Filmmaker Tim Burton is honoured by an exhibition of his graphic work in the Max Ernst Museum Bruehl and proves to be a worthy successor of Surrealism.
Tim Burton comes from sunny California. But who enters Tim Burton’s world of ostracized creatures rather supposes to have got lost in a mist-shrouded graveyard of Scotland. Which traumatic childhood experiences Tim Burton may have to cope with in his drawings only the filmmaker himself will be able to tell. With a sharp pen Tim Burton makes his tragicomic heroes come alive, turning out to be a brilliant draughtsman who is a match for the greatest of their art. His drawings thrown onto the paper with a light touch, washed with ink and watercolor, sparkle with lust for life and reveal a pathological anxiety syndrome at the same time.
As in his movies Tim Burton pulls the viewer down to his morbid world which is populated by the monsters of his childhood. In doing so, Tim Burton’s subtle horror doesn’t address the rationality of the adults, but the imagination of a childlike mind that is torn between sympathy and disgust. Tim Burton’s art is, that he is appealing to archetypical primal fears of man in a humorous way: skinny spider legs, eyes wide open, endless rows of teeth, and death in all its manifestations. By exaggerating these attributes of horror and reducing them to the essential at the same time, Tim Burton develops his characters from the realm of shades of the subconscious.
Tim Burton and the exquisite corpse.
One of the most famous games of the Surrealists was called Cadavre exquis, in English Exquisite Corpse, with every participant of the circle sketching a body part on a slip of paper and folding it that way, that the subsequent drawer completing the figure couldn’t see, how the sketch had developed so far. Astonishing results emerged from the combinatory principle of coincidence and exclusion of rational control mechanisms, following the spirit of Surrealism. Tim Burton’s spawn of his imagination are ”exquisite corpses” in the truest sense of the word and partially come to life in the same café environment in which the Surrealists celebrated their meetings at the Café Cyrano.
One of the exhibits of the exhibition by Tim Burton shows a collection of scribbled on café napkins, with café logos and stains being incorporated into the grotesque faces of the surreal characters. André Breton would have been happy to welcome such an exceptionally gifted and prolific draughtsman to the daily café circle of the Surrealists at 17.00 o’clock sharp. Tim Burton is driven by creativity and haunted by the horror of everyday life even at the café.
The Max Ernst Museum is the ideal frame for the art of Tim Burton.
The Max Ernst Museum Bruehl, idyllically situated next to Schloß Augustusburg with its baroque park, was opened in 2005 with the mission to dignify the work by Max Ernst in his native town of Bruehl, and to point out the importance of Surrealism for contemporary art in temporary exhibitions. The collection of the museum comprises donations and loans that visualize seventy productive years in the life of Max Ernst. Graphics, collages, paintings, sculptures and photographic documents display the wide range of means of expression the Dadaist and Surrealist Max Ernst disposed of. Besides the permanent collection which presents new aspects of the work by Max Ernst in alternating exhibitions, on a regular basis exhibitions are curated that are obliged to the spirit of Surrealism and Max Ernst, thus visualizing the importance of the Surrealist movement for contemporary art.
To present Tim Burton as a soul mate of Surrealism at the Max Ernst Museum was just as obvious as the famous chance meeting on a dissection table of an umbrella and a sewing machine. To get to the exhibition the visitor descends to the basement of the museum, so to speak the cellar which is a perfect frame for Tim Burton’s art of subtle horror. The show comprises sketches, drawings, paintings, photographic works, puppets and movies by Tim Burton from the last thirty years, amongst others his well-known masterpieces Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, Nightmare before Christmas and Frankenweenie.
The roots of Tim Burton’s art go back to the Gothic novel of the 19th century.
Again and again Tim Burton’s examination of the protagonists of Surrealism becomes clear, such as Salvador Dali’s Autumnal Cannibalism for instance, a painting with two figures devouring each other. Also The Temptation of Saint Anthony, a picture by Max Ernst haunted by monsters, the Manichinos of de Chirico’s Pittura Metafisica and Hans Bellmer’s puppets show their influence on Tim Burton’s artistic development. Even the German Gothic novel of the 19th century, such as E.T.A. Hofmann’s The Sandman, a monster tearing out children’s eyes, comes alive in Tim Burton’s character of the little boy with nails in his eyes. The cross section of Tim Burton’s oeuvre, however, also shows, that painting is not really his métier.
He is the master of the fast stroke he has to keep his monsters in check with. He is bubbling with creativity, the pictures start to run, which is certainly not unusual for a filmmaker like Tim Burton, in this regard the slow technique of painting is rather obstructive.
Tim Burton caricatures Hollywood’s world of glitz in garish colors.
The darkness of the cinema reflects exactly Tim Burton’s mental constitution, where he is projecting his anxieties onto the screen. Also his early work Hansel and Gretel is shown which he produced for Disney in 1983. In garish colors he reinterpretes Grimm’s fairy tale, satirizing the American understanding of Europe’s fairy-tale world influenced by Walt Disney at the same time. All the grotesquely exaggerated elements of horror Tim Burton picks up in his later movies such as in Charlie and the chocolate factory are already here. This is the key to understand Tim Burton’s work: the real horror is the pressure of the conformist society which degrades vulnerable individuals to outsiders, as well as the consumption frenzy of America’s plastic world.
16.08.2015-03.01.2016 Max Ernst Museum, Bruehl