Art, Artists, Books, Surrealism

The writings of Remedios Varo

Was Remedios Varo a writer? It may sound strange for most of you, but the answer is affirmative. The Spanish Surrealist artist was a writer too. Most of her writing work has a deep connection with her visual work. Few weeks ago, I shared with you on Instagram that I was reading the book “A veces escribo como si trazase un boceto” – Los escritos de Remedios Varo by Edith Mendoza Bolio, and many of you got interested in it. So, I decided to write this review.

The book

It’s a critical and genetic edition of the writings of Remedios Varo that presents to the readers the complementarity between the different creative languages used by the Surrealist artist when she was exiled in Mexico. It is a fantastic study on her writings, that made me understand better not only her visual works but also her personality.

The book is divided in three parts: the first one is the study on the Varo’s writings, starting with the connection of the artist with the surrealist movement, but also explaining the connection between her writings and her visual work. In the second part we have the critic edition of all the texts written by Remedios Varo; and the last part is the genetic edition of Varo’s writings.  One of the most important things about this study is that it divides Varo’s writing in two groups: one with the texts she wrote to a private context, and a second group with the texts that she wrote thinking on a public context.

Among the texts Varo’s herself made public are: Note written on the back of the drawing for Juan Soriano; the notes written on the back of photographs of her paintings that she sent to her brother Rodrigo Varo; De Homo Rodans and El caballero Juan Martín de Vilboa. Among the texts she didn’t made public are dream stories, other stories and letters. The book included also the play she wrote in collaboration with Leonora Carrington El santo cuerpo grasoso.  

The notes written on the back are very important for the comprehension of her work as a painter, because they go beyond giving us the keys to understand her work, these notes encircle in themselves an aesthetic value that invites reflection. The notes complemented the idea of the painting creating what the Mendoza calls a “creative construct”. These notes written on the back were very short explanations of the paintings, but when the text and the image are joined together, they created a meaningful unity.

De Homo Rodans is a curious work because here text and sculpture are a single piece of art, that is the reason why it is considered as her first public text with commercial purposes. This work was created as a scientific parody, on one side we have the sculpture created with chicken bones and on the other a pseudo-anthropological study written in a Latin invented by the artist and trying to imitate an old manuscript.

El santo cuerpo grasoso, the play written in collaboration with Leonora Carrington is a fruit of the friendship and affinity of ideas that united both artists. It was written alternately between Varo and Carrington and it is known that it was written with a clear playful intention and to be represented by the group of friends, but there is no evidence that it has been represented.

Highly recommended for those who love Varo’s work or Surrealism, although unfortunately this study is only available in Spanish. However, there is an English translation of the writings of Remedios Varo.