LONDON.- The acquisition of Leonora was made possible with help from independent charity The Art Fund, the National Fund for Acquisitions and the Scottish Arts Council. The work cost a total of £35,997.50, of which £13,000 came from The Art Fund. Leonora is a mixed media work, including a 16mm film featuring an encounter between Skaer and Leonora Carrington, aged ninety, made when Skaer paid a visit to the artist’s Mexico City home in 2006. The film focuses on details of the elderly artist’s appearance and the objects in her home. The installation also involves drawings on paper and wooden three-dimensional forms made by Skaer, inspired by her meeting with Leonora.
Leonora Carrington (b. 1917) is perhaps best known for her involvement in the Surrealist movement during the late 1930s. Following the wartime internment of her lover, the artist Max Ernst, Carrington suffered a nervous breakdown and was later incarcerated in a Spanish mental institution and treated for mild psychosis. On recovery, she moved to Mexico in 1942, where she continues to live and work. Her paintings are influenced by fairy tales and Celtic lore.
When she was eighteen, Leonora was sent to the Chelsea School of Art in London. After a few months at the Chelsea School, Carrington moved to the recently opened Ozenfant Academy for Art in London. Ozenfant ran his school like a drill sergeant, and was able to instill in Carrington the discipline that she needed to harness her creative energy. In 1936, there were two major Surrealist exhibitions in London: The First International Surrealist Exhibition in June, and a solo exhibition of the work of Max Ernst. Carrington learned about Surrealism and became particularly interested in Ernst's work. When she met Ernst at a dinner party, it was love at first sight. Of their love, art historian Susan Aberth says "it was a profoundly transformational experience for Carrington, who, literally overnight, was freed from a lifetime of familial restrictions and was propelled into an artistic community and lifestyle that promised the sorts of freedoms and creative expressions she had always longed for." At age twenty, Carrington moved to Paris where she joined Andre Breton's Surrealist ring and moved in with Ernst.
Lucy Skaer said: "I was struck by how the world had changed during Carrington's life, and that her internal vision had remained more constant than reality had. My short film is a simple record of our meeting. I wanted to use the presence of Carrington within my installation as a kind of carte blanche to disassemble the logic of my own practice and move into unknown territory."
Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund, said: "This fascinating installation celebrates the life and work of a daring, avant-garde artist and muse, whilst also revealing the originality and creativity of Lucy Skaer herself. It is entirely fitting that a work by one of Glasgow’s leading young artists should enter the Hunterian’s permanent collections, where it will inspire new generations of artists."
Mungo Campbell, Deputy Director of the Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, Glasgow, said: "Leonora has emerged as a pivotal work in the development of Lucy’s career and it has been very exciting to work so closely with her over the last eighteen months to bring such a significant acquisition to fruition."
Leonora exemplifies Lucy Skaer’s innovative, mixed media approach. Her work often utilises found imagery and photojournalistic reportage, whilst also combining large-scale drawings made using graphite as well as touches of enamel paint, ink and gold leaf.
Skaer was born in Cambridge in 1975 and graduated from the Environmental Art Department of Glasgow School of Art in 1997. Based in Glasgow, she has recently spent extended time in Berlin, Amsterdam, New York and Basel. Lucy Skaer is one of the four artists nominated for this year’s Turner Prize, to be awarded in October 2009.