Courtauld Institute of Art
Supervised by Dr Gavin Parkinson, Senior Lecturer in 20th-century European Art, Courtauld Institute of Art, and Dr Matthew Gale, Head of Displays, Tate Modern
October 2017 –

A hand-drawn map of the world, centred on the Pacific Ocean, with countries labelled in French

The Surrealist Map of the World, published in the Brussels periodical Varietés, June 1929

In 1938, André Masson defined Surrealism as ‘the collective experience of individualism’ (Robert S. Short, The Politics of Surrealism 1920–1936, 1966, p.21). The harmonious co-existence of two seemingly irreconcilable entities arguably constituted one of the core drives behind the production of Surrealist art. In my thesis, hinging primarily around Turkey and Syria as areas of influence and the artists Fateh al-Moudarres (1922–1999) and Yüksel Arslan (1933–2017) as critical figures, I analyse the emergence and significance of Surrealism in the Levant region as an instance of translation and of inspired creativity which informed an experience of collectivism and individualism as non-binary and subversive, within the area’s rich modern artistic production.

Through a thematic approach, I offer a trans-national methodology which aims to understand the art of Syria and Turkey as imbricated in artistic, literary and ideological networks on a regional and global level. The overarching scope of my analysis is to provide an alternative method for the study of Surrealism as a global phenomenon: I do not only focus on the convergences of Levantine Surrealist practices with French Surrealism, but principally on their differential aspects, which inform Surrealism as a global phenomenon characterised by a tenable pluralism and challenging ideas of French Surrealism as an ‘ideal type’ in the space of alterity.