Women, bird and snake in front of the sun, Joan Miro
I've just started my work on a new paper, Medieval Dreams and Visions, and I have been reading a lot of dream theory and a lot of debates about the relationship between dream and art, truth and fiction. I can't help thinking back to Joan Miro in Barcelona. Beginning in 1925 Miro painted around a hundred dream paintings in an attempt to represent the unconscious.
'Dream is something quite separate from reality as experienced in the waking state; one might almost say it represents a hermetically sealed existence, divided from real life by an unbridgeable gulf. It detaches us from reality, erases normal recall of the same in us, and places us in a different world and in a quite different life-story, which deep down has nothing to do with the real one.' Hildebrandt
The Surrealists were constantly trying to expose deep, hidden meanings in their art by using methods such as automatic writing and the 'Exquisite Corpse' which involved choosing words at random from the dictionary. Miro's dream paintings reduce the world to symbols and archetypes; stars, women, birds, fish and animals drawn together in a constellation of representation.
The question in the medieval period was whether any truth or prophecy could be extracted from the unstructured images of the dream. This question still seems relevant in Miro, beyond the poetry of his canvases is there any higher wisdom being communicated? What can the dreamer, the viewer of Miro's painting, bring back in to the real world? A sense of beauty, a thing close to comprehension perhaps, but not the full knowledge of the thing.
The other question (which I might have to answer today in my seminar) is whether there can be art about an insignificant dream? Doesn't the pure communication of it make it significant? If you have a dream and tell no one, it is more than likely that it will disappear, when you try to recall it at the end of the day you find that it has dissolved. But if you repeat the dream, the articulation of it usually means that it resists that dissipation for a while longer.
Chaucer is not quite as abstract as Miro, perhaps his meaning is easier to read.