20 November 2011

A great trio from the past - surreal female artists: Remedios Varo, Kati Horn and Leonora Carrington.

Before June 15, 2011 I had never heard about Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington or Kati Horna. It just so happened that I had been reading about Leonora Carrington in Time magazine (June 13, 2011) in the Milestones section. She had passed away at the age of 94. Not that I knew Leonora Carrington very well. But because she was a partner to Max Ernst and I am a big fan of his art it made me curious about hers. I decided to begin a search for this female surrealist painter, sculptor and writer; very much unknown to me. First I went through all my books about surrealism, about modern art history. I found nothing. I searched in the books that I posses about Max Ernst, nothing either. The next step was getting online of course.  I wanted to discover more about her and her art work. Most of the posts I could find online mentioned her death. Independent, Guardian, Telegraph all the papers were telling the story about Britain's lost and unknown great surrealist painter. “English surrealist painter and sculptor regarded as a national treasure in Mexico” (from The Guardian). Within her own family, Leonora Carrington was rarely mentioned, the rebel who had run off to be an artist’s model. But when Joanna Moorhead tracked down her long-lost cousin in Mexico, her eyes were opened to the extraordinary story of the last surviving member of the great Surrealists (from the Daily Telegraph). And so on and so on.

I went to Amazon and did a search for surreal female artists. I ordered three books which were available about female surreal artists. One is an album including paintings of most surreal female artists. The other two are wonderfully written and illustrated books. One is a biography about Remedios Varo (maybe more about her artistic achievement) written by Janet A. Kaplan. The last one is about the friendship and artistic creation of three surreal artists from European backgrounds who all lived and worked in Mexico. I discovered that Leonora Carrington had two very good friends in Remedios Varo and Kati Horna. Remedios Varo was a surreal artist and writer like Leonora Carrington herself. Kati Horna was an exceptionally brilliant photographer.  Kati Horna as well as Remedios Varo were/are incredibly original and talented artists. They are as great as Max Ernst, Man Ray, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Meret Oppenheim or Andre Masson, Paul Klee or Rene Magritte (who by the way wasn’t really a good painter – he was a great illustrator). They are absolutely better than Frida Kahlo (from my point of view).

From the great trio: Carrington, Horna and Varo; works of Remedios Varo and Kati Horna speek/ convince me most.
Kati Horna, Stairway to the Cathedral, photo-montage; Spain 1937

Remedios Varo, Harmony, 1956, oil on masonite.

Remedios Varo, Phenomenon of Weightlessnes, 1963; oil on canvas

The book about Remedios Varo included almost all her work. I fell in love immediately with her paintings. They are amazingly mysterious, scientifically imaginary, mathematically sophisticated and aesthetically absolutely beautiful.
You can probably imagine my feeling of embarrassment, surprise and disbelief that not even in one of the thousands books about art that I own could I find even one mention of her. After seeing her incredibly original art I felt kind of stupid and ashamed that I didn’t know Remedios Varo before. Expect lots of posts about her in the near future from me……..maybe even tomorrow!

1 comment:

kozad said...

I, too am a big Max Ernst fan. My partner and I were in L.A. in March, and LACMA had a fantastic one-of-a-kind show of Surrealist Painters of the Americas (In Wonderland). There I discovered Remedios Varo! My life was changed. She painted things I felt but could never put into words or paint (maybe they are in my music: I wouldn't know.