Salvador Dali - The Paranoid Critical Transformation Method
Of all the Surrealists and their achievements, there is one that stands out above all the others. The Paranoiac Critical method was a sensibility, or way of perceiving reality that was developed by Salvador Dalí. It was defined by Dalí himself as "irrational knowledge" based on a "delirium of interpretation". More simply put, it was a process by which the artist found new and unique ways to view the world around him. It is the ability of the artist or the viewer to perceive multiple images within the same configuration. The concept can be compared to Max Ernst's frottage or Leonardo da Vinci's scribbling and drawings. As a matter of fact, all of us have practiced the Paranoid Critical Method when gazing at stucco on a wall, or clouds in the sky, and seeing different shapes and visages therein. Dalí elevated this uniquely human characteristic into his own art form.
Dalí, though not a true paranoid, was able to simulate a paranoid state, without the use of drugs, and upon his return to 'normal perspective' he would paint what he saw and envisioned therein.
Dalí was able to create what he called "hand painted dream photographs" which were physical, painted representations of the hallucinations and images he would see while in his paranoid state. Although he certainly had his own load of mental problems to bear, it can be said that Dalí's delusions and paranoid hallucinations did not totally dominate his mind, as he was able to convey them to canvas.
Being a painter of miraculous skill, he was capable of reproducing his myriad fantasies and hallucinations as visual illusions on canvas.
It is in this context that one of Dalí's most famous statements takes on a whole new meaning and understanding.
"The only difference between myself and a madman, is that I am not mad!"
In Dalí's own words, taken from his Conquest of the Irrational:
"My whole ambition in the pictorial domain is to materialize the images of my concrete irrationality with the most imperialist fury of precision..."
He then goes on to say:
"Paranoiac-critical activity organizes and objectivizes in an exclusivist manner the limitless and unknown possibilities of the systematic association of subjective and objective 'significance' in the irrational..."
"..it makes the world of delirium pass onto the plane of reality"