Seeking the Marvellous: Ithell Colquhoun, British Women & Surrealism conference
by Jessica Holliland
Ithell Colquhoun by Alastair Thain
With feminism and equality being such a vital discussion in our society today, I am not surprised to see Plymouth College of Art striving to break conventions and challenge the artistic canon with their upcoming conference. Working with international research collaborative Black Mirror they will welcome academics and students from across the globe to uncover talented, important female figures in surrealist and occult art history for a 2 day symposium this March here in Plymouth.
Ithell Colquhoun will be the focus for the conference. A powerful and active painter during her lifetime, she visited renowned arts institutions building her practice in surrealism and the occult. She was an engaged member of the Surrealists both with her visual work and her written; an acknowledged authority on the occult, her writing ranged from contributions to such periodicals as Prediction to a short fiction work, The Goose of Hermogenes (1961). She settled in Cornwall in the late 1940s and lived here until her death in 1988, building longstanding ties to the South West. As with many female artists there has been a lack of prominent research done on her work, and her name is largely lost in the art canon – but Seeking the Marvellous aim to redress that.
The symposium will re-examine Colquhoun and her place both in art history and in the history of occultism, as well as pulling other bold and exciting surrealist women artists forward from the archives of art history. The 2-day conference will welcome speakers from around the world to discuss her visual and written works, and of course the legacy of her art after her death. Keynote speakers will include renowned international experts Susan Aberth, Amy Hale and Victoria Ferentinou. The symposium seeks to draw out connections in Colquhoun’s work and explore other prominent British female surrealists including Leonora Carrington, Valentine Penrose, Virginia Woolf, Stella Snead and Velona Pilcher through discussion, performance and film footage.
Ithell Colquhoun – Seeking the Marvellous PCA conference
Bringing the conversation of Colquhoun’s work to the south west, where she lived for over 40 years, also ties in with the showing of some of her paintings in the Tate St Ives exhibition, “Virginia Woolf: Paintings Inspired By Her Writings” which is on display until April 29th. Laura Smith, the curator of the show at Tate St Ives, will also join us as one of the speakers at Seeking The Marvellous. The conference isn’t only for researchers and academics, bookings are open to all who have an interest in the subject and the college are able to offer a generous concession for students and other groups.
You can find more details and booking information here.