“Dreams or Nightmares?”
Despite what appears to be a narrative taking place in the paintings by George Rodéz, any attempt to understand or “read” the story results in confusion. Perhaps this is just as well. Without completely understanding the source of his imagery, the viewer is allowed to interpret and identify the characters and their actions within the realm of his/her imagination and experience. The figures become everyman and everywoman and their daily travails, as odd as they may seem, become universal. Rodéz conceives of the art of painting as a means of juxtaposing the recollections of dreams with the process of creativity. Just as the Surrealists did many years ago, he sets out to liberate the workings of the subconscious, disrupting conscious thought processes by the use of his own irrational imagery, and painting another reality. It was an exercise conceived of by Andre Breton, the self-appointed leader of the official Surrealist movement in 1920s Paris, whose writers and artists were trained and encouraged to harness their dream world into a surrealité of words and images. Rodéz employs a similar, albeit more contemporary, method to provide an image for a state of mind out of which he could produce his work and his new reality. This reality is personal, but so provocative and strange that the viewer cannot help but get involved with the plight of the protagonists and share their lurid space.
The world that he creates is as absurd as the people who perform in its claustrophobic and multi-dimensional dramas. Imagine a scene with hallways and rooms that disappear in angles of infinity and the perspective of every object interferes with the appearance of normalcy, and that people actually exist (or perform) within these walls. The sense of chaos defies gravity and can be as disturbing as a nightmare or as humorous as a fun-house. It all depends on your point of reference, and that of the artist who is so boldly sharing something of his inner musings, but does not reveal just what that something is, or what it means. The viewer is free to interpret them as dreams or nightmares or just the bizarre results of the creativity of the artist. Although the methods for the interpretation of the dream world may be seen as a continuation of the now almost century old explorations of the Surrealists, undoubtedly new concepts about the production of art, expression of the subconscious, and far more advanced psychological analyses, inform the work of George Rodéz as an artist of today who is capable of describing his own “realm of the marvelous,” as the Surrealists described their new world and their efforts at communication with the conscious by means of the unconscious.
Rodéz has invented his own vocabulary of symbols, or uses rather recognizable symbols for his own personal methods of communication via his own artistic language. One is reminded of the work of Max Ernst, one of the most successful at interpreting the theory of the Surrealist image as a “pure creation of the spirit,” in the words of poet Paul Reverdy. Ernst was an artist of the unexpected and his works the appropriation from an intense imagination and repertoire of symbols. For Rodéz, the symbols become the objectivation of the activity of dreaming and provide a course or transition into reality through painting. He refers to or reduplicates the condition of dreaming in images that reveal the unexpected coincidence of time and place that is part of such irrational conditions. However, in all his paintings, with all their angles of fear and danger and risk depicted in cool, dark colors, the artist wants the viewer to find a message of optimism, not tragedy. Dreams are his passage to hope.
Carol Damian, Ph.D.
Associate Professor & Chair, Art & Art History