19 Oct 2019 — 04 Jan 2020
Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange
GRACE PAILTHORPE, REUBEN MEDNIKOFF AND THE BIRTH OF PSYCHOREALISM
An exhibition of paintings and drawings paired with psychoanalytic interpretation, A Tale of Mother’s Bones tells the remarkable story of a unique artistic and personal collaboration between Dr Grace Pailthorpe (1883–1971), a trained surgeon, and Reuben Mednikoff (1906–1972), an artist and designer. Pailthorpe and Mednikoff met in London in 1935, and moved to Port Isaac in Cornwall where they made some of their most wildly experimental artworks
Showing across both our venues, this is the first exhibition to bring together Pailthorpe and Mednikoff’s extraordinary drawings and paintings, with their often challenging interpretations. Featuring more than 90 works spanning nearly four decades, this show examines their earliest experiments with Surrealist processes, their response to the rise of Fascism in interwar Europe, and the way in which they approached gender, relationships, and spirituality, from progressive and often radical positions.
A Tale of Mother’s Bone is curated by Hope Wolf (University of Sussex), with the De La Warr Pavilion and Camden Arts Centre.
Despite exhibiting with leading Surrealist artists in the 1930s, the work of Pailthorpe and Mednikoff is still relatively unknown, and A Tale of Mother’s Bones is the most significant presentation of their work in almost 20 years. Showing for the first time their paintings and drawings alongside their interpretations, A Tale of Mother’s Bones presents Pailthorpe and Mednikoff’s art and writing as part of the same vast project. Spanning nearly four decades, it tells the story of their lives through their works, and shows how their project and partnership challenged the conventions of their day.
While Mednikoff was a trained artist, Pailthorpe had previously served as a surgeon in the First World War and studied psychoanalysis. Combining their skills and knowledge, they spent decades of their lives researching how art and writing might liberate individuals and societies from violence and oppression.
Drawing on original archival research, the exhibition tells the story of the couple’s lives through their works, showing how they excavated their earliest memories (including memories of birth) in order to understand their adult relationships, critical reception, political context, and spiritual beliefs. The exhibition reinstates the couple within the artistic and intellectual histories they contributed to, and reveals a new term developed by the pair: Psychorealism.
Pailthorpe continued making work well into her 80s, producing gloriously colourful watercolours. Mednikoff, who changed his name to Richard Pailthorpe in 1948, wrote fascinating reflections on his past lives. The couple died one year apart from one another in 1971 and 1972, at their home in Sussex.