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Exploring the fantastical world of the surrealist painter, writer, designer and actress.

Leonora Carrington was born in Lancashire in 1917 to a wealthy upper-class family. After being expelled from multiple Catholic boarding schools she decided to study art in London, much of the grievance of her parents. It was at a classmate's dinner party that she met German artist Max Ernst and – despite the fact he was married and 26 years her senior – the two ran away together to Paris.

While in France Carrington socialised with emerging surrealist artists and writers, and began working on collaborative projects with Ernst – including a series of animal sculptures. But following the outbreak of the Second World War, Ernst's position in France became increasingly precarious and eventually he was arrested by the Nazis who considered his work 'degenerate art'. In order to escape his situation, he married Peggy Guggenheim and moved to America.

Distraught, Carrington fled to Spain where she suffered a mental breakdown. At her parents request she was hospitalised and given convulsive therapy while they made arrangements for her to be admitted to an institution in South Africa. Her creative output during this tumultuous period encompassed writing short stories, drawing and painting, which she used to depict her psychotic experiences.

Carrington escaped to Mexico City where she remarried and had two sons. As her life finally reached a point of relative calm, her artistic practice flourished and she expanded her work to include plays, sculptures and textiles. By 1957 she began making her own productions, such as Penelope, for which she designed sets and costumes, as well as performing as an actress.

This exhibition examines Carrington’s diverse and unusual career. Pivotal to the Surrealist movement, her narratives exists between the ordinary and the extraordinary; described by Luis Buñuel as “liberat[ing] us from the miserable reality of our days”. The artist’s own words are used to narrate the display, brought together by Mexican author and personal friend, Chloe Aridjis.

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