Still Life in Motion

“We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning”
Werner Heisenberg

 
 

Naturaleza muerta viviente (Living Still Life), Salvador Dalí, 1956

 
 

Living Still Life, or Nature Morte Vivante (1956) is a hand oil painting on canvas by the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí. The painting was originally known as Nature Morte Vivante and is considered to be one of Dalí’s masterworks. It is his sixth grand masterpiece. Dalí described the work as illustrating “the decomposition of a fruit dish”. The painting is a variation of Floris van Schooten‘s Table with Food (1617).

 
 

A Dutch Breakfast, Floris Gerritsz van Schhoten, date unknown

 
 

Schooten’s work is rearranged into objects that rotate and float across the piece. While the picture can be termed a still life, Dalí incorporates irony by making it evident that nothing in the image is actually still. Even the knife on the table, for example, although not seemingly moving at all, is interpreted by the human brain to be in motion. The Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty is referenced in the piece. The mind infers that no everyday object can simply hover in the air and that gravity must be pulling down on it; therefore, the knife must be in a falling motion.

This painting also depicts the importance of the spiral, which Dali believed was nature’s most perfect form, using it as a symbol of cosmic order. Spiral structures can be found throughout this work, from the rhinoceros horn in the upper left, to the twisting fruit dish in the center, to the meteor-like head of cauliflower on the right. While working on this painting, Dali was thrilled to hear of the discovery that the DNA molecule – the blueprint for all life – had a spiral shape. The double spiral balcony railing to the left is Dali’s acknowledgment of DNA. “For the first time in the history of science,” Dali said, “physics was providing proof of the existence of God.”

By the time Dali painted this work, he had left Surrealism behind and was fully immersed in what he called “Nuclear Mysticism.” Dali felt that the art of his contemporaries was spiritually barren, and he was determined to reanimate art with spirituality. He was convinced that the emerging theories of physics and molecular biology could reveal the mysteries of religion.

Ode to Wine

Photograph by Chema Madoz

 
 

Day-colored wine,
night-colored wine,
wine with purple feet
or wine with topaz blood,
wine,
starry child
of earth,
wine, smooth
as a golden sword,
soft
as lascivious velvet,
wine, spiral-seashelled
and full of wonder,
amorous,
marine;
never has one goblet contained you,
one song, one man,
you are choral, gregarious,
at the least, you must be shared.
At times
you feed on mortal
memories;
your wave carries us
from tomb to tomb,
stonecutter of icy sepulchers,
and we weep
transitory tears;
your
glorious
spring dress
is different,
blood rises through the shoots,
wind incites the day,
nothing is left
of your immutable soul.
Wine
stirs the spring, happiness
bursts through the earth like a plant,
walls crumble,
and rocky cliffs,
chasms close,
as song is born.
A jug of wine, and thou beside me
in the wilderness,
sang the ancient poet.
Let the wine pitcher
add to the kiss of love its own.

My darling, suddenly
the line of your hip
becomes the brimming curve
of the wine goblet,
your breast is the grape cluster,
your nipples are the grapes,
the gleam of spirits lights your hair,
and your navel is a chaste seal
stamped on the vessel of your belly,
your love an inexhaustible
cascade of wine,
light that illuminates my senses,
the earthly splendor of life.

But you are more than love,
the fiery kiss,
the heat of fire,
more than the wine of life;
you are
the community of man,
translucency,
chorus of discipline,
abundance of flowers.
I like on the table,
when we’re speaking,
the light of a bottle
of intelligent wine.
Drink it,
and remember in every
drop of gold,
in every topaz glass,
in every purple ladle,
that autumn labored
to fill the vessel with wine;
and in the ritual of his office,
let the simple man remember
to think of the soil and of his duty,
to propagate the canticle of the wine.

Pablo Neruda