EMMY BRIDGWATER: The Edge of Beyond

1 December 2022 - 27 January 2023
Installation Views
Overview

“Bridgwater brought a new purity of outlook to British Surrealism, returning to the early days of the movement, to it's “automatic” beginnings in France. The swirling lines, plant forms and vaguely suggestive forms seem to have been exorcised from the deep recesses of the mind.”

- André Breton

On 11 June 1936, the International Surrealist Exhibition opened to crowds in London. Featuring Breton, Dalí, and Duchamp, none were more inspired by this dramatic arrival of Surrealism in Britain than a 30-year-old artist and poet from Birmingham: Emma ‘Emmy’ Bridgwater (b. 1906, Birmingham – d. 1999, Solihull, UK).

 

Invoking the Surrealist principle of juxtaposing unusual objects to reveal uncanny narratives, in her paintings and ink drawings (and latterly collages), viewers are invited into interior worlds; subverted domestic spaces reimagined in claustrophobic terms defined by a symbolic language of birds, eggs and organic forms, used to express her own desires and fears.

 

Bridgwater was an enthusiastic adopter of automatic drawing as a means of accessing and expressing her subconscious. André Breton wrote: “Bridgwater brought a new purity of outlook to British Surrealism, returning to the early days of the movement, to its ‘automatic’ beginnings in France”.

 

Finding allies in artists including Conroy Maddox and John Melville they worked together to establish the Birmingham Surrealist Group, joined latterly by Oscar Mellor and Desmond Morris. Towards the end of the1930s and throughout the 40s, they acted as a collective distinguished by their opposition to a London-based vision of Surrealism, which they saw as inauthentic. In 1947 Breton selected her to be one of just four British Surrealists to be exhibited at the International Surrealist show at Galerie Maeght in Paris. She continues to be exhibited in retrospective Surrealist exhibitions in both public and private galleries in Birmingham, London, Milan and Paris.


Works