Pop expressionist surrealism, sometimes called expressionist-surrealism or low-brow art, is less a school of art than an approach to it that builds on several older schools of art, combining and recombining them in ways that often seem to have little in common with one another. Some of these schools include expressionism and neo-expressionism (including art brut), pop and neo-pop art, fusion art forms like comic art and animation, and surrealism, but also hearkening to older movements including Chinese, Japanese, and Korean traditional painting and woodcutting (such as ukiyo-e), Renaissance, romantic, and post-impressionst symbolist work, and classical and medieval forms of art from a host of nations, Western and otherwise.
As a fusion school, then, pop expressionist surrealism in many ways shares a great deal in common with contemporary American-influenced or American musical genres - jazz, funk, punk, ska, and more eclectic forms of country and rock. Improvisation is treasured in equal measures with craftsmanship and creativity, cultural integration is considered an absolute good rather than an adulteration, and there is a real value put on generating art that is appreciable by people of many cultures, factions, classes, ages, and preferences for different, sometimes apparently contradictory, reasons.
Pop expressionist surrealism generally makes no claim to being avant-garde or explicitly political, philosophical, or religious in the sense of having a binding ideological message or agenda, but in its expression of locality and individual experience it frequently takes on these characteristics in an atomistic, artist and context specific fashion which often only becomes wholly visible once one has acquainted oneself with the symbolist vocabulary used by a given artist.
While it is hard to say there are hard and fast boundaries for the movement I would argue there are a few general principles which generally hold true amongst members thereof:
1. We reject realism as an end: Realism for the sake of realism is rejected in the same way impressionists, cubists, and other modern artists in the Western tradition have for essentially the same reasons - photography as a documenting tool liberates the artist from the obligation to society to serve as a recorder and interaction with non-Western civilizations in the last two centuries has exposed Western artists to traditions which they previously had no acquaintance with at all. Thus we draw or paint or sculpt our emotions and ideas, engaging in generative rather than preservative work. They may mean incorporating realist or hyperrealist work into our compositions, mind you, but in this case realism is a utility, rather than an end. This leads, in turn, to further (somewhat self-evident) statements:
2. Emotion, improvisation, and immediacy are central ends and means of our work: We are "painterly" - we want our technique to be part of our work, the artifice to be evident (even if it is not imitable or simple). We want our work to evoke emotions, sometimes conveying ours sometimes stirring unique emotions in others, sometimes both. We may plan a work extensively and in detail, but our execution emphasizes the immediacy of our efforts - mistakes may add beauty and reflect our innate humanity.
3. Surrealism and chimeric juxtaposition are central ends and means of our work: We revel in the ugly, the odd, the weird, the abnormal, the not-real. We believe that the juxtaposition of apparent contradictions, the imagining of alternative truths, the creation of alternative principles and worlds, all of these are valuable and potential bases for new communications.
4. Symbolism is a central end of our work: Not all of our work is symbolic, but symbolism is often key to our work - sometimes densely, often surreally juxtaposed with contradictions leading to new meanings.
5. Expressionism exists in a tension with the pop and surrealist ends of our work; we regard this as generative: We use this tension to critique, reappropirate, celebrate, and heighten all three - we are are opera singers building upon folk songs, bluegrass musicians reinterpreting Mozart.
6. We reject the idea that low-brow art is craft only and blur the lines between high- and low-brow art not as an act of rebellion so much as an expression of our assumption.
8. Line is central to our work: Line evokes immediacy - we have learned more from the expressionists' and neo-expressionists' sketchpads, in this case, than from their finished works - the sketch, the calligraphic mark, typography, the printed work, the most basic of human interactions with surfaces. Often the unusual juxtaposition of line to color is used to separate our work from from that of more traditional pop and surrealist artists, though not always.
9. Color theory is central to our work: Often times we use atypical, culturally-contradictory, or limited palates, or palates influenced by particular mass media traditions, though just as often we use incredibly personal color theories influenced by artists such as Van Gogh and Klee.
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There are two key steps to making yourself a better pop expressionist surrealist - first off, make art. Particularly essential is sketching, sketching both what you see and what you imagine, and sketching constantly - I personally endorse frequent blind contour drawings. Regardless, make art constantly and learn to appreciate the failures - often in an apparent mistake there is something beautiful worth replicating in future compositions. Secondly, study art - the beauty of our school, as a fusion school, is that literally no artist, technique, or tradition is an unwarranted source of inspiration. Some movements, schools, and artists I would particularly recommend, however, include:
Pop Expressionist Surrealists / Low-Brow Artists
Camille Rose Garcia
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ee-Haw Industries & Heirs