Leonora Carrington or ironical sorcery

Carlos Fuentes

Leonora, the Enchantress, smiles. Conceiving her offspring in solitude, she peoples her canvases with mythical fauna, legendary architecture, under the sway of the moon. Her space requires the blithe abundance of parthenogenesis, that familiarity with ghostly creatures characteristic of the Welsh, Scottish and Irish, pixies and leprechauns, imps and pucks, Holt the white cat, Jamara, the fat, legless dog, Vinegar Tom with his bull’s head and greyhound’s body, Sack-and-Sugar, the black rabbit. They accompany her and share her Second Sight, her silent laughter, which can upset and, in the end, break down all established formality with the exclamation of the fairy sprite: 

“What fools these mortals be!”

But here the planets revolve and the face of things hidden cannot bear the light of the day. The enchantress rises out of her enveloping mists; the witch is seen in the street. She who has set this world in motion is revealed by this motion; Guardian of the circle, she cannot escape it. Is it the moment to pity her? Now, what seemed outside, excluded, beyond reality, has become central, included, immediate. What was considered magic is now rational. The logic of the dream has overcome the logic of reason. And the personal, ex-centric, gothic world of Leonora Carrington is now our world -not everybody’s world -but ours; not the ordinary world, but the significant one.

We smile perhaps; a world of nostalgia, of witchcraft, almost quaint. The smile is frozen on our lips and our tongues burn. This Medieval Age, the Age of Leonora, is as contemporary as the newsreel; behind the white or the black, behind the obvious dualities, behind the hidden absolutes, this world lay hidden, magic only because our reason was insufficient, secret only because our senses were occupied elsewhere. Leonora Carrington was painting our real life, not that in which we are content to be deceived, and lulled to sleep – and sometimes, die- daily, but that which motivates and sustains our actions and gives them their final – ambiguous- meaning.

Art is not what is visible, it is that which makes visible. And the great artist -Leonora Carrington- makes things visible without sacrificing mystery. Therefore, she is not to be pitied. Because Leonora does not reduce what she reveals. Fount of fables, enchantress, midwife of our interregnum, she is all these, a synthesis in which aspiration, the fundamental attitude of gothic art, is an ironical aspiration, a perpetual desire, perpetually frustrated and enriched, by the turns of fortune in the fable, by the demands of the imagination.

The world is simple and life is flat when the dualities that have impoverished and simplified our lives for twenty-five centuries succeed in excluding, if not condemning, heretical multiplicity in order to instal dogmatic monotony. All Leonora Carrington’s art is a gay, diabolical and persistent struggle against orthodoxy, which Leonora conquers and disperses with imagination, always multiple and singular, an imagination which she communicates with loving pride. When all is said and done, we love her painting because it is the painting of the things and beings that Leonora Carrington loves, understands, desires and fears.