Automatism

DEFINITION

A technique of creating a work of art without conscious effort, thought or will, it has emphasis on intuition and spontaneity rather than planned composition. Automatism underlies 20th-century abstract art, especially Abstract Expressionism. Automatism was a deliberate method sometimes employed by the Surrealists including Andre Breton and Max Ernst and Action Painters such as Jackson Pollock. Some persons equate Automatism with doodling, but doodling, when used as a formal term, is regarded as a process of conscious selection. The theory of Automatism is traced to 17th-century philosophers Rene Descartes and Thomas Hobbes and to Thomas Huxley in the 19th century. Huxley stated that "our mental conditions are simply the symbols in consciousness of the changes which take place automatically in the organism." (Britannica) In the late 19th century, Automatism with its emphasis on intuition, accident and irrationality gained strength through the movements of Dada, Futurism and Collages. Sources: "The Britannica Encyclopedia of American Art"; Ralph Mayer, "A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques". <br><br>A process of making mechanically, randomly, or by unconscious free association (rather than under the control of a conscious artist), after establishing a set of conditions (such as types of materials, etc.) within which a work is to be carried out. Also called automatic drawing, painting, sculpture, or writing. Joan Mir? (Spanish, 1893-1983), Andr? Masson (French, 1896-1987), and "Matta" Roberto Matta Echaurren (Chilean-American, 1911-2002) employed this method.Examples: Jean (Hans) Arp (French, born Germany (Alsace), 1886-1966), Automatic Drawing, 1917-18 (inscribed 1916), ink and pencil on paper, 16 3/4 x 21 1/4 inches (42.6 x 54 cm), Museum of Modern Art, NY. Joan Mir? (Spanish, 1893-1983), The Birth of the World, 1925, oil on canvas, 8 feet 2 3/4 inches x 6 feet 6 3/4 inches (250.8 x 200 cm), Museum of Modern Art, NY. According to the first Surrealist manifesto of 1924, "the real functioning of the mind" could be expressed by a "pure psychic automatism," "the absence of any control exercised by reason." Mir? was influenced by Surrealist ideas, and said, "Rather than setting out to paint something, I begin painting and as I paint, the picture begins to assert itself. . . . The first stage is free, unconscious." But, he added, "The second stage is carefully calculated." See Surrealism.Also see aleatory and aleatoric, coulage, Dada, exquisite corpse, spontaneity, and Surrealism.

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