particular interest in surreal art before, and Salvador Dali was one of the most influential leaders of the movement; as he said himself, “the only difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a surrealist”. He was well known in popular culture for being eccentric and arrogant, and many of his works are iconic today. In reading through his biography, I was surprised by how much depth there was to him as a person, and how much his personality and art style changed throughout his life. I definitely recommend reading Dali the Paintings if you have the time, even if you aren’t typically interested in art history; the story itself is stranger than fiction. However, instead of reviewing his life, I thought I would highlight some of the most interesting paintings, provide some context, and explain why I find them so fascinating.

Atavistic Ruins after the Rain, 1934 by Salvador Dali
Atavistic Ruins after the Rain, 1934

One of the first paintings I ever saw by Salvador Dali was Atavistic Ruins after the Rain, and it is easily one of the most memorable. I was struck by how different it was from the fine art that I was used to; it was strange and other-wordly, with a feeling of gravity and oppression that was completely unusual. After learning more about surrealism and Dali, I realized that I enjoyed the ominous and unexplainable atmosphere of surrealism just as much as the amazing technical mastery. Most of my favorite works by Dali were made around this time, when he was 30 and leaving his group of surrealists for popularity in America. I find these paintings to be the most haunting, with similar landscapes based on the Catalonian cliffs of Spain where Dali grew up. Many of his motifs were first introduced during this period, such as the crutch, the standing figures, and the soft, melting architecture. In general, this painting represents to me what makes Dali great, not only as a painter, but as an artist of atmosphere.

The Elephants, 1948 by Salvador Dali
The Elephants, 1948

Another iconic painting by Dali is The Elephants, painted in 1948. There is a lot of important context needed in order to understand this painting relative to Dali’s life. Firstly, Dali was greatly affected by the bombings of Japan in 1945; he turned to mysticism, and adopted a unique belief in the atom and nuclear physics as the closest representations of God. These new beliefs led to prominent religious imagery in his paintings and a new form of atomic surrealism. This painting in particular has a nuclear feeling, with its red sky and barren landscape, and the elephants carry giant religious obelisks. Dali was also affected by the death of his older brother who died before Dali was born. His brother’s name was also Salvador and they bore a strong resemblance; as a result, Dali often said that he felt as if he was already dead. This feeling comes across in paintings such as this; even the decay and fragility of the elephants induces anxiety.

This is an incredibly brief introduction to Dali and it’s only the tip of the iceberg as to why I find his work so fascinating. I will definitely be writing more about surrealism in the future, but in the meantime I encourage you to explore the movement yourself. I recommend learning more about Dali and his works as well; he was prolific and each painting is an entire artistic universe.

Dark Souls III

Video Game Photography

Video games are undoubtedly a work of art: they combine immersive graphics, impressive design, originally composed music, and complex writing and storytelling to create a cohesive masterpiece. Of course every game is different, and each has its strengths and weaknesses, but overall they’re one of the most unique and interesting ways in which many different art forms can come together. Surprisingly, I had never consciously acknowledged the cinematic qualities of video games, but I always found myself taking screenshots of amazing moments, or lining up the camera in just the right way to show off an impressive view or landscape. It could be argued that I’m a bit overly sentimental, and that’s probably true, but there is something so powerful about a cinematic picture of a great game and the associations that it creates. I’m not the only one that feels this way; many games have even added photo modes, allowing normal players to take stunning pictures in-game and share them with other players, plus the PlayStation 4 has both a snapshot and screen recording feature, testifying to the popularity of saving favorite gaming moments. I find this trend interesting, especially as games get more and more realistic. Is there a potential future where video games become a dominant medium for photography? Is it possible that video game photography could be its own art form? And who gets credit for the artistic value of the photo; the game developers who created it, or the photographer that took it? Regardless, here are some of my own video game photos as inspiration, and perhaps to get you thinking about the artistic value of the medium:

Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus
Journey
Journey
Bloodborne
Bloodborne
Dark Souls III
Dark Souls III

Reviewing Music

I often write about new albums and songs, giving my subjective thoughts and opinions on the production, content, and presentation. When I write about a certain album, it’s because I have strong feelings about it that I can’t help but share, whether they’re extremely negative or positive. The result is a volatile review system, where it seems like I either love something or hate it, and more often than not it seems like I love everything, since I usually write best about the songs and albums that I love. I find myself overthinking this often, especially when I’m writing; I start to question whether or not the review is objective, and what makes a valuable review for the average reader. In examining these questions about music reviewing, I find myself turning to YouTube’s self-proclaimed “internet’s busiest music nerd” Anthony Fantano, who is notable for his frequent album reviews on his channel theneedledrop.

I only started watching Fantano’s reviews a few years ago, and hesitantly at first; I didn’t believe that music could truly be judged, since it is inherently subjective, and I often disagreed with his reviews of my favorite albums. However, there was something fascinating about his approach to reviewing, specifically the vast amount of musical knowledge and terminology he used when examining albums. He is able to fill a ten minute video entirely with thoughtful musical opinions, grounded in absolute reasoning. He certainly has biases (easily seen by genres he prefers), and always reminds his viewers that he is just sharing his opinion, but he always approaches new music and genres with an open mind. I still disagree with some of his final ratings (especially the 3/10 he gave Mac Miller’s Swimming), but I find it hard to argue with him; nothing he says is factually wrong, and at the end of the day it just comes down to a different taste in music. For example, he says that Mac Miller’s singing is off-key and mediocre, with a weak presentation, but I hear the same thing and find it intimate and endearing. It just comes down to a subjective interpretation of objective musical facts, and I find that relationship so fascinating in reviewing music.

After thinking about what makes Anthony Fantano such a fair and interesting critic, I narrowed down great music reviews to two important things: understanding and discussing music objectively, and being passionate about the review. With only objective facts you have a boring and generic review, and with nothing but passion you have an intellectually shallow review that offers no value to the reader’s understanding of the music. With these two thoughts in mind, I look forward to writing more music reviews in the future; thankfully there is no shortage of new and interesting music.

Unlocked: Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats

Denzel Curry is a versatile musical artist with a distinct style that breaks genre boundaries, and Kenny Beats is one of the biggest up-and-coming music producers in the industry, working with a wide variety of artists such as Vince Staples, JID, and Ed Sheeran. Although an unlikely pair, the duo recently released a short music project titled UNLOCKED, only 8 tracks long with a run-time of under 20 minutes. However, it makes the most of every minute: it’s gritty and experimental, combining the aggressive and powerful style of Denzel and the innovative and off-kilter production of Kenny into a thrill ride of an album.

UNLOCKED by Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats

There is no unifying concept to the album (although there’s a great accompanying music video about the two having to recovered the leaked track files in an animated, cartoon-style universe), but the album cover gives a great idea of the overall aesthetic. The art is brutal and objectively cool, with an over-the-top presentation and self-aware attitude that lends itself perfectly to the music. My favorite tracks are Take_it_Back_v2, Lay_Up.m4a, and DIET_; each one is a great representation of what makes the duo so great, featuring clever wordplay and dynamic production. I’m always left speechless when I pay special attention to either Denzel or Kenny; when I focus on Denzel, I’m blown away by his energy and clever lyricism, and when I listen to Kenny’s production, I always find new depths to the instrumentation and sampling. It’s honestly incredible how well the two styles complement each other, and I think a lot of the credit goes to Kenny. He seems to perfectly understand the aesthetic Denzel is working to achieve and makes it a reality.

Although the project is short and lacks a unifying concept, I think it works as an amazing example of the experimental power of this musical duo. Each song packs its own unique punch, and even after listening to the album at least 30 times, I’m still constantly surprised by its style and production. Considering this was only a small project, and that Denzel is known for releasing few full albums, I’m really hoping that he takes this style and runs with it, and maybe even works with Kenny Beats again for his next project.

Spring Playlist

Spring is the best time for a fresh start, whether it be cleaning, changing your attitude, or starting a new music playlist. As a result, I’ve been exploring a variety of music recently, in order to change up my playlist and fall in love with something new. I’ve found a lot of great music in my search, and a couple artists and songs that have especially stuck out, and I want to share them and discuss what makes each one unique and why they’ve been added to my spring playlist.

classic j dies and goes to hell part 1

Image result for glass beach album cover

The opening track on the album the first glass beach album, by the band glass beach, is bold, exciting, and surprisingly catchy. Although the album title, song name, and lack of capitalization all drive me a little insane, I think it provides a good expectation of what the album sounds like; it’s unconventional, a little tongue-in-cheek, and generally fun, since it doesn’t take itself too seriously. This song is my favorite (although glass beach is a close second) due to it’s dynamic range, both in style and instrumentation, switching between jazzy and soulful to chaotic and over-the-top. The drummer doesn’t hold back, often overpowering the song and creating a destructive yet genuine atmosphere, reminiscent of a punk 90’s garage band. The unique style and presentation give the song an endearing quality, making it a great candidate for my spring playlist.

Alone, Omen 3

Image result for man alive king krule album cover

From the recently released project called Man Alive! by King Krule, Alone, Omen 3 stands in stark contrast to glass beach: it’s melancholic, haunting, and subtle. It features fairly simple instrumentation, but with a great rhythm and surprising dynamics, accentuated by amazing sound effects and sound design. The lead singer has a quiet and casual tone, but one that draws your attention and demands a close listen. Although it’s hard to tell if there is a lot of lyrical substance, there is definitely an incredible atmosphere and feeling conveyed throughout the song, which makes is a great listen that doesn’t get old. The entire album is incredible, and I’d love to write a post about it after I spend more time with it.

 

 

Thoughts on Animated Movies

My relationship with animated movies has been fairly odd over the years, and it was only recently that I started sorting out my feelings toward the genre. I watched a lot of movies as a kid, but I remember early on thinking that animated movies were childish. I don’t think this was helped by my parents dislike for them; my mom enjoys horror movies and thrillers, while my dad rarely watches whole movies, so to them a lot of the animated movies I watched as a kid seemed obnoxious and shallow. They both share a dislike of musicals as well, which they were largely successful in passing down to me (La La Land is about my only exception), leading me to stay away from a lot of animated Disney musicals. In the end, I had a bias against animated movies, which I gradually realized and have since overcome. So now I want to talk about some of my favorites, point out what makes them such great works of art, and reveal why the animated genre is a lot more complex than it seems.

CoralineThe movie that made me first question my relationship with animated movies was Coraline. It’s a stop motion animated horror movie released in 2009 that is way too scary for children, contrary to the intended audience of the film. It has somewhat of an infamous reputation for scaring children to death and being overly creepy and disturbing, which is what originally piqued my interest. While I was watching it, I was stunned by how imaginative and off putting it was; it seriously brought some of my nightmares and fears to life. I don’t want to get into the weeds about the plot, so I’ll just say that the feeling of “not everything is what it seems” is so strong and heavily conveyed through every aspect of the movie that it’s almost scary in itself. The art style perfectly complements the disturbing atmosphere of Coraline’s world, and the story is a great blend of subtle messages and morals. Overall, it really opened my eyes to the imaginative possibilities of animation, outside of traditional princes and princesses that are so common in the genre, while also displaying the morals that define a lot of animated movies aimed at children.

 

Image result for treasure planet

Another one of my favorite animated movies is Treasure Planet, which I used to watch over and over again as a child. A year or two ago I remembered the movie and had the strongest urge to re-watch it; there was something so memorable and captivating about it’s story and style. While watching it, I realized that nothing had changed: the characters are incredible, the story is great (it’s based on Treasure Island), and the entire world that it’s set in is fantastical and endless. The character development alone is one of the best examples of writing that I have ever seen; nobody is truly good or evil, unlike most heroes and villains in other children’s movies, and each character is fully fleshed out and absolutely amazing. I also think the science fiction element of the movie draws me in too, featuring portals and literal “space ships” with pirates and cyborgs that make the entire world fascinating. I would have to say that this is my all-time favorite animated movie for those reasons, along with how well it holds up to the test of time. Although the actual art style isn’t as impressive or as unique as Coraline, and the atmosphere isn’t as defined, it perfectly encapsulates the appeal of animated movies beyond the audience of children. It is an all around work of art, and a testament to the unique power of animated movies to create incredible worlds and meaningful stories.