Eileen Agar exhibition 27 May – 30 August 2015 : Gallery 4 , Henry Moore institute , Leeds

The exhibition was called “Natural Readymades” and was clearly built around the following piece which is a kind of 3d collage or assemblage comprising the top of a Greek amphora found caught in a fisherman’s net , a starfish , a skeleton and a ram’s horn found in a field . It does look good .

Marine Object 1939

Marine Object 1939

However there are only 6 other pieces in the exhibition and the attempt to put them all in the same category is a bit strained !

Untitled Box 1935

Untitled Box 1935

Collaged Head 1937

Collaged Head 1937

Here are : another assemblage featuring bits of coral and a seahorse , and a collage using an underwater picture or wallpaper . Maybe by ‘natural’ the curator really meant ‘marine’ ? If so then the 4 black&white photographs completing the exhibition do not fit – only 2 are clearly taken on the shore .

The real problem is that Eileen Agar was so prolific , did such a variety of work and was so long lived (1899-1991) that almost any argument could be made about her work if you take such a tiny sample . The Tate archive of 861 photos includes eg domestic snaps of her cat , Bella . Her assemblages and collages include all kinds of non-natural components eg her many decorated heads . And the natural components are often non-marine eg leaves . Are they  really ‘readymades’ ? Why isn’t Georgia O’Keeffe’s skull with artificial flowers called a ‘natural readymade’ ?

I find Eileen Agar’s work so fascinating that I was looking forward to this exhibition but it was so disappointing . I suppose the curator has ‘provoked a reaction’ but it was not about Agar’s work . So if you do go and see this then afterwards do yourself a favour and look her up online or in any book on the Surrealists – she was the only woman invited to take part in the 1st International Surrealist Exhibition 1936 .


About rukshanaafia

Ceramic & textile artist
This entry was posted in non-figurative scupture, other artists. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Eileen Agar exhibition 27 May – 30 August 2015 : Gallery 4 , Henry Moore institute , Leeds

  1. dapherbs says:

    So often one wants to see an artist’s work and celebrate it so to speak; whereas the curator is promoting themselves……

  2. rukshanaafia says:

    I suppose the art theory industry needs PhD subjects !

  3. kathy bergen says:

    The other pieces do look contrived. I once did a project in an art class where we used “found objects” and made something useful and decorative with them…I loved that project. None of these are like the finished projects in that class. Didn’t Georgia O’keeffe use the skull bone and artificial flowers as a reference for her painting…and not as a finished 3-D piece?

  4. rukshanaafia says:

    Yes she did . What I meant is that painters often put together or find interesting groups of objects to paint and maybe don’t get enough credit for doing so . Eileen Agar worked in painting , sculpture & photography . She also did lots of fun things and didn’t have a clear demarcation line between that and ‘serious’ art . She was 1st noticed by the surrealists for her crazy hats made while studying painting in Paris .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s