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Mort-Ilaleur, 1946

graphite and wax pencil on paper

Mort-Ilaleur is a drawing that Roberto Matta made in 1946. The drawing is made following the technique of automatic writing, here transposed into the drawing. The surrealists believed in spontaneous creation: one must let the hand do the work; one must let the forms come without being too conscious of them. The surrealists, including Matta, are strongly interested in dreams, psychoanalysis, and the existence of the subconscious: that's where this method comes from, the artist leaves room for the “other one” living in him to create the work. Thus, we find some motifs that Matta already draws in other works, such as Saint-Sébastien ou la douceur de vivre (1943): he undoubtedly lets his memory expresses itself. But the context of this drawing is not the same as in 1943. The war is certainly over, but its memory is still present. In 1946, Matta drew for Denis de Rougemont Les Lettres sur la bombe atomique, dropped by the Americans on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a year earlier. He has a strong interest in these issues, both horrifying and fascinating. The title of Mort-Ilaleur indicates the morbid dimension of the drawing and some of the figures are reminiscent of planes or warships. In addition, the blue-rimmed forms evoke a land bordered by water, seen from the air: Japan? It is impossible to determine exactly what Matta is drawing, but the doubt reinforces our implication to discern the drawing. In 1946, the world also discovered the horrors and genocide perpetrated by the Nazis. On the right side of the painting, we can see human heads, with shaved heads and bulging eyes, standing behind barbed wire.

This drawing is also reminiscent of the series of "Psychological Morphologies" that Matta realized throughout his career. It is the omnipresence of biomorphism, i.e., the representation of humanoid figures and forms, that recalls this series. Just as in dreams, the representation does not need to be plausible to mean something. The figure on the right, for example, looks like a spine, so each vertebra is what looks like a human head. The elements here are all reminiscent of the idea of death in some way, both in themselves and through the

connection that can be made with the other figures that Matta draws. This drawing is like a nightmare, expressing the anguish and fear of war, at a time when Europe and the world are finally waking up.

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