Magic Mirror: Exhibition of works by Claude Cahun and Sarah Pucill at Nunnery Gallery
East London’s Nunnery Gallery is the host of a major new exhibition of art that unifies the flair of contemporary British artist and filmmaker Sarah Pucill with the iconic work of French surrealist artist Claude Cahun (1894-1954).
Merging the work of these two formidable female artists of past and present offers an intriguing collaboration, exploring the idea of a “multiple self” and the notion of looking between mirror and camera eminent in Cahun’s work. Some of the photographs on display from the selection are noticeably small in size, inviting an inquisitive closer look which is rewarded with the optical illusionary positioning of each muse, their gazes transfixing central attention.
Cahun was renowned for her exploration of gender neutrality, and her many selves are explored throughout the show. Her challenge of social conformities at the beginning of the 20th century was a marker for female artists to come, and her work encapsulated surrealism, gender, identity and fashion, something that the exhibition has stayed true to.
Pucill expertly draws Cahun’s central hypotheses into the post-modern era with gender, self and identity still key to the understanding of both artists’ work. The highlight of the visit is no doubt Pucill’s film entitled Magic Mirror, a name that comes from Cahun’s own words: “A portrait of one or the other. Our two narcissisms drowning in it. It was the impossible realised in a magic mirror.” Pucill reimagines Cahun’s photographs and written text from her book Aveux non avenus (Disavowals), and offers for the first time a captivating transformation of Cahun’s still work to life on screen. It’s mesmerising and perfectly complements the themes running through each photograph, while also exploring the dynamics of sound and word in film.
This is small yet enlightening exhibition, combining to great effect the talent of one historic and one contemporary female artist, who share a common engagement with the surrealist movement that has now spanned across two centuries. In keeping the memory of Claude Cahun’s influence on postmodern female artistry to the fore, and intertwining her work with the creative experimentation of Pucill, credit is due to the curator Karen Le Roy Harris, who has succeeded in producing a timeless display of female surrealist exploration.
Magic Mirror: Exhibition of works by Claude Cahun and Sarah Pucill is at Nunnery Gallery London from 17th April until 14th June, for further information visit here.