Conroy Maddox

The Strange Country


Not on display

Conroy Maddox 1912–2005
Printed papers and watercolour on paper
Support: 406 × 279 mm
Purchased 1971

Display caption

Maddox has dedicated himself to the original, radical intentions of the Surrealist movement since 1935. He severely criticised the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London for including artists he thought were neither committed to, nor informed about, the movement: Roland Penrose, Paul Nash and Herbert Read. In contrast to Read’s interpretation of Surrealism, Maddox is avowedly internationalist. This work echoes the irrational events and space of Rene Magritte’s paintings. The head of one figure is replaced by a balloon, while the muscleman seems to emerge from within a frame. A huge match seems to replace the sun.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Conroy Maddox 1912-2005

T01472 The Strange Country 1940

Inscribed ‘Conroy Maddox 40’ b. centre.
Collage and watercolour, 16 x 11 (40.6 x 27.9).
Purchased from the artist through the Hamet Gallery (Gytha Trust) 1971.
Exh: Britain’s Contribution to Surrealism of the 30’s and 40’s, Hamet Gallery, November 1971 (not in catalogue); Conroy Maddox, Hamet Gallery, January–February 1972 (36).

The artist states: ‘This collage was almost the first of many I produced during the war, although only a few have survived. It does illustrate the beginning of one aspect of collage that interested me as a Surrealist. And which I continued to develop. The use of the double-focus image. The figure with folded arms has a balloon for his head. Although we recognise its function as a head at the same time one does not lose sight of the fact that it is also a balloon. This wrenching of an image out of its accepted context through association diverts the image from its initial meaning and forces one to speculate on its believability within a newly created reality .’

‘I like the ready-made immediately recognisable elements for my collages, and this collage of 1940 is no exception. Each image is complete and recognisable but in the process of finding relationships the ordinary becomes extraordinary. In works like this I think it is important to remember that an incomplete explanation is no less persuasive for leaving certain questions unanswered.’ (Letter of 21 January 1972).

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.

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