forestpunk

A Journal Of The Dark Arts

The Angel of Anarchy: The Collages Of Eileen Agar

In honour of World Collage Day, we turn our attention to the Angel of Anarchy herself, Eileen Agar, an early and influential surrealist despite denying the label her entire life.

Eileen Agar, Marine Collage 2

Eileen Agar – Early Life & Career

Writing in her memoir on her first surrealist canvas The Flying Pillar (later renamed to Three Symbols) “first attempt at an imaginative approach to painting and although the result was surreal, it was not done with that intention”. She went on to say that “Surrealism was in the air in France and poets in France, later in England, were kissing that sleeping beauty troubled by nightmares, and it was the kiss of life that they gave.”

Eileen Agar was that most rare of creatures – a British surrealist who was also a woman who was not merely mimicking a movement. Instead, working in every medium you can think of, from collage to assemblage to painting and photography. Rather than pastiche and imitation, Agar seemed the recipient of that kiss of life and beauty ad nightmares, to be drinking from the deep wishing well of imagination while simultaneously inspired by the details of the mundane, magical life unfurling around her.

Eileen Agar spent her childhood in Argentina, where her father sold agricultural machinery like windmills, and made the pilgrimage back to England every other year, before being sent there for schooling starting at the age of 6. Through happenstance, Agar found herself in the midst of a number of influential artists and thinkers, like the British painter Charles Sims who introduced her to some of the early works of fellow Surrealist Paul Nash, who would later introduce her to the idea of the “found object” as well as become her lover.

Eileen Agar and Paul Nash – Seashore Monster at Swanage

She proceeded through an aristocratic education through the arts, which she found overly academic and limiting, before making a break for it into the waiting arms of the European avant-garde. She would meet Ezra Pound in Portofino shortly thereafter and Cubists like František Foltýn and Constantin Brâncuși.

Eileen Agar: Angel Of Anarchy

A collection and retrospective of Eileen Agar’s work is titled Angel Of Anarchy, named after one of Agar’s most famous and influential assemblage works of fantastic hats. It’s a fitting moniker for Agar’s entire body of work and career, which takes as much inspiration from “regular life” like her mother’s hat collection, found objects, organic materials, and a wicked and irreverent sense of humour.

Agar’s work seems more surreal than surreal, operating on the machinery of subconscious instincts and intuition more so than from the ivory tower. Her collages, with their heavy emphasis on marine life, seem as much like poems, short stories, or even films than strictly a work of visual art. It speaks to the oceans that run through our veins and through our dreams, giving rise occasionally to ancient lost cities and creatures too vast to even conceptualize. Her work also speaks to long, lazy childhood summer afternoons spent at the seashore in search of beach glass, tumbled smooth by the mighty waves; seashells that may’ve been a mermaid’s compact; or even fishing nets, lures, and line, shredded by incomprehensible teeth.

Her work truly embodies the anything goes accessibility and democratization that comes with collage, assemblage, and found objects while also operating with the refined instincts and taste of a lifelong artist.

World Collage Day 2022 & Visual Arts @ Forestpunk

In honour of World Collage Day, which is taking place on May 14, 2022, we’re taking the opportunity to begin talking and posting about visual art and graphic design, largely of a “dark,” avant-garde, and experimental nature. We discovered Eileen Agar via the ever-essential 50 Watts blog and website, of whom we’ve been enormous fans of for years.

This begins a new phase for Forestpunk, where we begin to broaden our gaze to comment more fully on this world we’re living in. We hope to shed light on artists of all kinds – new and old – as well as notable blogs, websites, businesses, books, movies, etc.

So what are some artists you’d like to see us write about or showcase, here at Forestpunk? Artists and designers, please be encouraged to show us your work, either by leaving us a comment, emailing to j.forestpunk@gmail.com or reaching out on Twitter or Instagram at @for3stpunk.

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