In this jewel-like collage, throngs of inky black ants swarm across the textured wood-panelled background while in the bottom right-hand corner a cut-out photograph of a half-clothed and frightened young woman seems to shy away from the clusters of grotesque looking insects. As the title makes clear, it is the ants who are the central protagonists of this composition, not the female figure. This work was produced in the same year that Dalí collaborated with Luis Buñuel on Un Chien Andalou, and the use of photography and collage is testament to the artist’s enthusiastic embrace of new mechanical media into his creative process at this time. As the recent exhibition Dalí & Film, in which this work was included, highlighted, Dalí believed that certain cinematic and photographic effects were beyond the reach of painting, notably the representation of metamorphosis. In one memorably provocative episode in Un Chien Andalou, a woman is chased through a claustrophobic room by a man and escapes through a door, trapping the man’s ant-ridden hand in the process. Close-ups of the ants emerging from a hole in the man’s hand are juxtaposed with shots of the woman’s armpit hair, linking the image of the ants with female sexuality. This connection persists in this gouache collage, which can be seen as a companion piece or preparatory sketch for the film. In Dalí and Buñuel's original script, the final scene of the film was to feature the corpses of the man and woman consumed by swarms of insects on the beach, bringing the ant theme to its logical conclusion, but budget restrictions prohibited this special effect and so instead we see the couple buried chest-deep in the sand. Nevertheless the dark mystery and erotic melancholia is all pervasive in the present work, which legend has it Dalí presented to Buñuel as a fitting souvenir of their celluloid collaboration.
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