Amelia’s Magazine | Carbon Conversations Courses, London

Angel3Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman and Marian Goodman Gallery, pills New York

When I hear the word Surrealism, for sale instantly the likes of Salvador Dali, approved André Breton, André Masson and Max Ernst come to my mind. Well I can now add Frida Khalo, Leonora Carrington, Eileen Agar and many more female Surrealist artists to that male dominated list, thanks to Manchester’s Art Gallery! Their current exhibition, Angels of Anarchy, sets out to not only celebrate the works of female artists but to educate and inform those who know little (people like me) or nothing at all about the important role females played in the Surrealist movement. How about that?

Angel Courtesy Private collection, Dilbeek, Belgium © DACS 2009

The exhibition covers five main categories within Surrealism – Portrait/Self-Portrait, Landscape, Interior, Still Life and Fantasy; the medium used ranges from sculpture to photography to film and the more traditional oil on canvas. Thanks to Salma Hayek’s performance in the eponymous film, Frida Khalo -who features in both Portrait/Self Portrait and Interior – is probably the name most will recognise but you will not be disappointed with the other lesser-known artists on display.


Courtesy ADAGP Paris, Musée National d’Art Modern – Centre Georges Pompidou. Courtesy Photo CNAC / MNAM, Dis. RMN / courtesy  Jacques Faujour

The most interesting piece comes in the form of film by photographer/filmmaker Lola Alvarez Bravo -who incidentally went to school with Frida and was one of her closest friends. The 30 seconds (approx) of rare footage is left untitled but is captivating from start to end, not least thanks to the presence of Frida herself; the artist is more stunning on film that I had imagined. There is no audio in this eerie film and it’s quite foretelling that Frida is welcoming death into her home in the shape of an innocent looking girl; this was shot when Frida was in ill health and I thought this was one of many nice surprises within the exhibition. Bravo documented much of Frida’s life and she went on documenting even after her death; there is a poignant shot of Frida’s room after her death (Frida’s Room 1954), where her wheelchair, paintbrushes, a self-portrait and a picture of her husband are strategically placed in order to sum up her life. This particular scene left a lump in your throat!

Fini_Le-Bout-du-MondeCourtesy Manchester Gallery

Another big name featured in the exhibition is Eileen Agar – whose Angel of Anarchy (1936-1940) mixed media head dress is featured alongside its opposite number Angels of Mercy (1936-1940) – only two surviving pieces of four, are portraits of Joseph Bard (her husband) and to see them both is quite magical. Angel of Anarchy is wrapped in rich African bark cloth decorated in Chinese silk, beads and osprey and ostrich feathers and has a decadent aura about it. Angel of Mercy is quite the opposite but none less impressive to its corresponding part, using only her skills to sculpt the piece and her hand to paint it.

Agar_Angel-of-AnarchyCourtesy Manchester Gallery

Whist big names like Kahlo, Agar, Oppenheim and Cahun are used to encourage people to visit the exhibition the lesser known artists really do shine and in some cases surpass their well known counterparts. Kay Sage’s beautiful black and white, landscape photography will lead you into the word of the extra-ordinary within the ordinary – her vision of seeing something interesting within what seems to be an ordinary landscape impressed me a great deal! Leonora Carrington’s self portrait (1937-1938) will immediately grab your attention as it did mine; I faced this one particular piece for a good10 minutes and I must admit I was truly transfixed and consumed in my trail of thought! This, in my opinion, is by far was the best self portrait (oil on canvas) in the entire show. I felt deep sympathy for Carrington and I was left wondering and wanting to know more about this wonderful talent.


Courtesy Banco de Mexico Deigo Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico DF / DACS 2009

The exhibition is over teeming with beautiful oils on canvas and sculptures that include a rarely seen Lee Miller torso cast that has only even been exhibited once before. Surrealist literature is present in the form of Leonora Carrington’s En Bas ( Down Below 1945) a memoir of her emotional journey after Max Ernst is arrested by the Nazis which leads her to being institutionalized in a mental hospital in Spain. There are video instillations by Francesca Woodman documenting herself exploring the female form and a beautiful interpretation of ‘There was a Miller on a River’ (1971), by Eva Svankmajerova. This old folk song tells the story of a young soldier returning home after 20 years. His parents do not recognise him, rob and murder him; once they realise it was their son they take their own lives. Such a brutal act is given a beautiful lease of life in Svankmajerova’s gorgeous illustrations.

Oppenheim_SquirrelCourtesy Manchester Gallery

Another nice surprise is the room ‘Teenangels’ in which the Manchester Art gallery has teamed up with art students from Levenshulme High School who have came up with their own Surrealist inspired artwork. I would have happily been left to think they were part of the Angels of Anarchy exhibition had I not seen the sign! Seeing interaction between a prestigious art gallery like Manchester’s and GCSE art students topped the exhibition off perfectly.

All in all this was a good exhibition which ran from the 26th of December 2009 to the 10th of January 2010. Penny Slinger describes her work as ‘a protest against females being seen as mere objects at a male’s disposal’. This exhibition sets out to break the notion that Surrealism is a male dominated movement and it does so successfully. Without the likes of Frida Kahlo, Claude Cahun, Edith Rimmington, Meret Oppenheim and the rest of the female Surrealist featured in the exhibition I doubt very much that women in art would be where they are today. They helped the female cause for decades to come and paved the way for equality in Art. They proved that chicks can do what guys do… and dare I say in some cases even better? If you were one of the lucky few who visited the show then you surely came away enlightened, informed and inspired by those surrealist amazons…just like I did.

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Want to reduce your carbon footprint in 2010, order  with a group of lovely people, more about  AND reduce your overdraft by saving some money on energy bills?  The Carbon Literacy Forum are co-ordinating free Carbon Conversations courses across several London boroughs, starting in February 2010…

If you are a tad tired of always being against things and would like to start doing something more positive and creative when it comes to environmental issues, but don’t want to go it alone, then this course may well be for you.Transition-Town-Training

Image courtesy of

The Carbon Literacy Forum is co-ordinating a 6-session course starting in January, which will help participants reduce their carbon footprint.  Facilitators from various Transition Towns, including Hackney, Stoke Newington, Highbury, Waltham Forest, Primrose Hill and other environmental groups will be involved.  The course will be run in groups of 8-10 people with fortnightly meetings consisting of a mixture of information, group discussion, and learning activities. The aim is to “understand the issues around climate change and carbon reduction, and learn practical ways to reduce carbon and save energy and money”.  So, not a bad idea for the post-Christmas overdraft and loooong wait until next payday either then!!  Plus, DIY-ing with other people is much more fun than reading books and apocalypse-predicting articles, and figuring out how you’ll ever do anything by yourself. 

There are nine courses planned altogether – two in Highbury, two in Hackney, one in Waltham Forest, one in Angel, Islington, one in Westminster, one in Lambeth and one other to be confirmed. 

The purpose is for participants to learn how to monitor key areas of their carbon footprint, including home energy, travel and transport, food and water, and other consumption and waste, after taking part in a questionnaire at the beginning of the course to calculate their current carbon footprint.  You’ll also be encouraged to keep a brief, simple diary of the steps you take to reduce your carbon footprint.  By the end of the course you will have ideally created your own personal plan for reducing your carbon footprint, tailored to your own lifestyle.Hackney Transition Town flyer

The facilitators will also organize special workshops and talks, and you’ll get to borrow books and energy-monitoring equipment. An online network will also be set up for people who have been on the courses to share information, tips and discuss issues with other, and facilitators will also signpost members to public workshops, talks, local community groups, and relevant Council services.  All the organizers ask you to bring is enthusiasm and a willingness to ask questions and share your learning with the rest of the group! 

Importantly, once you have completed one of the 6-meeting courses, you will be able to start facilitating meetings yourself.  You will need to attend a half-day’s ‘facilitation workshop’, after which you can pair up with another facilitator and start organizing your own group.  It would be a super way to spread the initiative to more areas and regions. You could even tailor them to your particular area or interest, such as how to reduce carbon footprint in the creative industries (might also be a great way to network with like-minded people!).  The Carbon Literacy Forum will provide help and support to people looking to start their own meetings.

[Image courtesy of]

Participation in the London Carbon Conversations courses is free, apart from the £15 Carbon Conversations handbook you’ll need to get at the beginning to follow the course.  The book is very detailed and should come in handy long after you’ve finished the course, especially if you start your own meetings.

Hackney Transition Town Seedy Sunday flyer, by you contact London Carbon Conversations, they will be able to advise which group is nearest to you.  If you can’t make the planned dates and times, you can mention which dates are most suitable for you. They will put you in touch with a group that hopefully meets at a more convenient time. 

If you live or work in Hackney, the local course will be held near Broadway Market, E8 on fortnightly Mondays, 7-9pm, starting from 8th February.

Alison Thorpe and Abbie Maxwell are facilitating The Hackney course, so to join the group or express an interest, email Alison[AT] for a Joining Form.  For more info on the London-wide initiative contact Tom Hitchman of the Carbon Literacy Forum at Tom Hitchman[AT]
[Hackney Transition Town Seedy Sunday flyer, above, by Holly Gregson]

I will be attending the sessions in Hackney, so even if you can’t make it for the course, I will try my best to keep you posted via the Earth section at Amelia’s Magazine!

Categories ,carbon conversations, ,Carbon footprint, ,climate, ,Climate Change, ,earth, ,Hackney Transition Town, ,Holly Gregson, ,london, ,Transition network, ,transition towns

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