Friday, 19 April 2013

The Secret of Minos

The eternal drone of a thousand hives of bees

orange grove and flower of prickly pear
create honey of pure, golden sweetness
more constant, unquenchable than any machine.
 Ano Vouves the world’s oldest olive tree
gnarls and twists succulent dark secrets
to fruition even after four thousand years.
Slender many coloured cats brood in its belly.

The Cretan countryside is far older than the ruins of Knossos

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Hazel McKinley; the 31 Women, number nine. Her birthday is 13 April.

Hazel McKinley – 1903-1995 American painter, collector and patron 
(also painted as Hazel King-Farlow )

Born on 30th April 1903 in New York, painter Hazel was the youngest of three daughters of Benjamin Guggenheim and Florette Seligman Guggenheim. Their wealth couldn’t buy freedom from virulent anti-Semitism, the Guggenheim sisters endured a restricted and claustrophobic childhood in the small social circle of super-wealthy New York Jewish families. Both Hazel and her sister Peggy rebelled and moved to Europe in the 1920’s. This was the start of an itinerant life for Hazel, during which she married six times. She lived mainly in England and France from the early 20’s to the 1960’s and from the 1930’s she became friends with principal members of the European avant-garde, whose work she purchased. She spent her later years back in the USA.

Hazel had begun to paint in her teens and was no dilettante. She received tuition from Rowland Suddaby, Raymond Coxon and Edna Ginesi and with them became associated with the London Group and the Euston Road School. She first exhibited her work with them during the 1930’s, under her married name Hazel King Farlow. Hazel’s earlier work from this period includes still-life, townscapes and landscapes carefully painted with a slightly plain palette, somewhat reminiscent of the Parisian artist Utrillo. Later in the thirties her paintings brightened, becoming more like those of her teacher, Suddaby. Her first solo exhibition was at the Cooling Galleries in April 1937. She sold or donated some of her work to public art galleries and her pictures are still held in the municipal collections of several English cities including Wakefield, Manchester and Leeds. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Sonja Sekula; the 31 Women number eight, her birthday is 8 April

Sonja Sekula (1918 –1963) Swiss/American abstract expressionist painter & poet
Sonja Sekula had a significant career for eighteen years and it ought to be difficult to call her a forgotten artist. She was prolific and in her short career her work appeared in 18 solo and 36 group exhibitions, with at least another 30 since her death, mainly in Switzerland. Unfortunately she suffered from mental illness and could not maintain a consistent momentum. Betty Parsons, the New York dealer who promoted her work from 1948, dropped her in 1960.

Sonja Sekula in 1945
Sonja was relatively isolated as a person and as an artist, which was due to her mental health issues and also the fact that she was gay, both socially unacceptable at the time. Her work is classified as abstract expressionist and she showed with the New York School artists both at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery when the movement was in its infancy and for 12 years with Betty Parsons.
Sonja worked in a surrealist manner, using automatic techniques to express her inner world, but although she became friendly with old school surrealists including Andre Breton and Max Ernst, she was really too late for Surrealism, it was past its peak. Visually some of her early work remembers Miro and Klee, but the art world was moving on.
She was young enough to move with it for a while, always maintaining her own creative identity. Her experiments in automatism began in the early 1940’s, steering her in similar directions to other abstract expressionists. She experimented constantly and after each breakdown appeared re-born, with a different stylistic vision, an inconsistency which ultimately alienated the art-buyers. Her final works are gestural, spare and Zen-like.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Leonora Carrington. The 31 Women Project, Number Seven - 6 April is her Birthday

Leonora Carrington was a rebel of the most superior and committed type. Born in England in 1917, into a wealthy family, she would not submit to the restrictive propriety that was expected of upper-middle class girls in those days. She needed to be creative and was totally out of place in a conventional family, the one thing she could share with them was a love of horse riding. The horse became symbolic of her freedom in many of her paintings.  As a child, only her Irish grandmother’s fables allowed her imagination free reign. She drew on the walls until her mother, an amateur painter, gave her paper and paints. She wrote in mirror writing and with either hand, which freaked the nuns out at her convent school. She started smoking aged nine and later, when sent to a posh finishing school, she ran away.

She eventually persuaded her reluctant father to let her study art in London, his price was to force her to ‘come out’ as a debutante in 1935. Leonora was unimpressed at meeting the king and hated the frock she had to wear for her coming out ball. The occasion prompted her to write a story in which her place was taken by a smelly hyena, who had just eaten Leonora’s maid and wore the maid’s face to attend the ball. Everybody was too ‘polite’ to comment, until the hyena ate the face and escaped through an open window.

Leonora studied at Chlesea Art School and then under painter Amedee Ozenfant, who had set up a small school. She said that Ozenfant was the first person to not denigrate her need to be an artist and he taught her rigour in her work. Eventually she ran away to be an artist in Paris and lived with surrealist painter Max Ernst. Beginning her artistic life as a surrealist, she was able to let go of her prolific imagination and with it she ran much further than most of her fellow surrealists, whose work is often mundane by comparison. Some of her early paintings and stories were full of her anger towards her father and the English establishment.

During this period, Leonora formed strong friendships with the other surrealist women including Eileen Agar, Nush Eulard, Leonor Fini, Jacqueline Lamba, Lee Miller, Meret Oppenheim and Dora Maar. These women are now considered a surrealist group in their own right, apart from the men, though in her rebellious fashion Carrington declared, “I was never a Surrealist, I was just with Max”.