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If you are a Dali lover then you quickly realize how Dali used themes and symbols almost obsessively throughout his art work. For example, melting clocks appear all over Dali’s paintings. You will also see what is considered the typical “Dalinean Landscape” a desolate infinite plane. These aren’t just random objects, these are important symbols which Dali used to convey deep insights about the world. He repeatedly went back to these themes because he thought they best exemplify the message he was trying to tell. We are going to take a briefly look at one of these themes….ANTS!!!
In Dali’s work ants represent decay, decomposition, change. Dali discovered ants as a child. He would see colonies of ants devour entire large animals. He was fascinated by how these tiny insects where able to produce such large changes. Ants are present in Dali’s most famous work, The Persistence of Memory. They are devouring a pocket watch, that is destroying time. They are also present in Dali’s famous film; Un Chien Andalou. Here the ants are devouring the palm of a hand. So ants destroy things, what does this mean. It means it ceases its permanence.
Dali uses ants as a metaphor for our perception of reality. Our perception of reality changes reality. Nothing is permanent, things erode, all things change, even time. What Dali is trying to state is that we are completely tied to our perception. We and our perception are the same, we change, the things in our world change. There is no constant. All things will end. Dali knows that, it is a fear of his too. Dali wishes to be immortal. How can he do this if he too will decay one day, if his legacy will decay? He tries to embrace it. With his ants Dali discovers a universal truth…everything ends.