Examining the diverse legacy of Ithell Colquhoun at Arts University Plymouth
Arts University Plymouth will host an event to celebrate the launch of ‘The Dance Of Moon and Sun - Ithell Colquhoun, British Women and Surrealism’, a new book that critically examines the diverse legacy of Ithell Colquhoun, the acclaimed British painter, occultist, poet and author.
‘The Dance Of Moon and Sun’ is edited by Professor Judith Noble, Dr Victoria Ferentinou and Tilly Craig, and published by Fulgur Press. The book is based on ‘Seeking the Marvellous’, a two-day symposium held at Arts University Plymouth in March 2018, and contains a range of contributions from academics, scholars, artists, and friends of Ithell Colquhoun.
On Thursday 20 April 2023 the publication of ‘The Dance Of Moon and Sun’ will be celebrated in a free launch event from 4:30pm to 6pm at Arts University Plymouth. During the event, the book will be introduced by: Judith Noble, Professor of Film & the Occult and Head of Academic Research at Arts University Plymouth; Tilly Craig, a writer, editor and producer who specialises in place, identity and the occult within mythical and contemporary contexts; and Robert Shehu-Ansell, Managing Director of Fulgur Press.
Straddling the worlds of Surrealism, occultism and modernist literature, Ithell Colquhoun (1906–88) was widely respected in her lifetime, but her transgressive, esoteric and poetic paintings and writings were long neglected until Richard Shillitoe’s 2009 book ‘Ithell Colquhoun: Magician Born of Nature’ initiated her revaluation—followed by Fulgur’s 2016 publication ‘Decad of Intelligence’, the Tate’s 2019 acquisition of more than 5,000 Colquhoun works and Amy Hale’s 2020 biography. Colquhoun occupies a unique place within the lineage of occult Surrealist painters such as Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, as her presence in the 2022 Venice Biennale exhibition ‘Milk of Dreams’ demonstrated.
‘The Dance Of Moon and Sun’ is the first critical examination of Colquhoun’s diverse legacy, compiling papers from ‘Seeking the Marvellous’, the Arts University Plymouth conference on Colquhoun and her contemporaries Leonora Carrington, Leonor Fini and Stella Snead. Contributors explore themes of authorship and agency, Colquhoun’s drawing practice, her Celtic motifs, British Surrealism and alchemy.
Judith Noble - Professor of Film & the Occult
Professor Judith Noble said: “Ithell Colquhoun was a leading figure in British Surrealism and occultism whose impact has long been recognised and respected in Cornwall and the south west, where she made the majority of her work, but until recently she had suffered from critical neglect and was becoming increasingly overlooked in favour of her peers. In 2018 Arts University Plymouth acquired ‘Water Flower’ (1938), a lost painting by Colquhoun, which was the catalyst for organising the ‘Seeking the Marvellous’ conference in partnership with the Black Mirror research network, to further examine the work of Colquhoun and other women connected with Surrealism and Britain.”
“The idea for ‘The Dance Of Moon and Sun’ came from that conference, when we realised that we were part of a growing critical movement to reappraise the value of Colquhoun’s work. In 2019 the Tate acquired more than 5,000 Colquhoun works and there are plans for a major retrospective of her work at Tate St Ives next year. ‘The Dance Of Moon and Sun’ is our argument to give Ithell Colquhoun her rightful place in art history, and includes contributions not only from academics but also from practising artists who work with the legacy of her work. The book also includes an interview with Jo O'Cleirigh, one of the last people to know and work with Colquhoun directly. We are also fortunate to have worked on this project with Fulgur Press, a leading independent publisher on esotericism and magic in visual culture. Fulgur Press understand the importance of Colquhoun’s work and this moment to reappraise its importance, and we’re fortunate to work in partnership with them.”
‘Water Flower’ (1938) by Ithell Colquhoun is currently on show within the Arts University Plymouth library.