Dec 13, 2022
Tere Arcq on Remedios Varo
THIS WEEK on the GWA Podcast, for the very special 100th EPISODE, we interview art historian and leading curator of Surrealist and feminist art in Mexico and beyond, Tere Arcq on REMEDIOS VARO!
Born in Spain, and raised in a strict Catholic schooling – from which she rebelled – Varo, in 1937, moved to Paris to join the Surrealists. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and unable to return to her home country, Varo, by 1941, escaped to Mexico. It was here where she found refuge, befriending the likes of Leonora Carrington and Kati Horna, and made the most extraordinary and meticulous paintings.
Often exploring alchemy and magic, her paintings tend to focus on a single, isolated figure in an otherworldly realm. With striking features – allegedly based on her own looks – her protagonists, often female, appear like hybridised creatures. One of my favorites is (image 1) – The Call, from 1961, presents a woman, holding a pestle and mortar, walking through a corridor of tree-like figures who meditavely loom by the side, emphasising the sounds of silence, an aura of mystery, and the idea of practising something in secret!
Whenever I see a painting by Remedios Varo, I feel transfixed by their mystical and metaphysical atmosphere. They are meticulously rendered - almost renaissance-like - works of these women who seem to be trapped in towers, on a quest to reach a higher state of consciousness or living in another surrealist world. They are at once haunting, mesmeric, glowing and magical.
A professor in art history based in Mexico City, Tere Arcq has been the Chief Curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico and has curated exhibitions on women surrealists around the world. In 2012 she curated In Wonderland: The Adventures of Women Surrealists LACMA in addition to exhibitions at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Quebec and here in the UK where she was a co-curator of the 2010 exhibition Surreal Friends: Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Kati Horna at Pallant House gallery.
With more curatorial projects in the pipeline, very excitingly, Tere is a co-curator of the upcoming retrospective at the Chicago Art Institute for summer 2023 on the artist we are very excitingly talking about today, the Surrealist Remedios Varo.
2021 New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/24/obituaries/remedios-varo-overlooked.html
NMWA biography: https://nmwa.org/art/artists/remedios-varo/
2000 New York Times on her scientific interest: https://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/11/science/scientific-epiphanies-celebrated-on-canvas.html
Website with all her works: https://totallyhistory.com/remedios-varo-paintings/
Guardian review of Pallant House exhibitions Surreal Friends with Leonora Carrington and Kati Horna https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jun/18/surrealist-muses-who-roared-mexico
Eyes on the table (1938) https://totallyhistory.com/remedios-varo-paintings/
The Juggler (The Magician), (1956)https://www.moma.org/collection/works/291307 Audio guide: https://www.moma.org/audio/playlist/296/3792
Celestial Pablum (1958)
Triptych: Towards the Tower (1961) Embroidering the Earth’s Mantle (1961) The Escape (1962)https://www.gallerywendinorris.com/artists-collection/remedios-varo https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/24/obituaries/remedios-varo-overlooked.html
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Research assistant: Viva Ruggi
Sound editing by Nada Smiljanic
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield
THIS EPISODE IS GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY CHRISTIES: www.christies.com