“Her laughter resonates in another world”: the occult art of Remedios Varo

The very last yr brought not only the chaos of the pandemic but also a constant resurgence of interest in mystical and non secular artwork. The British Museum, for example, not too long ago held an exhibition termed Tantra: Enlightenment to Revolution that intended to demystify the hedonistic associations of the term and investigate the electrical power of divine feminine strength – shakti – as very well as the rise of radical goddess veneration in medieval India that proceeds to influence feminist assumed and present-day artistic expression.

Even though the Tantra exhibition shut in January 2021, lots of of its events and discussions with its curator, Imma Ramos, stay obtainable on The British Museum YouTube channel.

The Guardian has described the surge of interest in occult arts as “a little bit witchy” for a few years, but sees a current convert toward a additional engaged kind of occult artwork: “Rather than the hipster witchery of a number of decades in the past, this new spirituality is rooted in explorations of feminism, anti-colonialism and different energy constructions.”

A person artist that has benefited from the revival of interest in the intersection of art, mysticism, and magic is a private favourite, Spanish-Mexican artist Remedios Varo. Her remarkable surrealist artwork is drenched in refined Pagan symbolism hinting at Witchcraft, feminine energy, and magical recognition.

Kati Horna, portrait of Remedios Varo, 1963  [Wikimedia Commons, fair use]

Varo, whose specified name was María de los Remedios Alicia Rodriga Varo y Uranga, was born in Catalonia, Spain in 1908. Varo’s family moved throughout Spain and North Africa, exposing her to distinctive cultures. Her father encouraged equally her art and impartial imagined on religion, mysticism, and philosophy. He validated her fascination in science and supplemented her early education with will work by Jules Verne and Edgar Allen Poe.

Inspite of her mother’s devout Catholicism, Varo would rebel against religious orthodoxy and embraced liberal and universalist tips. Varo qualified at the Serious Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, in Madrid, the alma mater of Salvador Dalí, and would emphasis her interest on the performs of Hieronymus Bosch, Braque, El Greco, Picasso, and Francisco de Goya whilst taking part in the circles of surrealist European artists. She rebelled towards her official art instruction as perfectly.

Remedios Varo, “Mujer saliendo del psicoanalista (Girl Leaving Psychoanalyst),” oil on canvas, 1960, non-public selection [fair use]

Varo still left for Paris and in the long run arrived in Mexico through the height of Muralism.  Not able to return to Spain for the reason that of the Spanish Civil War, Varo joined the circles of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Leonora Carrington, and Kati Horna. She would also continue on her esoteric experiments on Carl Jung, George Gurdjieff, and Helena Blavatsky although remaining spellbound by matters like alchemy, sacred geometry, and Witchcraft. Her curiosity in magic and mysticism was comprehensive, and it manifested in her is effective.

Varo died unexpectedly of a heart assault in 1963 just as her artwork was attracting serious essential recognition. French poet André Breton would remark that she was “the sorceress who left too shortly.”

The artwork she left guiding is explained as mystical and revelatory. “Her woman protagonists,” Artsy notes, “depicted as heroines or legendary figures, navigate exactly rendered symbolic worlds populated by equipment, magical creatures, and objects coming to lifetime. Varo’s girls surface isolated and trapped by their environments, androgynous figures with ambivalent facial expressions, in some situations certain to machines or contraptions. Frequently found as an autobiographical artist, Varo utilizes these females as her stand-ins discovering the occult, the Kabala, and alchemy.”

“With the exact same invisible violence of the wind dispersing the clouds,” Nobel Laureate and Mexican poet Octavio Paz wrote in his poem Apariciones y desapariciones de Remedios Varo, “but with larger delicacy, as if she painted with her eyes and not with her palms, Remedios clears the canvas and heaps perspicuity on its clear surface area.”

“Remedios laughs, but her laughter resonates in another earth,” Paz additional.

Varo would also conjure in her painting a worldview that also resonates with numerous branches of Paganism nowadays.  “The aspiration globe and the real planet are the very same,” she stated.

Remedios Varo, “The Juggler (The Magician),” Oil and inlaid mom of pearl on board, 1956, Museum of Modern-day Art [fair use]

Her drawings explore supernatural forces and otherworldly symbols and narratives. In “The Juggler (The Magician)” makes a pentagram from the key character’s confront when also forming a witch’s hat.  The juggler is also doing a physically impossible feat, one that could only be attained with magic, all the even though captivating a crowd as a curious goat and owl glimpse on from within the magician’s hut. There’s also much far more heading on in the scene.  We just have to search far more diligently.

Interest in her get the job done has intensified in the past 12 months. Her artwork is fetching premium selling prices in the marketplace, well into the six-figure selection, breaking earlier documents in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A fantastic Varo is really worth its weight in gold,” Wendi Norris, of Gallery Wendi Norris in San Francisco, told Artsy. I believe that is an underestimation. The curiosity in mysticism and the shortage of her perform for the reason that of her untimely loss of life add to the marketplace estimation of Varo’s do the job in bucks. But the benefit of her artwork goes beyond capitalistic marketplaces. The messages Varo weaved into her artwork are far more useful, and there is a gradual and noteworthy body of scholarship exploring them.

Varo rebelled and named out the fervent misogyny of several Surrealists and the critics and collectors. Professor Inés Ferrero Cándenas wrote in the Bulletin of Hispanic Experiments that Varo “examines these theoretical conceptions about ladies when playfully subverting them.”

In fact, Varo herself observed that “Everything that she did or undid, on the other hand disparate that looked to an observer with prejudices, was finished for what ought to be carried out, that is, with bravery and without dread of penalties.”

Embed from Getty Photographs

A girl appears at “Simpatia (La rabia del gato)” by Spanish-Mexican artist Remedios Varo at Christie’s in New York on May perhaps 20, 2019. [Photo by Laura BONILLA CAL / AFP]


While quite a few acknowledge her technical skill, the content material of her artwork is still regarded as elusive.  Dina Comisarenco Mirkin wrote in Aurora, The Journal of the Background of Artwork, that “the further concept of her creative output as a total continues to elude us. Her personalized picture remains as one particular of the most aloof, mysterious, and enigmatic among all of the effectively-known girls artists of her era, and her paintings await a distinct and specific interpretation, not just as autobiographical testimonies, as is typically performed with women artists, but for their inside coherence.”

I do not assume it is so elusive to Pagan eyes. The imagery is squarely in our wheelhouse, mixing the magical and the mundane, revering the divine feminine, and recognizing the electricity that will come from an consciousness of the self and the spiritual forces about us. Varo exhibits us how to be unbound.

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