Art If Subconscious Speaks To Art

If Subconscious Speaks To Art

Giorgia Massari
Dave Swensen

If we look at dreams as the locus of action of our subconscious, considering in this sphere also the reveries of the mind, the visual worlds would become infinite. If we then attempt the Freudian feat of attributing meaning to them and seeking an explanation for all those situations and images that converge from irrationality, then self-analysis will inevitably generate additional worlds. Not just new visual fields but true borderlands, situated between a real and a surreal whose nature is marked by both the awake and the sleeping subject. It is from this exact condition that Dave Swensen’s art, now on view at the Ramo Gallery in Como through Sept. 22, comes to life. I Once Dreamt of Endless Rain – with this suggestion the doors open to Swensen’s solo exhibition, which between oil paintings and graphite works weaves a narrative that attempts to make the unconscious mind communicate with the conscious one. What he emphasizes is the real foundation of dreams corroborated by the truths they reveal, sometimes in animal form sometimes through delusional images. In short, dreams are always capable of fascination, which is why we wanted to talk about them precisely with Dave Swensen, who explained more about his thinking and research.

Dave Swensen
Courtesy Dave Swnsen, Galleria Ramo | Ph Simon J V David

How much do you remember of your dreams? How much of your dreams is present in your paintings?

«Oddly enough, I don’t dream much at all. When I do, my dreams are often very bizarre. I always make an effort to try to recall as much detail as I can from them immediately when I wake up to understand what I dreamt. Sometimes the meaning is obvious and other times not; which is what interests me about them. Their contents mix between realism, symbolism, and fantasy while appearing unexpectedly. The dream-like nature of my work isn’t personal; it often contains sequences and settings I imagine others dream about. I daydream in my studio about things other people think and dream about; I’m interested in mundane visions.»

If dreams are products of our unconscious, do you think that means our truth resides there?

«This is a thought-provoking question! Yes, I think so. Dreams pull out the buried truths in all of us. There is no hiding from the subconscious. It’s all in there and ready to come out when we least expect it. That is where interpreting the meaning is up to the individual to decipher.»

I think of the Surrealists, or even the last Venice Biennale inspired by Leonora Carrington’s “Milk of Dreams.” Do you see your work as analogous to their exploration? Or is yours more of a Freudian approach?

«I think of it as more of a Freudian analysis. A lot of my work is figurative and is rooted in human emotion. I aim for balanced surrealist elements as I am not interested in providing works of pure fantasy. My work resides in a hybrid place where figures and emotions are based in reality though things are not quite what they seem to be.»

As in surrealist paintings, the presence of animals is also very strong in your works. Needless to say, dreaming of animals is very common; they are often associated with specific, mostly primal emotions, such as fear or strength. What do you think about this?

«The use of animals in literature and folktales has always interested me. Utilizing that interest was the next step that just seemed to come naturally. Interpreting emotions through other living or created things is important to me. Using those elements intensifies what I’m trying to convey in my work. I think we see a sort of truth in animals. We desperately want to understand them while love and fear them all at once. Painting them within my art deepens that need for me.»

Dave Swensen
Transfixed On The Need To Know, 2024 – Courtesy Dave Swensen, Galleria Ramo | Ph Simon J V David
Dave Swensen
Installation view: I once dreamt of endless rain, Dave Swensen at Galleria Ramo
Written by Giorgia Massari
Listen on