Tuesday 26 June 2012

Top: Guardian Spirit of the Waters
Middle: I Saw Above the Misty Outline of a Human Form | The Teeth
Bottom: La Chimere | The Skeleton Man| Eye-Balloon

"Dreams are more real than reality itself, they're closer to the self."  - Gao Xingjian, 'Dialogue and Rebuttal'

I've always had a lot of dreams, and nightmares. The majority of them are rambling and complicated, and they're nearly always completely bizarre. I've always found them fascinating, despite their vividness sometimes making me feel more exhausted when I wake up. I've had a recurring dream for as long as I can remember where I'm picking daisies in a tiny patch of grass which seems to be floating amongst others in the sky, and there's this sudden feeling of dread as something - a train, it feels like - swoops down, picks me up and I can't get off. I'm half enjoying it and half completely terrified, unable to escape. Perhaps it's why I've always been torn about roller coasters. 

I can see how some of my dreams are rooted in the day's events, but some are so completely unfounded in anything I've experienced I wonder how my brain comes up with them.  I don't know what I feel about the origins of our dreams, whether Freud was right in his hypothesis of repressed anxieties and desires or not. I've suffered badly in the past from paranoia dreams, which do fit in with my personal anxieties, but I'm not entirely sure how a penguin on a bus with an upside down cat and an image of twenty-five US cents fits in with this... (A previous traumatic experience with penguins, the frustrations of life on London transport, a fear of things being the wrong way round, and a hankering for small amounts of unusable currency, perhaps?) In case you're wondering, this was a genuine dream I had. I woke up having written down, literally, 'penguin red bus upside down cat 25 cents'. Insightful.

A while ago I began a dream diary, attempting to record my dreams whenever I remember them, to see whether there's any recurring images or ideas, and also as writing and drawing fodder. As of yet, I've not re-read most of them. However I've noticed that as I've written more down, I'm becoming better and better at remembering and recording them. It makes for incredibly strange reading. Once I have some time on my hands, and I'm brave enough, I'm going to start making some writing from them.

The drawings above are by the nineteenth-century French symbolist painter Odilon Redon. His charcoal work, lithographs and etchings were a precursor of the Dada movement and surrealism, famous for Dali's obscure landscapes. I love that his work focuses greatly on artistic renderings of literary symbolism and poetry, as it's something I've been interested in for years. I was drawn to his work because of their similarity to the way that I 'view' parts of my dreams, seemingly floating around on different planes in one field of view. The fluidity, the mixed-up characters, strange combinations of man and animal (see 'Crying Spider') and floating images (like in 'The Teeth', above) are so familiar to me in sleep that I almost felt that I'd dreamed these images myself, as if they'd come directly out of my head. Interestingly, upon looking up more of his work I found that his first album of lithographs is called 'Dans Le Reve', or, 'In the dream'. I'm hoping to buy a couple of books about him now, primarily 'I Am the First Consciousness of Chaos', which collects his 'noirs' or 'black' work - lithographs, etchings and charcoals.

"I have a feeling only for shadows" - Odilon Redon


  1. Oh, I adore Odilon Redon, his drawings are so haunting & I agree, they do feel eerily familiar! His work always makes me think of William Blake too, another favourite!
    I dream an awful lot also & they usually tend to be nightmares & really quite strange, I've been attempting to keep a dream diary for a while now, but I always forget the details by the time I get out of bed to write it down! I'm going to try keeping the book under my pillow & see if it helps. You're penguin dream made me really laugh, I have so many odd ones like that too!
    My main reoccurring dream is of being in a dark place, feels like a corridor but seems to be outside, maybe in between a row of trees & being chased, then suddenly becoming stuck like somethings holding my feet solid to the ground & knowing that whatever is chasing me is getting closer, I try to scream but not a single sound comes out... It still terrifies me even now!
    I think dreams are just fascinating, look forward to reading when you get around to writing about yours! :)

  2. What a great post. I think about dreams a lot too, we were discussing Freud's theory at work the other day and I think it does fit with a lot of the reasons behind the dreams I've had recently but as you said some of the imagery and symbolism is just so odd it makes me wonder just where it comes from. I had a dream recently where I stumbled upon a group of people worshipping a headless hamster in a multi-storey car park - it just made me feel confused and odd which I can't imagine is a repressed emotion I'd buried in my subconscious and if so, there are surely more straightforward ways of bringing it out! I think I'm going to start a dream dictionary, I've had dreams before that I've thought would make great short stories and I'd love to write them up one day. X

    Rosie | A Rosie Outlook