Yves Tanguy, Le fond de la tour, 1933,
Oil on canvas, 65 x 54 cm, © 2011 ProLitteris, Zurich
This is a puzzling picture that we´re about to get into. There´s nothing familiar about it, there are no recognizable forms. The blue is suggestive of a sky – but it could just as well be an ocean and we could be on the ocean floor. Do we see strangely constructed life forms here, or are they non-life forms?
The title “The heart of the tower” provokes more confusion than enlightenment. Where is the tower here anyway? Despite the small format of the 1933 painting Yves Tanguy managed to show a whole completely new and unknown world. It´s a world that one would like to step into and explore. But obviously what we´re seeing here is more an intellectual, perhaps emotional landscape. The co-founder of Surrealism, André Breton wrote: “With Tanguy we enter for the first time a world of total concealment. Here the elixir of life is opened; the whole dusty sediment of our frail existence is left behind.”
Work on “The heart of the tower” began during a period of artistic upheaval for Tanguy. During a trip to Africa in 1931, he stopped painting intuitively as he had done until then, and began sketching his compositions first. But then he reached the conclusion: “If I draw the picture before with a pencil on the canvas, I no longer experience any surprises when painting. And that is exactly what is the most fun about painting – the surprise.”
And so he resumed his former method of working intuitively with one form giving rise to the next. “The heart of the tower” is one of the first works that Tanguy again produced quite spontaneously and intuitively. He pronounced: “I expect nothing from my conscious thinking. By the same token I have much more confidence in my instincts.”