Ornamental Savagery

“Neil Spiller talking about Dali immediately caught my interest, and showing some of Dali’s architectural work was fascinating as I didn’t realise he had done so much. I still don’t fully understand Surrealism, but perhaps that’s the point.” Dan

Dali, De Chirico, Ernst, and other Surrealists

Wednesday 21 March 2012 | 9.30 – 10.45 | David Fussey Lecture  Theatre


Homage a courbet:

“My organisation is the sloth-like profession of architecture. My language is a symbiotic broth of purple prose, Baroque waywardness and surrealist spatial protocols invigorated by space that does the many-spangled two step between the treacle space of out here and the slippery cyberspaces of inside computers.

I like architecture that is mythic, enigmatic, oblique and encrusted with decoration. I like it to suggest worlds, essences and supernatures.

My work of the last twenty years has continually sought to push the envelope of architectural discourse, creating new spaces where architecture might dwell. This quest first started with a reassessment of architectural ornament, narrative and the dislocation of myself as architectural designer.” (Neil Spiller: Deformography: the poetics of cybridised architecture. 2005)


The Dean, Professor Neil Spiller will give his second lecture on Surrealism called Ornamental Savagery where he will discuss Dali, De Chirico, Ernst, and other surrealists.


  1. Neil Spiller (part 2) by http://danbrownedesigns.wordpress.com/university-work/gamswen/neil-spiller-part-2/

    Neil Spiller returned to our lecture series, this time to give us a lecture on Surrealism instead of a surrealist lecture. Salvador Dali was a main feature and his museum in Figueras, a place that I’ve been lucky enough to visit myself.

    Dali was a one off, and although a celebrated surrealist artist during the majority of his life, it is important to remember that he was somewhat shunned from the surrealist world towards the end of his career. Perhaps because he had in fact succumbed to money like his accusers said, but I’m convinced there is another perhaps more sinister explanation.

    Dali was a great thinker, and to look at his last painting The Swallow’s Tail it’s hard to see why one would say he had been corrupted by his time in America being a celebrity. His last painting shows the same creativity and flare as his work has done since the beginning. His first ever painting was at the tender young age of 6, the painting (right) shows talents almost unbelievable for a boy of that age. Could you have done this in reception class at primary school? The hues he has achieved show incredible depth and character, and the tones are almost perfect. It’s great to see the work that he produced when his skills had not yet been perfected, and his practise not yet determined. A man like Dali was obviously destined to be a great success, and not many people who reach his level of achievement have shown such integrity.

    His museum in Figueras is a testament to his hard work and is a place to behold, the spaces he creates within twist and force open your mind to his world in a way I haven’t experienced before. The picture (left) shows a huge chamber the dimensions of which can’t be fully appreciated from this picture, it is truly huge. After entering this space from the courtyard which features a car that is inflicted with internal raining all being looked upon by golden statues at every window, it is somewhat more coherent. The main feature of this vast space is a painting that you can see to the far right of the above photograph, is shows a slumped faceless man with the classic cavity where his stomach is meant to be, representing a lack of creativity. This was my favourite space because of the work you can see in the centre of the image, the space allows you to see the painting from the optimum viewing distance of 30 metres. At this distance you can see the face of Lincoln, but move closer you can see it is in fact not an image of Lincoln but a painting of Gala looking out over the Mediterranean sea, perhaps from their home in Port Lligat. This painting interests me because at a distance you think you know what you’re looking at, but moving closer opens your mind and reveals the real image. This destruction of a first impression or revealing a hidden feature that you did not know was there is very interesting. The jarring effect is something I like and something I would aim to do myself in my work in the future.

    Another fact that proves dali hadn’t been corrupted by money is his home in Port Lligat. Dali was born in the Catalan region of Spain and here he stayed to built his home with his wife Gala, not exactly something a man with bags of cash and loose principles would do eh? His house is now open to the public and has been kept the way it was when Dali left it. The home is made up of a series of spaces that seemed almost organic and flowed seamlessly, like the ideas in ones brain or water in a stream. From the front door to the penis shaped swimming pool, every detail had a story and gave insight to the inner workings of Dalis mind. You could tell from a building in the garden area that a series of openings that made the whole structure whistle in the wind that an immense amount of thought had gone into even the minutest of details of the whole plot. An incredible amount of work and dedication had gone into this building, which would not have been undertaken by a man who could have paid for a concrete box in the hills of Los Angeles.

    Surrealism wasn’t something I was interested in greatly until I visited Spain to see the place where Dali grew up. Neil Spiller talking about Dali immediately caught my interest, and showing some of Dali’s architectural work was fascinating as I didn’t realise he had done so much. I still don’t fully understand Surrealism, but perhaps that’s the point. I will do some more research on this, especially on his Venus Pavilion in the 1939 New York World’s fair.

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