Tim Marlow TV - BBC online - Richard Shillitoe -
Scylla 1938: A Dali-style paranoiac critical image ... It tells the story of a nymph in classical times ... It’s also an image of Colquhoun herself ... More about seeing things from a woman’s perspective. Tim Marlow on ... The New Tate Modern
Colquhoun was part of an English and then British surrealist group. ibid.
British painter and writer. Born in Assam, India, the daughter of a civil servant, she moved to England as a child. She studied painting at the Slade School, London, from 1927 to 1931. While a student she engaged in multi-figure narrative compositions ... After the 1936 London International Surrealist exhibition she came under the influence of Salvador Dali. BBC online
Between 1938 and 1942 she painted a number of works using the surrealist ‘double image’ technique made famous by Salvador Dali. The best known of these is Scylla, now in the collections of the Tate Gallery. At first sight, this is a pair of rocky pillars that rise out of the sea, but a longer inspection shows that the pillars are based on the view the artist had of her legs and lower torso as she lay in the bath. In 1939 she began to experiment with decalcomania and other forms of automatism. That is, using various methods of applying paint randomly to her canvas or paper and then interpreting the resulting stains and marks. Automatism was important because it enabled her to make connections between surrealism and the occult.
For Colquhoun, sex was a driving, central force in all creation, having human, inorganic and divine components. Surrealism helped her make connections between all these aspects and to question conventional cultural and biological relationships between male and female. Many of her paintings of this period, such as The Pine Family, now in the Israel Museum Jerusalem, have an intensity that place them amongst surrealisms greatest set pieces of sexual confrontation seen from a female perspective. In these works, gender, gender roles and male/female relationships are the focus. Richard Shillitoe, July 2006