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Penny Slinger, Alchemy & Ecstasy, 1976-77

Penny Slinger, Alchemy & Ecstasy, 1976-77

Events - Talks

The Study Sessions: A Darkened Room

Surrealism, Women Artists and the Occult

15 May 2018

The Study Sessions are a series of informal reading and discussion groups. The sessions within A Darkened Room will touch upon Linder’s wide constellation of artistic influences and further explores the subjects presented in the exhibition. More>>
*Please note this session is now fully booked, if you would like to be added to the waiting list please email Mercè at
Surrealism, Women Artists and the Occult by Nadia Choucha
The surrealist movement sought inspiration in dreams, myths and the irrational as part of their political and cultural critique of western culture, expressed through painting, poetry, film, publishing and other creative pursuits. They investigated mythology, magic, esoteric and occult traditions which had become marginalised and rejected by modern science and philosophy since the European Enlightenment of the eighteenth century.
This seminar provides an overview of some of the main occult ideas, texts and traditions (such as alchemy, tarot and hermetic philosophy) explored by the surrealists and will examine their impact and influence upon surrealist imagery and ideas. Many women surrealists also sought inspiration in occult ideas, albeit from different sources to the male surrealists, as a means of expressing aspects of their identity and spirituality, which can be seen in the art of Leonor Fini, Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington and Ithell Colquhoun, amongst others, from the 1930s onwards. This can be seen as an early precursor to subsequent feminist movements which explored goddess spirituality and Wicca as a source of alternative female identity and empowerment.
We will examine texts by two female surrealists, Leonora Carrington’s Down Below and Ithell Colquhoun’s Goose of Hermogenes, to compare and contrast their cultural contexts, different approaches to using occult ideas, as well as the relationship of their writing to their visual art.
The Studio
Nadia Choucha studied Fine Art (Chelsea College of Art), Digital Humanities (King’s College London) and has an MA in History of Art (University of Edinburgh). Her book Surrealism and the Occult was published by Mandrake, Oxford in 1991 (second revised edition, 2016), Inner Traditions, USA (1992) and in a Czech translation by Volvox Globator, Prague (1994). She is based in London where she has worked for various specialist art and academic publishers and is currently an editor for an academic research institute. She is also an independent scholar and member of ESSWE (European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism).