Visit to the Eileen Agar Exhibition

Margot A. Loudon Non classé

Here I give my impressions of the Eileen Agar exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, https://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/eileen-agar/

At last, I was back in London catching up with a changed city. Once the required quarantine was over, I booked for several exhibitions. Going back to my academic routes, I relished the impressive exhibition on Nero at the British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/nero-man-behind-myth . I enjoyed the Dubuffet at the Barbican Art Gallery, Jean Dubuffet Public Programme | Barbican, and  the Tate’s exhibition of Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp – Exhibition at Tate Modern | Tate.  Well done, Tate Modern, on bringing Sophie out from her husband’s shadow.  All these were great experiences.  However, in this blog I am sharing my experience of another woman artist over whose work I lingered and  which I found inspiring, Eileen Agar at the Whitechapel Gallery.

I knew something about Eileen Agar but I had never before appreciated the range of her work. I thought of her as a Surrealist. However, after this retrospective I think that while some works displayed show surrealist leanings, especially her earlier works, and there were Cubist influences, her work is too personal and unique to carry labels.

I found that several works chimed with my own artistic aspirations. Many paintings on display were more abstract than I had expected to find them, but often on those fine boundaries between abstract and figurative, the territory that I aim for in my own work. And the colours are joyous, her compositions bold and dynamic, and her work in whatever medium brims with energy while often maintaining a delicacy of touch. Her work has a sense of fun too.

I was also pleased to find references to Cycladic sculptures in her painting and to note that the titles of several works relate to Greek myths. Needless to say I was delighted to see her interest in the menhirs, standing stones and rock shapes.

From a technical point of view, I was struck by her versatility. She was a printer as well as oils and acrylic  painter. But I also loved her use of collage/assemblage, and frottage, often in combination with watercolour or pastels. She found inspiration in found objects. I should perhaps be looking at my own collection of archaeological fragments, stones etc with my artistic hat on. In any case I vowed to be more experimental, or should that be playful.

Finally, I found inspiring her own summing up of her art

One must have hunger for new colour, new shapes, and new possibilities of discovery.

If I had not been so constrained by my post-quarantine schedule, I would certainly have revisited this wonderful exhibition.