In September 2010, I was fortunate enough, during the opening of a group exhibition in which I was participating, to visit the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and I chanced upon the magnificent sight of the painting by Salvador Dalí, La Gare De Perpignan (The Station At Perpignan). There in front of the painting, and in full view of my artist friends, I had a marvellous and full-blown religious experience. This is what true art should aspire to do...
This is what true art should aspire to do: at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, I came upon Dalí's painting and gazed into it deeply. I approached, I receded, delighting in the confounding of perception that the painting engendered. I observed the many axes of symmetry and the way the painting could be aligned as a study in depth, a sea scape, a gazing upwards into the beaming sky. Shoes floated above the floor as I looked down, the distant horizon of the sea transformed the looking-downwards into a thousand-yard stare across the waves, and then the opening of light in the cloudy sky had me craning my vision up to the Heavens, all without moving a muscle. The train was arriving above me, yet curiously I could not see underneath it and the falling men somehow also seemed to be lying down. But I was not seeing the whole picture, not by a long way.
Then, a clue to something else.... there seemed to be a red-coloured rip in the canvas which I took to be Dalí being amusing and deconstructing the idea of the canvas as a flat surface. More confounding of perception. Still missing the point.
And then, in the centre, above the light I saw... some thorns... is that a crown of thorns? I approached to within inches of the canvas, gazing at what I now knew I couldn't see. Then, with my nose so close to the image I could enter into it, there exploded in me the vision I had missed. Christ alive!!
Salvador Dalí - La Gare De Perpignan
All of a sudden this painting physically threw me back a full twenty feet as all the breath left my body in a voiceless gasp. Hidden Sacred! Confounded! Physically Moved! Trans-sent! I do not exaggerate. It physically threw my body across the gallery in a profound sacred moment where the painting pulled me into its vision and pushed me backwards in movement undirected by any conscious will that might have remained. My arms flew out, into the same posture that the Living Christ bore, and I entered The Station At Perpignan truly. I stood there, stilled, unwilled, salvic, with eyes wide open and mouth agape. I must have looked odd indeed to the gallery staff, but in my Universe there was only me and Christ, fast uniting in Dalí's vision in paint. We were becoming One.
And it continued. Five minutes, or perhaps an eternity, later I began to approach this sacred work tentatively with soft steps, arms still stretched outwards. All the while my good friend Katarina Tunedal had been sitting behind me watching me and as I got closer, in her view I lined up with the Christ figure in the painting almost perfectly.
"Bruce," she said, breaking the silence "Raise your left hand a little higher." With a mind barely able to comprehend what was happening, I obeyed.
"Raise the other hand a little higher, yes, that's it. That's it. Perfect," she continued, "You are in the painting now."
And that's what Katarina had done: I had entered the image through not seeing Christ until He exploded into me, then she had put me into the painting. I became this painted Christ, hanging there in the cloudy sky, an eternity in five minutes...
...until the spell gently broke and I finally receded, brought my arms down and took a seat. With eyes opened, exhausted, enspirited. This is what true art should aspire to do...
Bruce Rimell, Sep 2010