symbolism and surrealism

“From the Mundane to the Marvelous”

by Dennis Bayuzick

Mirror - Mirror, Oil on Canvas, 18” x 24”, 1992, by Dennis Bayuzick
My aesthetic orientation as a painter has always been rooted in the perennial artistic traditions of symbolism and surrealism. Even my current body of stilllife self-portrait paintings, although derived from carefully arranged studio setups of diverse objects & props, flirts with suggestive symbolic significance through the artifice of rather eccentric placement and juxtaposition. Experiencing the seemingly cluttered imagery of these paintings may, in fact, be viewed as somewhat analogous to discovering some previously hidden but overpacked corner of some abandoned attic where unexpected ensembles of stuff trigger surprising associations of mysterious meaning (at least that’s what I hope for).
Yet, since these paintings originate as still-life demonstrations or teaching examples in my painting classes (from setups that the students use too), they continue to address traditional and rather conventional compositional & technical issues involving space, color, design, brushwork, etc. These traditional concerns are respected but played with too, and the discipline of painstaking realistic observation and representation is inevitably subverted to some degree by my unsuccessfully repressed surrealist imagination. Space gets warped and over-filled, and tonal color gets exaggerated or selectively over-intensified. Objects get strangely cropped or juxtaposed, and surface texture gets-a bit theatrical. Indeed, the rather artificially contrived and even melodramatic formal articulation of these works tends to evoke a stage-like mood and mentality where the often recurring symbolically-charged imagery, like the books and the boxes and the ever-present self-portraitsjimpliescn ongoing scenario of obsessive psychological narrative and exploration.

A comparison with my earlier dream-inspired fantasy paintings reveals an equally serious concern with the development of a personal symbolic repertoire of potentially “mythic” imagery, so there seems to be a natural evolutionary connection between the earlier invented compositions and the current paintings derived more from observation. Whether perceived by the mind’s eye or conceived via the optic nerve, reality has been rendered symbolic in both bodies of work by a persistent aesthetic vision that seeks at once both the obsessive visual density and graphic clarity that can only do justice to the “horror vacui” of formal meaning that I’ve never been able to alleviate the need for.

It is often said that a painter creates his/her own world. With my paintings I try to provide a vision of the special magical reality I inhabit and create and see, a meticulously rendered mindscape and still-life at once mundane and marvelous in its puzzling symbolic manifestations. While such symbolism is essentially private in its genesis, I seek too the archetypal levels of import, but I harbor no illusions of strict universal meaning or interpretation. More and more I’m satisfied with the inevitable indeterminacy and the rich multiplicity of reality as symbol, as prologue to a more phantasmagoric fantasy of meaning in an ongoing cycle of semiotic renewal. Like the surrealists, what I’m ultimately after is a convulsive and disturbing symbolic beauty that is nonetheless appealing and revealing to both the eye and mind.

Mirror - Mirror, Oil on Canvas, 18” x 24”, 1992, by Dennis Bayuzick Genesis, Oil on Canvas, 18” x 24”, 2003, by Dennis Bayuzick
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