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Gabriella Boyd: illustrating dreams, as interpreted by Freud

Published 29 February 2016

How do you illustrate a dream – or harder still, Freud’s interpretation of it? RA Schools student Gabriella Boyd has done just that in a new edition of Interpreting Dreams by the Folio Society.

  • Dreams are strange. At once universal and personal, they can be hard to remember, difficult to forget and impossible to describe. For Sigmund Freud, the unconscious images that are roused during sleep were rarely what they seemed, and so, in 1900, he began writing what would become the seminal work on the subject, Interpreting Dreams. Combining anecdote and analysis, it was a controversial study that changed the way we think about ourselves.

    The Folio Society’s stylish new edition of Interpreting Dreams illuminates Freud’s theories with ten original illustrations by Royal Academy Schools student Gabriella Boyd. These arresting images are inspired by dreams reported in the book, such as one patient’s dream of riding a horse (left): “I now feel better and better all the time on this highly intelligent horse; I am sitting comfortably and increasingly feel very much at home here”.

    The people in Boyd’s images are never presented whole. She uses the frame to sever a head or cut off a calf and believes this allows her paintings “to become fragments for the viewer to grasp and work from, like a fragment of a dream”. She collapses the difference between real and imagined space as she seeks to create, in her words, “a believable atmosphere, one that you could almost inhabit” but not quite believe. The result is a collection of enigmatic images that complement and complicate Freud’s ideas.

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