Fish Magic and the circular journey of the unconscious

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BUY THE ‘FISH MAGIC’ POSTER HERE: Fish Magic by Paul Klee – Stockholm Art House

“Art does not reproduce what is visible, but makes visible what is not always visible.”

This phrase by Paul Klee encapsulates part of his poetics and translates aesthetically into the graffiti technique the artist uses in the painting ‘Fish Magic’ of 1925.

The surface of the painting is dark, a formless backdrop; like before the creation and explosion of life that was the big bang: in the beginning was darkness. This darkness is the stuff of the unconscious, hidden beneath the façade of things and even of ourselves, difficult to detect and understand, which seems to be a real mystery. Knowing our unconscious, like the secrets of existence, is an arduous if not impossible task, a heroic challenge that not all of us are prepared to undertake. Mirror, mirror on the wall, what are the pieces of my whole?

Shining in the dark

Klee’s magic fish do not claim to be truth but only light that illuminates the darkness. They are inhabitants of the dark, creatures of the subconscious. The artist scratches the surface of the unconscious and the canvas, beneath which lie hidden but vivid characters, plants, colours, shapes and visions. The meaning of this technical operation is salvific and vital, showing how, in the abyss of the sea and dark ignorance, there are small shimmering animals that stir the waters and follow the currents. Fish are desires, stories and tales, flashes of ideas and ideals, nocturnal dreams emerging from the dark night. They are games that wallow in the density of existence, they are colourful, childlike fantasies, impulses that consciously or unconsciously guide people’s hopes and actions.

Rare and precious fish

Are these fishes to be believed or not? To these exotic and esoteric life forms?

The crux of these manifestations is that fish do not care to be believed; their existence is not

is determined by external acceptance. We believe that we see and control everything, that we have the complete picture of things, but deep within the sea, the unconscious and the past centuries of life, lie essences and coincidences of which we are completely unaware: unseen fish, rare and precious animals. You think you know every inch of who you are but you forget that there exists, in the most hidden and inseparable part of you, a snail fish that wags its tail and that, although it is relegated down in a place unreachable by the intellect, it releases jelly and visceral thoughts. You forget, then, that distant dream, remained childhood and locked in a bubble, which was nothing but the bowl of a fish and the dream lies there, a fish viper that turns and turns in the sphere and now and then shows its teeth; you perceive only its shapeless gleams, because you have pulled down the shutter and darkness has filled the room.

Accustoming the senses

Just when everything is dark and silent, however, it is easier to see light, perceive movement, hear rustling noises; you just have to get your senses used to the darkness. It takes a while and it is annoying at first because you have the impression that you are blind; but when you get used to it, you can really get through the darkness, you can even feed on it. Scales shimmer, bubbles bubble transparently, nothing is really clear, but everything actually seems complete: an accurate picture that you could scratch a little more, still as long as we are alive and decide we want to know ourselves a little more.

Watching them swim

What to do with these fish? Should we fish them and bring them to the surface or leave them hidden in the seabed? Surely it is important to preserve their wildness and strangeness, not to force them into sunlit aquariums by the sun or serve them as the main course during the lunch of logic. Precisely in their nature irrational, ugly and abnormal nature lies their power and the key we can use to clarify our essence. The fish must be watched, allowing ourselves to be hypnotised by their regular and incessant swimming: a meditation, a continuous repetition that allows one to discover something more about them at every moment. We have to observe the flashes that flicker in front of us and quickly disappear because they are intermittent lights that momentarily illuminate the dark parts of us. They are a means to see into the dark corners of being.

Currents in the ocean

The fish are not immobile and swim from you to me and vice versa; they have even found a collective current, which roughly passes us all through and connects common beliefs and thoughts. The fish know you but do not judge you and therefore do not want boundaries to delimit them. Darkness is their home, although they don’t mind occasionally being fished out and having their essence shine through like a bolt of lightning, like a eureka, like a ray of energy that travels up the spine and explodes in the brain, like the electric flow of the current that swims along the cables of light. The fish are like that, swimming, bobbing, dancing in their flow, the immense ocean is their home and they are not afraid of the absence of walls and boundaries. On the contrary, it is in the sphericity of the globe that they best feel the freedom of being able to be there today and not tomorrow, of being able to wander eternally, aware that they will always find their way back because in the oceans of the unconscious, the journey is circular.


Fish Magic by Paul Klee – Stockholm Art House

Author Details
Set builder, decorator and graphic designer. She loves looking at art and getting emotional.
Paola D'Andrea
Set builder, decorator and graphic designer. She loves looking at art and getting emotional.
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