Archive for September, 2021

Blackpaint 692 – Angel of Anarchy – Eileen Agar at the Whitechapel

September 3, 2021

I’m interested to know the source of this title; it doesn’t appear in the notes. Was Agar the Angel, or did she perhaps follow the Angel of Anarchy? It sounds like a quotation or a book title – maybe her autobiography?

Anyway, it seems a misnomer to me; I see nothing in her works to suggest anarchy; as the notes suggest, her work, remarkably varied, rich and colourful as it is, seems based on an amalgam, or rather, an intermingling of Cubism and surrealism, with a streak of abstraction. Picasso, not surprisingly, seems to be an obvious influence; in this respect, and in its variety, it reminds me of the recent Dora Maar exhibition at the Tate.

Anarchy, of course, is arguably inherent in surrealism – the apparent anarchy of dream remnants, the juxtaposition of incongruous objects together in a picture frame, soft watches, furry telephones, horses stepping through bicycle wheels… so fair enough, her work has a touch (but not much) of this. I think maybe it’s more to do with her lack of inhibition than her art…dancing naked with Lee Miller in car headlights for example, before Herbert Read at Lambe Creek in Cornwall, 1937 and “not sleeping with everyone who asked me”. Interesting to know where the emphasis was in this sentence; was it on “sleeping” or “everyone”? Caroline Maclean, in her great book “Circles and Squares”, makes this country break sound something of a shagfest.

Enough of this – here are some of the pictures. I think the exhibition makes a great compare and contrast with the Paula Rego at the Tate; there’s even a symmetry in the names, Rego/Agar…..

I think the pictures are more or less chronological, as I took them going round the specified route; may be a few anomalies, but who cares.

I love the unblended patches of colour on the face and hand.

History of an Embryo

She seems to have used this compartmental mode several times.

Patches of colour again. I like the way it bends; like Wyndham Lewis… a bit.

Self portrait

That profile style will come up again.

Voracious snakes, fishes and veiled statues – an antiquarian feel here. And the compartments again.

Figure like a vase, shrouded in bright colour – lovely painting I think

And here is Agar herself in striking and very practical headgear – that’s my reflection, providing the background.

Rather Picasso – like, this one.

There’s a face at the top centre and maybe insects or crayfish down the bottom -but this is the most crowded and artfully “disorganised” work in the exhibition, I think. Also the most abstract.

This work, and even more, the one below, remind me of the pictures of the “Two Roberts”, Colquhoun and MacBryde. But they were later, of course,,,

Actually, they weren’t later – Agar lived until 1991, well past both the Roberts.

That deep, rich colour again, and the Picasso-like profile – from the “Three Dancers”, isn’t it?

This series rather reminiscent of the paintings and photos of Paul Nash (with whom Agar had an intense affair – see again Caroline Maclean, “Circles and Squares”)

Had to include these two, not just to demonstrate variety. But they are great, aren’t they?

And one of mine to finish;

New Road to Mandalay