The Simply Complex


Simple/Complex, Genius/Mad: Studies in Duality

Today I’m going to leave behind the probing into mental illness and instead show some wonderful examples of duality.  Some of them are madness that straddles genius, and I’m certainly not the first person or the last to express that idea.  So in the spirit of simplicity and complexity and of genius/madness, I want to show you some examples of the duality of life as expressed by some great artists.


To Begin With, There’s This Guy

Where to begin with Salvador Dali?  I certainly cannot explain his madness but he undoubtedly had his methods down.  Genius?  Yes, indeed.  His works changed the art world and introduced Surrealism to a wide and interested public.  When Dali expressed his thinking and spirit through any media imaginable, the world took notice and millions of artists studied what the master was doing.  But we’re talking about duality in this post, and here’s the perfect example:


Dali Atomicus, Salvador Dali/Philippe Halsman, 1948

Simple elements that come together in a bombastic, energetic and simply spectacular way.  No one but Dali could have come up with this and only photographer Philippe Halsman (who had 101 Life Magazine covers under his belt) could have captured the collaboration.  When you consider the year it was created and the then-emerging atomic age that had already changed the world, this photo is one of the most influential works in Dali’s (and Halsman’s) career.  The fusion of these simple elements with that remarkable energy shows duality in a dynamic, fantastic way.


Arearea, Paul Gauguin, 1891

What could be simpler than two women in a village?  But when it’s Gauguin, all bets are off when it comes to intense and incredible color and spectacular composition.  It was he that painted Tahitian women (including his mistress) in tones and hues that rocked the art world in Paris in the late 1800s.

Duality?  Again, simplicity, elegance and complexity of color.  Not to mention the spirit that is infused throughout his painting of the period.  Wow.  So you get the idea of where I’m going with this: duality is the first step to looking at a thing, an emotion, a person in a non-myopic view.  It’s the beginning of seeing in multiple dimensions.  It is the very first step toward seeing the world in a new and different way than you may have been taught.  It’s freedom.  It’s the outward expansion of an internal view.  It changes your world.

Enjoy the works.


Four Apples, Paul Cezanne (1829-1906)


Cala Lily (Detail), Photographer Unknown


Houses of Parliament, Claude Monet, 1904



Simplicity and Duality in Words

I could have included thousands of quotes to show duality in thinking and speech rather than in painted media, but these two struck me as important.  Of course, Coco Chanel is one of the most complex women (next to Hypatia) that I know.  And that quote is dead-on from an emotional perspective.

And Johnny Depp I just flat-out respect for realizing that it takes strength to cry.  Duality at it’s best.


And lastly, this simple graphic (artist unknown) is perhaps the very best example I can show of duality.  The door is open or the door is closing.  And that’s exactly what life gives you, both of them at the same time.  That is the most wonderful example of what we who are mentally ill (and everyone else, too) must consider: the way to leave behind the worst of ourselves that we may come to the best of ourselves.  Living with complexity in an unending search for simplicity.

Hope you liked the images and the sentiment.


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