The Redfern Gallery is pleased to be loaning works by Eileen Agar RA to the exhibition The Secret Life of Stuff, which runs from 7-29 September at Arthouse1. The exhibition takes inspiration from Thumb Rock, a watercolour painted by Agar in the south of France in 1936. In the 1980s Agar returned to the theme of landscape painting, but it was a return, not so much to the subject matter itself, as to the strange and anthropomorphic or animalistic hauntings which she first caught sight of in the early part of the 20th century. Her particular, playful and idiosyncratic appropriation of the Surrealist zeitgeist of the 1930s, and the repetition of earlier motifs fifty years later, reminds us how important notions of the unconscious have remained in the making of works of art ever since.
The curators of The Secret Life of Stuffset out to re-contextualise Agar’s work and the idea of the ‘unconscious’ in relation to the work of four contemporary artists – Bernice Donszelmann, Catherine Ferguson, John Gibbons and Della Gooden.The title alludes to the need to open up this term, away from its psychoanalytical meaning, which was so important to Surrealism, and to recover a wider understanding that extends beyond the subject – where complex meaning emerges from the materiality of the work itself; immanent forces are found in the object and the materials used to make it.
The rock paintings from 1985 are a relatively unexplored aspect of Agar’s output, and several can be seen here for the first time in many years, together with some of the artist’s own source photographs – the negatives of which are in the permanent collection of the Tate.
The show’s accompanying catalogue, which features an essay by Catherine Ferguson on Agar’s Thumb Rock, can be found here: