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.
only difference between myself and a madman, is that I am not
Dalí's own words, taken from his Conquest of the Irrational:
whole ambition in the pictorial domain is to materialize the
images of my concrete irrationality with the most imperialist
fury of precision...
then goes on to say:
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..."
makes the world of delirium pass onto the plane of reality"