I thought that more artists had used their art to depict dreams and visions than actually had. I wasn’t taking the angle of “well, all art is a vision, really” – lazy, and wrong. As I hope some of the Messy Histories project has shown, art hasn’t often just been about the artist’s imagination running wild, even when they’re painting fiction. For example, most paintings of Ancient Greek idylls are not really about the scene. They’re about politics, moral ideals, or the concerns relative to their society. Scenes are rarely chosen by accident or whim.
One angle which did come up a lot in my research was religion. Many religious and spiritual practices depend on dreams having significance, and visions as existing. When there’s no other means of validating your belief system, you have to go with what you can. Which sounds dismissive – though I’m atheist, I don’t really mean that. I don’t believe in dreams as prophecies, but I do respect that they have a role in helping us process experience and emotions. I think something all the works here have in common is that they understand this and give us space to learn or feel something of the sense of the vision. Even in the Victoriana of Collier’s Priestess, I think there’s an extent to which we can connect with her trance. It’s why I think the Dali is the weakest by some distance, because it’s more interested in the imagery than the meaning.
Click the images to enlarge.