Max Ernst. In the Garden of Nymph Ancolie

12 September 2007 – 27 January 2008

A group of works dating to the 1930s around the theme of the world of gardens and plants, the transformation of natural elements into female, human figures and vice versa shall illustrate the vast iconographical context around the mural Pétales et jardin de la nymphe Ancolie; further thematic groups within Max Ernst’s oeuvre have been elaborated around the following themes:

-Artistic self-portraits and tributes: References to himself, to his own oeuvre and to that of other artists play an important part in many of Max Ernst's works. Particularly in the self-portraits, he can be seen to have developed an artistic mythology of his own, particularly his alter ego, the bird figure Loplop. In terms of tradition, he thus distanced himself from the image of the artist as a purely subjectively-driven creator.

-Collage and chance: For Max Ernst, the use of chance in the medium of collage was primarily a creative tactic that enabled him to break away from traditional working methods and the notion of subjective, artistic creativity. Unlike the Surrealists, he regarded collage, frottage and grattage as more than just new techniques: the use of disconnected pictorial templates was the core of his intentions as an artist. By mixing materials and images of different provenance, he drew attention to hidden levels of meaning. The plethora of different elements superimposes itself to the viewer, and over-drawing and over-painting lend new layers of meaning.

-Machine: Max Ernst's interest in the subject of machinery and movement is particularly evident in the early works. Examples include the collages produced with a printer's block, in which Ernst used motifs from industrial, anatomical and palæontological atlases and illustrated plates. By employing a limited number of elements of identical motif and re-grouping and re-combining them in different ways he created new, technically pleasing forms. Although their graphic medium and original context seem to lend them an aura of objectivity, in reality they are moulded by over-layering and combination into completely unreal machines and architectural structures. Ernst often associated the machine with eroticism, and therefore machines feature in many of his works as erotic accessories.

-Totem/Sculptures: The formal properties of found objects from everyday life in an industrialised society excited the artist's fantasy and he often combined and duplicated them into biomorphic, sculptural shapes that are frequently reminiscent of objects in ethnological collections. Although Ernst usually concealed the joins and over-lapping of the serial elements, the viewer cannot help wondering as to the original uses of the objects and is thus drawn into the evolution of the work.

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