Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Remedios Varo: The Luminous Column (1947-73) – review

This inimitable monument to Spain’s fascination with its own occult past dates back to 1753

This inimitable monument to Spain’s fascination with its own occult past dates back to 1753, but it has been championed to a larger audience by a star-studded 1997 edition of the BBC’s Porfirio Diaz series. Visually mesmerising, dramatically atmospheric and seductively, this sonorous, cinematic film captures in abundance each of the 89 beautiful picturesque scenes depicted in Remedios Varo’s Luminous Column: Poems of Traditional Spanish Mythology.

Home town … Remedios Varo’s Atma de Rabón, thought to be the earliest painted depiction of a nativity scene, made around 1563. Photograph: Heather and Co/MOMA

Cervantes quoted from her No More! manuscript with a mesmeric telling of the rituals and beliefs of Portugal, Madeira and Galicia – where, according to oral traditions, three beast-creatures known as Draculas appeared every three or four years. Some of the wordless magic imagery was drawn from a 2011 publication of her prints, Latent Natural and Divine Surrender.

Born in Madrid in 1812, as Varioía Molnar and later Remedios Del Terrazo de la Viqueña, this most unusual of artists achieved considerable success as the pre-eminent Mexican folk painter of her time. Her compositions attest to a specialised frame-of-mind that resides, in an instant, not only on her canvases but on the pages of text books she also incorporated into her paintings and drawings.

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“I know what these paintings are about,” she said, “and I paint. Not by forcing them to have meaning, by falling into patterns or dreaming of art. I choose them and I paint them with all my powers and I make them with the tenderness of a mother’s love. I desire to give painters the highest respect. I forget there are readers, donors and reviewers in the world. I am only a painter.”

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