Born in India to a family of British civil servants, Ithell Colquhoun moved to England at a young age. She was committed to the arcane throughout her entire life, practicing esoteric activities in search of divine female spirituality and studying the unconscious and Surrealist artistic techniques. Colquhoun joined the group in 1939 only to leave a year later, refusing to renounce her involvement with occult groups. Her paintings are populated by forms that amalgamate images evoking the sensual shapes of genitalia with landscapes, with a particular exploration of women’s spiritual relationships with the Earth’s magnetic currents, often demonstrating women’s defiance and the power of female sexuality. Gorgon (1948), for instance – a work made with decalcomania technique and named after the monstrous feminine figure of the Greek mythology – shows an ambiguous silhouette that displays a yellow-orange landscape under its curved feathered wings. It is a scenario that is real and hallucinatory at the same time: maybe a cave hunted by occult forces, a close-up on a rotten fruit or, likely, a fantastic womb. Gorgon’s hair is like serpents that top this entity as if they would like to own or fertilise it. Alluding to disembodied phalluses and ancestral references, the painting presents a deployment of Freudian tropes and symbolism related to gender and sex.
Liv Cuniberti & Stefano Mudu