(Photograph of Meirian Jump Library manager and archivist.)
SOME REVIEWS OF OUR CENTRAL LONDON LAUNCH LAST WEEK:
‘Through an Artist’s Eye’ is a brilliant use of visual arts and poetry to tell us more than can be read in conventional histories about the short but extraordinary life of Felicia Browne. Together, Sonia Boué and Jenny Rivarola demonstrate the power of art to fill those imaginative spaces and at the same time bring Felicia’s inspiring work and example to new audiences.”
Jim Jump, Journalist, Secretary of International Brigade Memorial Trust
“I should like to congratulate the instigators of this most inspiring evening. The film, the lecture by Professor Tom Buchanan, the works of art and the poems by Sonia Boue and Jenny Rivarola respectively did much to bring this heroic but largely unknown woman/artist to life. With the ghost of Lorca hovering in the background I had a most delightful experience. The final treat was the booklet of Sonia’s paintings and Jenny’s poems responding to the life of Felicia Browne to take home with me. I shall relish it.”
Through an Artist’s Eye: Felicia Browne and the Spanish Civil War, is a real eye-opener. Sonia Boué, visual artist and Jenny Rivarola, poet, both descendants of Spanish Republican exiles draw on their own personal experiences to bring back to life Felicia Browne, a woman ahead of her time who paid the ultimate price to stop fascism. Through a combination of paintings, poems and video, the two artists shed light on a remarkable life that for too long has been relegated to a footnote in history. This is vital work as relevant today as it was 80 years ago. I hope this is only the beginning of many more to come.
THROUGH AN ARTIST´S EYE
The Rescue of Felicia Browne
Marx Memorial Library, Friday 30 September 2016
I had never heard of Felicia Browne, but the Instituto Cervantes´s newsletter advertised a series of events which grabbed my attention: who was this woman artist I had never heard of? why would two contemporary artists want to use her as a springboard for their own work? The mixture of the historic (the Spanish Civil War context, the International Brigades, the first foreign miliciana to die in combat just one month after the start of the war, in August 1936) and the contemporary (a collaborative visual and poetic project of two British artists both daughters of Republican exiles) was definitely the reason I went to the first event of the series, appropriately held at the Marx Memorial Library where the International Brigades Memorial Trust’s archives are based – I have not regretted it!
The historical Felicia, who turned out to be an artist of no great artistic importance per se, but whose short life (she died at 32), crisscrossed the private and public spaces, the personal and the group struggles of her time, allows and encourages a rich variety of readings. From an upper-middle class background, this Slade student evolved onto a committed Communist activist. It was extremely interesting to listen to Professor Tom Buchanan sketch of Browne’s life and the role of the archival material in Tate Britain and elsewhere which has rescued her from obscurity and is the backbone of the work produced by Sonia Boué and Jenny Rivarola.
During the evening, both artists gave a taste of their work in the form of a film and a reading of some of the poems, followed by a full Q&A session. They articulated clearly the aims and process of their collaborative project and I am now looking very much forward to reading the poems in front of the actual works which will be exhibited in Esher. I found particularly interesting how the work of Boué and Rivarola, by quoting directly from Browne, rescues and re-presents the dead woman´s life, art, and ideals (Boué makes striking use of some of her surviving charcoal drawings, placing them in an abstracted figurative landscape punctuated by objects which I am sure will be even more forceful in the flesh, whilst Rivarola lifts from Browne´s own words as found in her letters to construct a vital journey; she read some of the seven poems during the evening). In fact, the project seems like a triangular conjunction of realities, past and present, which I for one found intriguing and surprisingly resonant in our present historical moment: Felicia Browne resurfaces in the present through what appears to be a parallel artistic endeavour to her own, political and poetic, and where personal family memories are salvaged from all protagonists concerned.
Clarisa Rucabado Butler
OUR TASTER EVENT WILL BE ANOTHER CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE THIS PRESENTATION OF OUR WORK, AHEAD OF OUR EXHIBITION OPENING (see below)