Exhibition runs until 29th October 2016 – venue All Saints Church (Weston Green), Chestnut Ave, Esher KT10 8JL
(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)
Please watch this short video for all you need to know about our forthcoming events.
Studio shot by Philip King 2016
We’re nearing the finish line on the Artist’s Eye project. We’re delighted to announce that our free exhibition booklet will be available at all our events.
Programme: Welcome – Spanish wine & tentempié / Host – MML Archivist, Meirian Jump/ Origins of the project – Sonia Boué/ Talk – Prof Tom Buchanan (of Oxford University)/ Premier of our project film/ Short poetry reading – Jenny Rivarola
Programme: Welcome – Spanish wine / Host – Historian, Liz Woolley – who will be in conversation with Prof Tom Buchanan (of Oxford University)/ Project film/ Short poetry reading – Jenny Rivarola/ Conclusion and thanks – Curator, Sarah Mossop
The opportunity to see all works in situ – including 17 previously unseen drawings by Felicia Browne – and to meet artist and poet, Sonia Boué & Jenny Rivarola.
FREE ART & POETRY Workshops can be booked here.
All events are free but booking is especially recommended for the launch and for workshops as places are limited.
Our gratitude to Instituto Cervantes for hospitality.
Felicia Browne 1904- 1936, Sketch of a nude figure seen from behind [c.1928]
TGA 201023/1/12 (Tate Britain archive) This work will not be shown at the exhibition.
Through An artist’s Eye – a creative homage to British artist – Felicia Browne, is drawing to a heady conclusion at the end of the month and in the early days of October!
As the preparations continue, we have some exciting news about the supporting material for our exhibition in Esher, which incidentally is barely 5 minutes down the road from Hampton Court. Do check the link for all our events.
Felicia Browne’s drawings and letters, some of which are held in an archive at Tate Britain, were bequeathed to and carefully kept by her friend and fellow artist Elizabeth Watson. Subsequently they were inherited by Elizabeth’s three children, Felicia, Lin and Jim, the latter of whom – along with his wife Deborah – have been working with us to present these previously unseen examples of Felicia’s drawings.
We’re thrilled to announce that there will be 17 reproductions of unseen works on show, to support our narrative framework of the 7 key stages in Felicia’s life, leading up to her untimely death in Spain.
We’re not able to share examples of the unseen works online – so come along and view! Don’t miss out!
“A sketchbook, retrieved from her possessions, was filled with drawings of her fellow fighters: these stoic men and women have been captured in Browne’s lyrical, romantic modernist style.” Fisun Guner.
Read more about Felicia Browne in this great article Felicia Browne: the only known British woman to die in the Spanish civil war by Fisun Guner.
It’s been quite a start to the week for the Artist’s Eye project. An opportunity to appear live on Woman’s Hour on a short segment about Felicia Browne, and a lovely gallery on the Woman’s Hour website, which showcases both Felicia’s work and Sonia Boué’s responses.
You can see the gallery HERE.
The podcast for download is HERE. (our segment begins at 33.40 mins)
You can listen Here. (our segment begins on the podcast for the 18th July at 33.40 mins)
Sonia was joined on Woman’s Hour by Pauline Fraser trustee of the International Memorial Brigade Trust.
We are very excited to be trying out ideas in a small scale process exhibition at the Magdalen Rd Studios. This is part of our promise to the Arts Council. The aim is to receive feedback on our progress both from our peers and the public, and to develop our audiences.
In the two days it has taken to install the work we’ve already had some wonderful conversations with studio artists. It has also been a delight to work with our curator Sarah Mossop, whose input has inspired us to dig deeper on the detail of the presentation of the work.
There is a new piece on show, which relates to the border of memory. In the final show we work with the border as a geographical reality. In this piece (the assemblage piece shown below) I work with childhood association and attempt to intermingle Felicia’s infancy wth my own.
This will be a brief visual blog. Our creative work has begun, and I’ve been busy in the studio on a series of six painted sketches, which have taken me by surprise. I’ve been wholly mesmerised by Felicia Browne’s visual journaling (as I call it) and thought to respond to her sketches by abstracting her line rather than working figuratively – as I am an abstract artist myself. However, Felicia has had a profound influence on me, and in my conversation with her work, mine has become altered. Our styles have combined to create a series of images, which plot her political trajectory, which we know is what led her to Spain, during that fateful July of 1936.
I don’t know yet if this development will continue in the seven larger works which will form my contribution to the our final exhibition. These six smaller paintings are process works to be shown for peer evaluation at my studios.
Each image borrows from Felicia’s sketchbooks, and from her letters – but there is also a personal take. My collaborator, Jenny Rivarola and myself, both had fathers in the Republican army, Jenny’s father was a “soldado de chupete” (the so called soldiers with a dummies – due to their young age) and my father was a journalist with a tank regiment.
I will be adding a seventh painting to “describe” the border between France and Spain – the snaking pressure point for the Retirada of 1939, but also the entry point for Felicia and her travelling companion Edith Bone, in 1936.
My thanks to Stuart Walsh for this photograph taken from. an issue of Left Review from 1936. It’s a rich source of information and brings the details of the posthumous exhibition to light, together with the fundraising element for medical aid to Spain.
In conversation with Professor Tom Buchanan. I’ve learned that the date of Felicia’s death in Spain is more likely to have been 22nd of August 1936, but that confusion surrounded this due to later reporting of it. We have to remember the chaos of this moment to grasp how the exact date and even the precise location of her death have been hard to determine.
Needless to say these two sketches are superb and add to our sense of the lives of ordinary people, which she witnessed at the outbreak of civil war in Spain.
The article says that these are pencil sketches, but the medium may be graphite stick or charcoal. Felicia’s use of the flat of her instrument (along with the point) is extensive and may indicate the use of a stick above that of a pencil.