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Dora Maar

Tate Modern

20 November to 15 March

Dora Maar’s retrospective exhibition at Tate was the last show I visited, discovering the exquisite work of an artist who was not that familiar before, but whose captivating and intimate compositions and ‘models’  influenced the development of my Degree show project.

 I observe her work in my theoretical analyses as the missing piece of the elements that build up the diverse range of expressions in my visual language. Her creative and bold approach to Surrealism, where she states a confident position,  using a medium detached from the Surrealist’s movement before, displays refined and elegant modern outlook in experimental photography, honouring the dream, the erotic, and the feminine.

At this exhibition, I understood that she was  Jacque Lacan’s patient for a while, whose writing she had been also influenced by, and whose extraordinary ideas I was already exploring long before that.


In long-life career oscillating between photography and painting, having the female as a muse and being a muse herself, Dora Maar’s restless, circulating creativity, and the ability to capture eroticism in a discreet, subtle manner manifest as self-portraiture, street photography, fashion photojournalism, and landscape – in photography, experimental techniques, and painting.

Through photomontage, playing with destroyed negatives, light, and additionally added paints, she stretches the boundaries of surrealism.  Her surrealism is not entirely created as a painting or a lyric - as the only way for the imaginable to be depicted - it is ‘brought to life’, ‘materialized’ in its very concept of fictional transformation.  ‘Frozen’ in an image, the real merges with the unreal, it is almost authentically dragged into a surreal composition, situation, transformed into another subject, and opens up for the ‘unimaginable’ to be experienced rather than observed.

In the collection of female photographs, the monochrome, often black and white palette turns the surroundings in  Passepartout around the figures  -   emphasizing the pale skin, the shape, the posture – portraying its porcelain purity. Her street photographs, rendering scenes, angles, objects from an unusual perspective hint surrealistic sense and peculiar anticipation. Space unfolds to accommodate the subject as it is designed exactly for that purpose, existing to be captured that way.

At the later stage of life, after a period of painting, Dora goes back to the dark room, where she destroys with acid photo-negatives, and create dramatic abstractions, where the figurative is obscure evidence of a journey of the deep, sensitive personality of the female artist.

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