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I first discovered Felicia Browne's work very recently
and it was just extraordinary, it was an extraordinary feeling to discover
this person who had been willing to sacrifice her life for a cause.
To think about her as coming from
the receiving culture that my father came into, as a refugee,
she was part of the
kind of network that saved his life.
Who was Felicia Browne?
That's a very interesting question, you know, without her archives she may have never been considered as an artist
but we have her archives in the Tate archive and we have her story of who she was.
Felicia Browne was born in London in 1904,
in a relatively prosperous middle class family.
She went to the Slade School to study art in the 1920s
but probably the main turning point in her life was in 1928
when she went to study sculpture in Berlin because it coincided with the rise of Nazism
and she was drawn into the anti-fascist politics of that time.
When Felicia Browne returned from Berlin she joined the communist party
and she came under surveillance from MI5
who then monitored her career until her departure for Spain in 1936.
Over 2500 British men and women went to fight in the international brigades
or serve in medical services in the Spanish Civil War.
I think it's a British history in a way that, really, could be more acknowledged,
British people, probably, need to know a lot more about the altruism that they showed at that particular period
towards people who were really suffering and in trouble.
I think it's a proud moment.
Shortly after her arrival in Barcelona,
the military rebellion against the elected government of the Spanish Republic took place and
on the streets of Barcelona there was street fighting between the rebel soldiers and workers militias
and Felicia Browne witnessed this.
So, in early August she was finally able to join the militia
and the last recorded words that we have are her saying to a British journalist, on the steps of the barracks,
I'm a member of the London communist party and I can fight as well as any man.
The next we hear of her is on 22 August when,
by this stage, her militia group had gone to fight on the Aragon front.
They then took part in a raid,
one of the Italian volunteers was wounded
and Felicia Browne went to his assistance
and in the process she was shot dead.
After her death, her sketches that she had been drawing of the Republican militia
were retrieved and were sent back to London
and there they were put on sale as part of an exhibition to raise funds for Spanish medical aid.
Felicia Browne was probably the first British person to die in the Spanish Civil War
and certainly the only British woman to play a combatant role.
My father was a Republican journalist and he was part of the move out of Spain when the Second Republic fell in 1939,
this is a story that we simply didn't know, such a huge event in his life
and which meant that he was exiled to this country.
I've explored this conflict and period of history through my work,
using some of the objects that are very significant in the history, my family history.
I have used a play by my father called Tierra cautiva which he wrote in response to
basically the continuing dictatorship.
I use objects as sort of recipients of memory, really
and the objects I find which relate to the history, I use in lots of different ways,
so I might think about using them in an assemblage piece
and try and construct a piece which contains layers of meaning and association.
I might also take an object like a suitcase and
look at the traces of wear and tear on a suitcase and think about the history that's it's passed through and the things that it's contained
and then I quickly realised that
a lot of the power of the suitcase was to do with the textures and the kind of damage.
So then what I did was actually start to make some painterly responses when I was
thinking about landscape and the landscape of exile
which are what these paintings are about.
I do see these objects as an archive, I think I'm amassing something which
is happening quite intuitively without perhaps too much expectation
of what might happen to them in the future because I'm very conscious of how temporal things are anyway.
I think this could be termed a sort of emotional exhumation of memory, in the same way that
people are working on exhuming the bodies of people who were killed in the Civil War.
Some people say that memory was also killed
and murdered in the Civil War, so it's a kind of a parallel exploration and enterprise, I suppose.
It was mind blowing really
to discover Felicia Browne.
The fact that her drawings can come back to us
means that she is also…she didn't just sacrifice her life, she also witnessed something.
You know, she in a sense is a footnote in history
but a person that can tell us so much more than
perhaps what's written in the history books.
This was a person who was ahead of her time in terms of
becoming, in a sense, an unofficial war artist
so she really wore her politics on her sleeve
and I think that's quite unusual to see within an artist's archive.


Felicia Browne: Unofficial War Artist | Animating the Archives

113 タグ追加 保存
serena 2019 年 2 月 24 日 に公開
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