Project Description

You might not be familiar with the term decalcomania, but together with frottage and grattage, is one of the automatic techniques of the surrealist repertory .

The word decalcomania is a composite word made from the French dècalquer (to trace) + the Latin –manie  (madness). The word decalcomania  was first introduced  in the mid-1930s by the Spanish surrealist artist Oscar Dominguez.

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Oscar Domínguez (1936-37) Detail Decalcomania (gouache transfer) on paper. MoMA

Oscar Domínguez was in Paris at the time experimenting with strokes of gouache between two sheets of paper  gently pressing and rubbing the two pieces together and pulling them apart. In this way a textured surface is revealed, a chance pattern with unpredictable color effects. These random images emerge as a result of chance and chemical and physical properties of the materials.

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Rorschach test

A few years before, in 1921, the Swiss psychoanalyst Hermann Rorschach developed his famous inkblot test. According to the art historians I researched, the surrealists & dadaist did not have any contact with the new developed  theories of psychoanalysis. I do not believe in coincidences.

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Remedios Varo Towards the happiness of women (detail)

After Oscar Dominguez various recognized artists have used this technique to haunt for new imaginery (Max Ernst, or Remedios Varo among others), but, to my view, the results achieved through reprocessing where not too promising. But please judge for yourself.

Contemporary artists like Yoshitaka Iwamoto are experimenting this technique with a new approach (avoiding reprocessing) and very interesting results.

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Yoshitaka Iwamoto (detail)

As you have already guessed, decalcomania is not but  the most intuitive exercise of monotyping, in which the thrill of the alchemy that happens between the plate and the paper is the main source of geometric creativity, the so called fractal geometry, it generates a new language without the constraints of any type of syntax or meaning. Pure beauty.

The encaustic monotype is, to my view, the encaustic-derived technique with more potential, you just have to see the body of work of an artist like Paula Roland. But we will talk about encaustic monotypes in another post.


This post is also available in: Spanish