Lancashire’s ‘under-recognised’ surrealist

Painting by Leonora Carrington which will appear in the Tate Liverpool exhibition
Painting by Leonora Carrington which will appear in the Tate Liverpool exhibition
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A Lancashire academic is helping Tate Liverpool assemble a major exhibition of work by the Chorley-born surrealist painter Leonora Carrington.

Professor Roger Shannon, who works at Edge Hill University, has been researching the life and work of the globally-renowned artist since 20111.

Prof Shannon has also uncovered a number of pieces that have never publicly been exhibited, and which will be on display in the new exhibition.

The exhibition – Leonora Carrington – which opens on March 6, will be the first UK solo exhibition of Carrington’s work in more than 20 years, and will explore the fantastical world of the painter.

An internationally celebrated member of the surrealist movement, Carrington turned her back on an upper class upbringing in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley in the 1930s and eventually settled in Mexico.

Carrington was renowned for the extraordinary worlds she created in her work.

In 1947 her work was included in an international exhibition of surrealism in New York, where she was the only female British artist featured, establishing her pivotal role in the surrealist movement.

In the 1950s and 60s she broadened her practice and embraced set and costume design for productions including her own, Penelope (1957).

She also designed film costumes and sets and performed as an actress.

Professor Roger Shannon said: “When I became aware of Leonora Carrington’s work, it struck me a significant aspect of the North West’s cultural heritage had been under recognised.

“This was the spur to my research into her extensive creative output and the impact of her background.

“Carrington’s work encompassed many aspects of the visual arts (including film, which is my own professional focus) and through the span of her creative life she frequently drew on significant influences from her Lancastrian nurturing.

“Having proposed to Tate Liverpool that an exhibition was overdue in this area, I am delighted this suggestion has been embraced with such imagination and energy by Artistic Director Francesco Manacorda and his fellow curators.

“Their collective ‘take’ on Leonora Carrington has been inspiring.”

A highlight of the exhibition will be The Magical World of the Mayas (1964), a 4.5 metre mural painted by Carrington for the opening of the new Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City in 1964.

Refusing to be constrained or restricted by expectations or conventional limitations, Carrington’s expended practice has made her an inspiration to many contemporary artists working across a range of mediums.

Prof Shannon added: “The work of Leonora Carrington was unknown to me until 2011 when I read Joanna Moorhead’s obituary of the life and creativity of this marvellous surrealist artist, whose early life and upbringing took place in Lancashire.

“My research since then has led to me tracking down a number of Leonora’s pieces in the ownership of the extended Carrington family, which have never been publicly exhibited before.

“These will form part of Tate Liverpool’s exhibition.”

Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool said: “We’re thrilled to be working so closely with Edge Hill on this exhibition.

“Roger’s input and insight has been invaluable and our collaboration with the University as a sponsor of the exhibition is a fantastic example of the power of partnerships.”

As part of Edge Hill’s relationship with Tate Liverpool and the Leonora Carrington exhibition, the university will host an evening ‘In Conversation’ with Tate Liverpool’s Artistic Director Francesco Manacorda and journalist and cousin of Leonora Carrington, Joanna Moorhead on April 29, from 6.30–8.30pm at the flagship Creative Edge building.

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l Edge Hill University is sponsoring Leonora Carrington, which is also supported by the Government of Mexico as part of the Year of Mexico in the UK 2015.