The Artist Who Embraced the Occult and Defied the Surrealists
British artist Ithell Colquhoun’s uncanny paintings are full of androgynous gods, murderous goddesses, yoni-like fruit, and disembodied, fleshy parts floating across hallucinatory, dreamlike landscapes. “My life is uneventful, but I sometimes have an interesting dream,” Colquhoun said in 1939. This is a somewhat understated explanation of her work. Active in the Surrealist movement, Colquhoun was a contemporary of artists such as Salvador Dalí and André Breton, but her lifelong involvement with occult groups saw her ostracized from the movement and from the British Surrealist Group in 1940. Colquhoun’s name has been largely omitted from art-historical narratives, but that might soon change. The Tate recently acquired the archive of her work, marking a pivotal step in recognizing Colquhoun’s contributions to Surrealism.