Sally Madge

Just Visiting

Performance as part of group exhibition/intervention: The Hearing Trumpet
West Dean, West Sussex
September 2012


A tableau vivant staged in the library of West Dean House, originally the home of Edward James, patron and collector of the work of Surrealist artists Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Leonora Carrington and many others.

This work is inspired by the artist and close friend of Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and her painting Creation of the Birds. Whereas Varo's delicate owl woman pumps primary coloured pigments through her Bosch-like apparatus, paints with a brush string of her heart-violin, and refracts star/moonlight through her Newtonian magnifier, setting her birds free from their two dimensionality, these birds lie on an old medical trolley alongside assorted paraphernalia - real creatures of death and demolition, part objects awaiting reconstruction and freedom through the viewer's imaginative conjecture.

The artist-physician guards her collection of fetish objects, her presence in complete antithesis to the grandiose surroundings. Reference is made here to the objectification of the female artist as gifted child woman, as represented by Marian, the principle character in Leonora Carrington's novel The Hearing Trumpet . Marian rejects the ideals of youth and beauty that dominate contemporary culture and Western painting. Instead she opines that her beard is gallant, and emerges as a crone from Celtic mythology - a wise old woman whose witchcraft is key to fertility and creativity throughout the ages.