The below exquisite corpse features on the front cover of the International Exhibition of Surrealism Part One: Cairo 2022 Poetic and Critical Anthology, which was collectively produced by the members of La Sirena Surrealist Group.
Taya: The international spirit of the Surrealist Exhibition in Cairo is reflected here in the hybrid union of the creature’s three culturally distinct heads, including (from left to right) that of a Moai statue from Easter Island, an ancient Greek sculpture from the Classical period and an ancient Egyptian mummy from the host country, all of which were sourced from Harter’s Picture Archive for Collage and Illustration.
Darren: I sourced the torso from an old favourite of mine – Heck’s Pictorial Archive of Nature and Science, from the section on anatomical bodies. I was struck by the positioning of the arms, which I read as a welcoming gesture and immediately brought back fond memories of how I felt when I was in Cairo amongst my surrealist comrades, who embraced La Sirena with open arms. I cannot think of a more fitting gesture to grace the cover of the anthology for the International Exhibition of Surrealism, with its emphasis on internationalism, open to all.
The butterfly wings were taken from another of my favourite books: The Observer Book of Butterflies. I am constantly drawn to butterflies because of their association with flight, freedom, transformation, rebirth and hope, and, again, these associations were wedded to my experiences of flying to Cairo and being part of the exhibition, which was truly transformative.
Daina: I’ve always been fond of bestiaries and fantastical creatures like those imagined by Hieronymus Bosch (1450 – 1516), Peter Bruegel the Elder (1525? – 1569) and J J Grandville (1803 – 1847). I love medieval bestiaries and pull a lot of inspiration for my work from such books.
The hips came from an image of, Pan, the Greek god of Shepards and the mountain wilds. The tail came from an engraving, DRAGON, 1640. Draco Aethiopicus. Woodcut from Ulisse Aldrovandi’s ‘Serpentum et Draconium Historiae’, Bologna, Italy, 1640.
I can’t recall where the image of Pan came from exactly. It might have been from the book Treasury of Fantastical and Mythological Creatures: 1087 Renderings from Historical Sources by Richard Huber.
Doug: For the legs, I used a reversed stock image of a knight in full body armour.
This turns out to be a 16th century wood engraving by Vecellio Cesare, a cousin of Titian! The metal ‘scales’ on the legs made me think of birds and reptiles, so I found textbook engravings of chicken feet and added them on.