“The figure of the witch was explored extensively by many female Surrealists working in Paris and Latin America in the 20th century, where artists such as Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington used the image of the sorceress as a means of liberating their subconscious minds from the binds of wider patriarchal societies. Previously depicted as a taboo figure shunned from communities, these painters repositioned the witch as an icon of empowerment; through her they could transform ideas of gender and sexuality – ironically unravelling the Freudian symbolism of broom-riding women – and raise imagery from the depths of their subconscious,” LAMB Gallery founder, Lucinda Bellm, tells Something Curated.
Open now and running until 20 December 2023, LAMB presents an exhibition investigating the resonance of the witch in art history through the works of 10 female artists inspired by Surrealism. The works span from the beginnings of the movement to the present. Though the movement has been largely male dominated, women have long employed its practices, with Mexico becoming an early nucleus of female Surrealists including Frida Kahlo, Carrington, Varo and more. Often drawing on the figure of the witch, the magical entity gradually became a vehicle for women artists to release the depth of their dreams and explore ideas of gender and sexuality.
On the thinking behind the selection of artists included in the upcoming show, Bellm explains to SC: “By presenting the work of today’s exciting emerging talent alongside legendary voices, the exhibition creates a conversation around depictions of the witch and how it has evolved over time. The participating artists are all female and influenced by Surrealism: a movement which is epitomised in Leonora Carrington’s dreamy works. Her series of witch hats became the perfect departure point for our exploration, with Paula Rego, another participating artist, whose work provides a more historic take on “the witch.””
Elaborating on Carrington’s works included in the exhibition, Bellm notes: “The series of witch hats from Carrington were discovered in the belongings of fellow Surrealist Leonor Fini, who was a longtime friend. Found when Fini died, the five gouaches came from a commission – she had to design a set of hats in Paris. Carrington collaborated with her on the project, which was meant to result in a joint show, which sadly never happened. Now, the series serves as a testament to the close friendship between the two artists and their shared fascination with witchcraft.”
“From there, we wanted to continue our ongoing work of supporting up-and-coming artists across Latin America and Europe. These new commissions, including works from the wonderful Alma Berrow, Tali Lennox, and Sophie von Hellermann, bring this exploration up to date to today’s landscape,” Bellm continues. And on what she hopes to achieve through this exhibition, she proclaims: “To provide a compelling overview of how depictions of these broom-riding women have evolved over time, particularly exploring the witch’s reinvigoration in art and longstanding feminist significance.”
Feature image: Paula Turmina, Sattelized rotation, 2023. Courtesy of the artist. Surrealism and Witchcraft runs at LAMB Gallery, London from 16 November – 20 December 2023.