Delve into the unusual at the ‘British Surrealism’ exhibition

Dr Jeffrey Sherwin with his collection
I have to admit that my love for Surrealist art definitely wasn’t a smooth path and it certainly wasn’t love at first sight when I saw my first Salvador Dali and Max Ernst paintings at the Tate Modern years ago. However I do remember as I think back to that first visit, that even though I wasn’t too keen on those particular artists at the time, I instantly loved Picasso’s paintings. I think it was the vibrant, bold colours, large graphical shapes and weird compositions… exuberantly surreal and exciting. After further study, I now know what a highly critical period Surrealism is. Before its existence, people were so formulaic and they never truly expressed their real emotions. Fine art was most certainly not the platform to do this on either.  I’m thankful now to have a deeper understanding of its place in history. I can never actually imagine a world without it and its artists such as Marcel Duchamp who made objects like a urinal into a piece of art called a ‘Fountain’. Ha where would we be without groundbreaking (and slightly mad) artists like him.

By Desmond Morris
So you can imagine my interest in going to see the Surrealist exhibition at Abbot Hall in Kendal. A collection of key British Surrealist art by Dr Jeffrey Sherwin who collected over 100 works over a 25 year period. Its a significant and carefully chosen exhibition of expressive works ranging from sculpture, drawings and paintings. Including both modern and contemporary artists, I was really interested to see the different sorts of themes, motifs, symbolism, mark-making, styles and materials they used to convey a variety of emotions and experiences. Penetrating their imagination with political, religious, gender and social based themes.

'Unsleeping Beauty' by Roland Penrose
The entire works gives a beginner or more experienced viewer of Surrealist art a really diverse offering. My particular favourite is the colourful ‘Unsleeping Beauty’ landscape painting by Roland Penrose, who is Britain’s most renowned Surrealist artist. In still learning and trying to grasp the complexities (and subtleties) of these works, I’m sure you’re not even meant to entirely know what the artists were trying to say. At least you can be guaranteed that they will pique your interest. I’m not an art critic but I do know there’s an array of works to give you a proper insight into what Surrealism is all about and perhaps even wonder at the inner workings of Dr Sherwin who bought them all.
By Eileen Agar

‘British Surrealism Unlocked: Works from the Sherwin Collection’
To 21 June


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