Sunday, September 1, 2013

The icons of Remedios Varo



The difference between fantasy and imagination is coherence. The 'imaginal' world (to use Henri Corbin's expression for the world poised between the transcendence of intellect and the flowing formations of sense) has a precision of signing that reminds you of language. This world is real, not a fantasy, even as it takes you beyond sense. Remedios Varo may have begun in the fantasy of surrealism, a liberation into the 'unconscious' but she emerged with her own defined world of the 'imaginal'. She represents a challenge to the traditional world of the 'imaginal', that is religious art, because her signs are not immediately recognisable within a tradition of making. They need both a more patient and individual approach (and they are often a gifted with a greater sense of humour) yet they are continually recognised as importing something known and as important.

As here above with the moon's light a dynamic presence in a sheltering, mystical wood, guarded by a feminine presence. The moon lives, and in living sways the moods and modes of human being.

Or as here below, where the shadow takes on the pre-eminent significance and the persona is left to trail as shadow. How accurate is this as a reflection on our continuing fate not to be the person we imagine and project but yet something other, drawn by forces that we do now acknowledge, do not know.


I think of her paintings as icons within a unique individual tradition that set us a task. No longer does our religious language set for us, immediately, effective signs. We are called to acts of patient, individual interpretation yet they bear, when seen, the same universal truths.

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