German-born painter, sculptor and graphic artist, Max Ernst was a pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism. He was a self-taught artist who developed the new artistic techniques, frottage, grattage, and decalcomania, in order to stimulate the flow of imagery from his unconscious. Ernst incorporated these accidental patterns into his art by free association ( a Freudian concept), for example in paintings such as “The Great Forest” and “The Temptation of St. Anthony” and the famous “Forest and Dove”.
During his studies at the University of Bonn he became fascinated with the art of mentally ill while visiting asylums. In 1911 Ernst befriended August Macke, German Expressionist painter, joined the Die Rheinischen Expressionisten group and abandoned his studies for painting. During World War I Ernst was drafted to the artillery division where he directly experienced the drama and bloodshed of trench warfare. War had a devastating effect on the artist and left him deeply traumatized. He describes this experience in his autobiography: “On the first of August 1914 M.E. died. He was resurrected on the eleventh of November 1918.” The war formed artist’s vision of modern world as irrational and left him alienated from European traditions and conventional values. This idea became the basis of his art. Memories of war and childhood led Ernst to create absurd, dream imagery and apocalyptic scenes. After his return from the front, influenced by the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and inspired by illustrated catalogues, scientific manuals and such, Ernst created his first collages. By working on these fantastical and irrational images Ernst dealt with his post-war trauma. The influence of de Chirico is also strongly present in one of the most famous paintings of Ernst from this early period, “Celebes”. In 1919 Ernst, who converted to Dada, a nihilistic art movement, together with Jean Arp and several other colleagues, formed the Dada artists group in Cologne. Together with Arp, Ernst caused quite a scandal with the Dada exhibition set in a public restroom where visitors were welcomed by a young girl reciting obscene poetry. Ernst presented his sculpture there accompanied by an axe as an invitation for the audience to destroy the artwork.
In 1922 Ernst moved to Paris, where he became one of the founding members of the Surrealist movement, which had its roots in Dada and drew elements from Cubism and Expressionism. Surrealists strongly embraced the ideas of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud such as “ The Interpretation of Dreams” and the unconscious. This was particularly appealing to Ernst who already in the early years was interested in psychology. Probably influenced by the writings of Freud, Ernst painted “ Men Shall Know Nothing of This”. In 1926 Ernst created another controversy with his blasphemous and humorous painting “The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child Before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard, and the Painter”. Not everyone saw humour in it and the work was received as an attack on Christianity and western values.
At least two paintings of Max Ernst amongst six hundred and fifty works of art were on display at Hitler’s 1937 infamous exhibition “Degenerate Art” in Munich. In 1941, Ernst, chased by the Gestapo, fled from France to become a refugee in New York. There he married Peggy Guggenheim, niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, gallery owner and patron of arts. After a few years they divorced. In New York, along with other great avant-garde artists like Marcel Duchamp and Piet Mondrian, Ernst had a huge influence on young American painters, in particular on abstract Expressionist, especially on Jackson Pollock. In 1946 Ernst moved to Sedona, Arizona, with his fourth wife, the American painter Dorothea Tanning. He returned to France in 1953. Ernst was active as an artist up until his death in Paris in 1976.
“Every normal human being (and not merely the ‘artist’) has an inexhaustible store of buried images in his subconscious, it is merely a matter of courage or liberating procedures … of voyages into the unconscious, to bring pure and unadulterated found objects to light.”
– Max Ernst
Sunny Side-Up, Grilled Sweet Potato and Roasted Kale
“The Embalmed Forest” of Max Ernst is beautiful but also a bit frightening. The trees look bizarre and abstract. Dark and mysterious German forest is a reoccurring theme in Ernst’s works. It represents childhood memories, but also post-war trauma of the artist. In the centre of the painting we see a child-like drawing of a bird, seems to be a dove. Ernst had a fascination with birds. In his paintings he used a bird as his alter ego and called it Loplop. “The Embalmed Forest” is also a perfect example of grattage, a technique where the artist by scraping the paint across the canvas creates a rough texture that adds another dimension to the painting, and in this example amplifies the density of the forest.
Fun fact: Yuliya Kozhemyako created a game called “La Forêt” inspired by Max Ernst’s paintings of mysterious forests.
I’ve been pretty busy lately, both at work and home. Working hours seem longer and the days are getting shorter and shorter. When you start it’s still dark and when you finish it’s already dark. Winter is coming. These days we naturally feel more tired, less energetic. Days are darker and much colder so it’s very important to pack up on some good nutrients. This is why on my day off I decided to make a “breakfast of the vegetarian champions”.
Kale is a sort of cabbage and is very high in nutrients and very low in calories, making it one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. Kale is overloaded with vitamin K and also a rich source of vitamins A, C and B6. This leafy green is very high in antioxidants and a good source of important minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium. Kale is one of the worlds oldest cultivated vegetables and was very popular in Europe until the Middle Ages.
Sweet potato is only a distant relative of the potato. Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and are one of the oldest vegetables known to man. They have been domesticated thousands of years ago in Central America. Christopher Columbus brought sweet potatoes to Europe after his first voyage to the New World in 1492. By the 16th century, they were brought to the Philippines by Spanish explorers and to Africa, India, Indonesia and southern Asia by the Portuguese. Sweet potatoes have many health benefits as they are a great source of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and blood sugar-regulating nutrients.
- 500g curly kale, leaves coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 garlic, sliced
- 1 small chili, sliced
- 1-2 sweet potato, washed and cut into 5mm-thick slices
- 1 garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
- 2 Tbsp sunflower oil
- coriander, few leaves
- lime juice, few drops
- 2 eggs
- salt and pepper, to season
Wash and dry the sweet potato. Slice it on the bias into thin, even slices. Preheat the grill pan. Pour the sunflower oil into a small bowl. Brush the slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill them on each side until nicely marked. Transfer the slices of sweet potato onto a baking tray. Mix chopped garlic and smoked paprika powder into a bowl with sunflower oil. Pour the mix over the grilled sweet potato slices. Set aside.
Rinse kale and pad dry with a kitchen towel. Separate the leaves and weigh to get about 400-500 grams. Cut off the stems, slice the leaves in half and remove the ribs. Chop the leaves coarsely. Remove the excess water from the chopped kale in a salad spinner. Preheat the oven to 200C. In a large bowl, toss the kale with sesame and canola oil, garlic, chilli, salt and pepper to taste. Spread the kale on a large baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly.
Meanwhile toast the sesame seeds on a dry pan over medium heat. When they turn light brown, transfer immediately from the pan into a dish.
Place the baking tray with sweet potato in the oven 10 minutes after kale. Continue to roast the kale until tender and crisp on edges. Sweet potato slices are ready when a fork goes through without resistance.
Bake your sunny side-up the way you like it just before the roasted vegetables are ready.
When ready, sprinkle the roasted kale with toasted sesame seeds. Squeeze some lime juice over the grilled sweet potato and top with coriander leaves. Serve warm together with fried egg.