What first drew you to the works of Leonara Carrington?
We had begun devising a new show. We usually start work asking the group to bring in elements they’re interested in and we throw all that into the space to see if there are any connections. With this process, we’d already brought material around the occult, table rapping and old age. Meanwhile Jon was preparing a lecture on Surrealism and had discovered The Hearing Trumpet. So Jon brought it to the group – and we all read it together and laughed a lot and felt so much affinity with Leonora’s book – especially it’s values… We were also fascinated and astonished by Leonora’s prodigious artistic output.
How did her art and writing feed into each other?
That’s a tough question. The Hearing Trumpet is a book that keeps rewriting rules, constantly morphing… her paintings seem to do that too. To us, they have a veiled quality and are of course full of riddles and jokes and allegories. Having reread the book a lot now, we can see she lays down so many clues at the beginning – which you’re unaware of when you first read it. For instance she references an old rhyme, The Man of Double Deed, in a single passing sentence really early on. The entire last part of the book uses that rhyme as it’s structure. Its an amazing moment when you start to notice those details. And we’re aware there are many we just haven’t spotted yet!
Why was she overlooked? Did the ‘artist’s muse’ label stick to her, or was it just a family nick-name? Was she aware of it?
Well in terms of being overlooked, that’s just in the UK / Europe. In Mexico she is very famous. From what we’ve read and watched, we think she may have been overlooked here because she steadfastly refused to let anyone else define her – or use her as an object. Perhaps she didn’t dance to the tune of gallerists or sellers. The idea of branding, explaining herself, being defined really in any way – other than as a woman and an artist (whatever those things might mean) – seems to have been anathema to her. She absolutely refused to be anyone’s muse – she was her own woman. This is so radical for anyone making anything now where the emphasis is so heavily on definition / description / explanation. It’s very inspiring
How does bricolage theatre compliment her fantastic literature? Do we know enough about her working process to identify a bricolage/ conscious trial and error approach in her own art or writing?
From what we can gather, she would go into her studio everyday saying, “I wonder who I shall meet today” – she seemed totally open to what came through or up or however you want to define it. She seemed to follow cues from her subconscious (though she may have defined it differently… other realities / selves?) without judgement. She was also an avid reader, so had so many resources to draw on. Her technique was extraordinary. The fusion of these things: a belief in self, rich influences, openness to ‘who I shall meet”, a classical technique… and the idea of an alchemical pot where you stir all those things together, seem to make a lot of sense for us as Theatre Bricoleurs… Though who knows if she would like the results!
Tickets available here.
Theatre Delicatessen, The Old Library, 39 Wells Way, London, SE5 0PX