If I were to name one favorite female artist my choice were most probably Remedios Varo…
Not only because I find her images charmingly unique, mesmerizing and surprising, smart and funny, multi-layered and thought-provoking, beautiful and meticulous in technique, but because her exceptional personality radiates through her works so strongly that if you spend some time with her images you’ll soon feel like you know who she was. I don’t say it’s not a bit irrational to like an unknown person as much as I feel I like her, but irrationality is an absolutely fine approach in her case :):
“I deliberately set out to make a mystical work, in the sense of revealing a mystery, or better, of expressing it through ways that do not always correspond to the logical order, but to an intuitive, divinatory and irrational order.” (Remedios Varo)
I remember first seeing her work on the net a few years ago – it was La Huida – and how I spent the next hours searching to find more of her images, how her world of whimsy human and half-animal creatures engaged in mysterious activities got me totally in. And that when I eventually googled her bio to get to know a few facts about her life I didn’t find out anything that was surprising to me. Not that she had an ordinary life, on the contrary. But the main events and influences in her life – the strict catholic upbringing in Spain, the pre-WWII years in the Surrealist artist circles in Paris, the refuge from the Nazi invasion to Mexico and the decades she spent there, her close friendship with fellow artists like Leonora Carrington and Kati Horna – are all present as hidden and not-so-hidden clues in her paintings.
I think one of the things I really like about her work is that her images are – instead of the traditional interpretation of ‘art’ – rather illustrations to the unusual, playful and versatile thoughts of a very interesting and extraordinary mind. She relates intricate stories or introduces fictional characters with amazing sensibility and creativeness, sometimes with fine sometimes with a downright wicked sense of humor, but principally in all of her images she tells about the unique way she sees the world.
Another aspect I especially adore is the complexity of her artistic techniques perfectly matching the nature of her subjects. In order to achieve a surface that shimmer “with an almost mystical quality…Varo made small scratches across dried layers of gesso-coated hardboard using the crystals she kept at her easel, before applying oil paint. From there, she applied a constellation of techniques, such as decalcomania (pressing and removing another material to wet paint for texture), sgraffito (scratching paint to reveal the gesso beneath for highlights), and soufflage (blowing air through a straw onto thin paint to create patterns). In some works, like “The Juggler,” she inlaid mother-of-pearl to heighten the luminosity.” (conservator Katrina Rush)
I also think that – despite her reputation growing worldwide in the last years – her relative unknownness outside Mexico, her second home, is inexplicable. She was clearly preceding her time, her images are so 21st century and relevant in regard of both visual techniques and message that they could easily be mistaken for a work of a contemporary artist.
More images and prints available in my store.