Opening Lucid Dreams – Marcelo Suaznabar (Bolivia)

Lucid Dreams is a body of work that seeks to draw the unconscious into consciousness through surreal images. In lucid dreaming the dreamer is conscious of being in a dream state and yet can affect the dream to control the characters, background and story. Interpretation of the dream image offers access to unusual ideas and the subconscious. Viewers are invited to engage with these visual metaphors that inhabit their space as if they exist but are unbounded by the rules of objective reality. Despite our acknowledgement of tangible reality, it remains deeply mysterious and these paintings evoke questions as they defy logic, while maintaining a gentle humor.

The subjects in the works are strange, hybrid creatures, organs, and furniture that seem to inhabit our world. At first glance the viewer accepts the paradoxical at face value but is gradually drawn into the absurd, surreal nature of this reality. Ambiguity and contradiction are anomalies that become acceptable ways of understanding these paintings.

The basecoat is textured like rough plaster on a wall. This asserts the attribute of flatness onto which the illusion will “materialize”, thus setting the stage for visual tension. Many works suggest desolate desert landscapes while others are set in claustrophobic rooms. Sometimes windows open portals to the outside. Shadows obscure the exact delineation of space so creatures exist in a netherworld where a man-made cube with organic amoeba-like extensions can float without gravity and a fish can swim through air, tethered to a ball. Shadowy stones on the “ground” contrast with enormous beasts striding on elongated legs that tower above us, even in the smallest paintings. A tiny human perches on top of a tall red and white striped chair with long shadows like condos in a lunar landscape.

Often the strongest color emanates from the background, like a blood red “sky” or sunset yellow. Cartoonish hybrid animals with human masks, bedecked with head-fins, eye the viewer with melancholic surprise, suspicion or worry. Self-absorbed hybrids that look like children’s toys with delicate hands drive impossible cars carefully or are blithely steering themselves as the “bicycle”. Tendrils extend from the polka dot body, testing the “air”. A head in a barrow emits smoke from holes. Bodies and forms are executed in a naive style, so realistic detail is not prevalent. Instead there are wriggling body patterns that define the form, but the patterns may also “live” on the form like an autonomous translucent skin, organic and magical.

The animals are not always benign and can consume or dominate one another sexually. A hairy, naked cat-woman rides the dog-beast with four eyes and a fish-headed woman holds the liar’s tongue in the bath. Black shapes are very dark and un-modulated, like black holes where life is swallowed. Animals can have claws or eight horse legs and a flicking lion’s tail or six baleful human eyes in a black cat. Red and white chairs sit awkwardly on their backs, floating and yet not floating. There is an unsettling quality to these works. The experience is like looking into the universe’s mind, seeing a quantum reality that defies classical reality. We realize that we live in a liminal zone where reality is indeed “invented” by the viewer.

Ashley Johnson