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Seeking The Marvellous

Seeking the Marvellous: Ithell Colquhoun, British Women and Surrealism conference – 22 & 23 March 2018

Seeking the Marvellous is a two-day interdisciplinary symposium that will examine the work of Ithell Colquhoun (1906 - 1988) and other women connected both with Surrealism and with Britain. It is organised by Plymouth College of Art in partnership with the Black Mirror research network and will be held in Plymouth on 22 and 23 March 2018.

The symposium will include keynote speeches and contributions from leading international scholars not only on Colquhoun, but also on other leading figures connected with Surrealism in Britain including Leonora Carrington, Valentine Penrose and Velona Pilcher.

Ithell Colquhoun by Alastair Thain, 1985. From the collection at the National Portrait Gallery.

During her lifetime Colquhoun was widely respected, both as an artist and an occultist, but since her death her oeuvre has been largely lost from public view. Her intellectual and artistic contributions to Surrealism and to British modernism and occultism have seen some scholarly attention, but hardly any extensive investigation.

This symposium seeks to re-examine Colquhoun and her place both in art history and in the history of occultism from a variety of perspectives. There will also be a major strand on Leonora Carrington and contributions on other women connected with Surrealism in Britain. The symposium will acknowledge and celebrate the connections between Surrealism and the occult and magic: concepts which have informed and enriched the work of Colquhoun and Carrington and other surrealist artists.

Ithell Colquhoun, tarot card collection.

Our keynote speakers will include renowned international experts Susan Aberth, Amy Hale and Victoria Ferentinou. We are delighted to welcome Carrington’s great-niece, Joanna Moorhead, whose recent biography The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington has added greatly to scholarship on Carrington, and independent scholar Richard Shillitoe, whose pioneering work on Colquhoun has done much to bring her work back into the public domain.

The symposium will include a new documentary film based on the memories of Jo O’Cleirigh, who worked with Colquhoun, and a performance of Colquhoun’s poetry.


What: Seeking The Marvellous, Ithell Colquhoun, British Women and Surrealism conference
When: Thursday 22 March 2018 - 9am-6pm & Friday 23 March 2018  - 9am-6pm
Where: Studio Theatre, Plymouth College of Art

The conference fee is £90 (£40 concessions) and includes all sessions, including evening events on 22 March. Lunch and refreshments will also be included.

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