By Richard Shillitoe
Along with the likes of Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning, the British writer and painter Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) is one of a small number of previously overlooked Surrealist women artists, whose stock today is on the rise. Colquhoun's paintings have recently featured in touring exhibitions around the UK, command ever-increasing prices at auction, and her occult travelogues of Ireland (The Crying of the Wind) and Cornwall (The Living Stones), first published in the '50s and reissued with introductions by Stewart Lee in 2016, have quickly sold through four print runs. In Medea's Charms Colquhoun's shorter writings are anthologised for the first time, and reveal the scope and sophistication of her interest in both the occult and surrealism. Poetry and short stories are complimented by her essays, the subjects of which range from hermetic texts for both the novice and the advanced practitioner, to writings on art and folklore. Colquhoun scholar Richard Shillitoe unlocks the secrets of her work, guiding the reader through the extraordinary imagination that lies at the heart of Colquhoun's genius. The book also demonstrates the extent to which Colquhoun used painting to illuminate her writing. The interplay between word and image is brought home by the inclusion of a striking selection of her paintings, some of which are reproduced here for the first time.