Members of La Sirena will be joining the Welsh surrealist tribe and surrealists from across the UK at this event. We hope to meet some of you there. Further details at the Globe website.
Images of La Sirena
I recently acquired the tattoo shown above right. It wasn’t until I showed it to the group that it was pointed out that it qualified as an image of La Sirena, both as a hybrid being capable of traversing earth and air, and because the sirens of the Homer’s Odyssey were female figures with wings.
The tattoo, by John at Bizarre Ink of Edinburgh, is based on the ‘Queen of the Night’ also known as the ‘Burney Relief’, shown at the top left. I had been fascinated by this figure for years, and finally got to experience her presence at the ‘Feminine Power’ exhibition at the British museum a few weeks ago. I was coming to a significant hinge-point in my life, a tattoo seemed an appropriate ritual marker, and I suddenly realised what it had to be.
The story of the Burney Relief is a mystery worthy of the pulps. Acquired from a dealer in the late nineteenth century, its exact origin is unknown and it was long thought to be a forgery. It has since been widely associated with Lilith, though current scholarship suggests it is a representation of the Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love OR Ishtar’s elder sister and arch-rival Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld. (The sisters were much later syncretised by the Greeks as Aphrodite and Hekate respectively.) This duality pleases me, and I suppose the tattoo represents whichever queen of the night I find myself in most need of at any given time.
Images of La Sirena
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.
‘Dreams of Cairo: Icarus Rising’
The catalogue for part one of the International Exhibition of Surrealism in Cairo (2022), which features artworks and films produced by La Sirena, is now available to download as a PDF from Sulfur Surrealist Jungle.
La Sirena Surrealist Group collectively produced the front cover for the International Exhibition of Surrealism’s upcoming Poetic and Critical Anthology, which features an old map of ancient Egypt and an exquisite corpse that each member contributed to. It is notable that both Egypt – the host country – as well as other cultures and mythologies (represented by the hybrid creature) form the focal point of the cover to reflect the diversity of participation within the international exhibition.
Taya King: La Sirena Surrealist Group participated in the International Exhibition of Surrealism by submitting collective poetry texts, artworks, and films, which was followed by their physical representation as a group at the exhibition in Cairo (February 2022). This historically significant event also marked the first time that all members of La Sirena have met each other since the group’s virtual inception the previous year, during lockdown. I was particularly proud to present my two films, La Femme Automatique and La Femme (Re)trouvée (2021), at the exhibition.
Darren Thomas: Being part of this great exhibition, in Cairo has been a truly special experience. As well as showing several of my collages and photographs, I screened the third film in my trilogy The Dream Key (eclipse) and performed my poetry. But my abiding memory is the collective and international nature of this meeting of hearts and minds from the surrealist community, offering a wonderful opportunity to meet old and new comrades alike from so many countries and different cultures and take part in a collective dialogue and group activities – the poetry made by all!
Doug Campbell: I had been excited to see the rebirth of Egyptian surrealism over the last few years, and was thrilled to be invited to Cairo to participate in the exhibition. Despite the many challenges faced by the organisers, the event more than lived up to expectations. A meeting of minds in a magical space, and as such, perhaps necessarily challenging. For me, those challenges were a reason to get out there and get involved, not a reason to stay at home. I’m so glad I did, and I’m sure the contacts made and the energy generated will lead to many further adventures.
Daina Kopp: I was over the moon to come to Cairo for such a monumental surrealist exhibit. As a polyglot, I was in my element to be surrounded by artists and creators of all kinds from 28 countries and 4 continents who flew in. It was an honor and a pleasure to submit artwork and perform with my surrealist dream-inspired band, Hypnagogic Telegram. It was enchanting to meet with my fellow sirens from La Sirena and I look forward to further collaborations with the artists who contributed to this amazing historical exhibit. An ancient country hosting the next chapter of surrealism. Bravo!
Curious and Curiouser
Members of La Sirena (Left to Right: Taya King, Darren Thomas and Doug Campbell) met up in London yesterday to attend the ‘Curious and Curiouser’ exhibition on Carroll’s ‘Alice’ books at the Victoria and Albert museum. We went for a meal afterward, and glasses were raised to our comrade Daina Kopp, who sadly couldn’t make it this time. Proper scans of the Exquisite Corpses we made together to follow.