Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Humour in visual art

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – June 2011. 

The Oxford dictionary defines “Humour” as “The faculty of perceiving what is ludicrous or amusing, or of expressing it in speech, writing, or other composition; jocose imagination or treatment of a subject.”
Humour is not often present in visual art compared to other forms of art like literature or cinema. In a painting, which is seen at once, it is more difficult to create the time laps between primary perception and meaning that trigger humour.

Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire by Salvador Dali (Source: Wikimedia)

Surrealist painters were good at introducing humour in their paintings. My preferred example is Dali’s painting titled “Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire”. He used a visual illusion with two women who look like nuns making up the face of Voltaire. The humour comes from the fact that Voltaire wrote against the intolerance in the church.

Other times, the humour I find in modern art is not intended… but that’s another matter.

Humour could be more present in painting. Playfulness is a good way to bring creativity to your work. If you are in a playful mood, you create a secure environment to experiment, to try a different way and push boundaries. “It’s just a game” opens a world of possibility. Crazy ideas do not seem so crazy anymore.

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