Surrealism in England: 1936 and After

This two-day conference aims to explore the diverse and complex legacies of surrealism in art and design practice and theory.

Event details

Surrealism Symposium Poster

In 1986 Canterbury College of Art (now University for the Creative Arts Canterbury) hosted the symposium and exhibition, Surrealism in England: 1936 and After. The events were primarily organised by Toni del Renzio, the former Head of History of Art and Design at the College. The symposium and exhibition resulted in two publications, the exhibition catalogue which included illustrations, essays and 32 pages of Surrealist poetry and prose including contributions from Roland Penrose and George Melly. The second volume was made up of essays from the symposium by del Renzio and others. Del Renzio’s career as an artist, graphic designer, member of the Independent Group and magazine editor, spanned the disciplines of art and design yet he was consistently interested in the ‘surreal’ as a radical practice. The two-day conference aims to explore the diverse and complex legacies of surrealism in art and design practice and theory.

As we approach almost one hundred years since the first surrealist manifestos, this event at UCA in 2021 revisits the 1986 Symposium, which was itself revisiting the 1936 Surrealist Exhibition in London. We want to explore the multiple re-imaginings of surrealism and its far reaching impact on visual culture, architecture, design and theory. The uncertainty and provocative character of surrealism finds a renewed prescience in the current climate and we want to capture current research on the history and practice of surrealism in Britain. To explore the current sites of Surrealism, whether in architectural theory or in the gallery, particularly given the new Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy at the Whitechapel Gallery.

Use the button below to register on Eventbrite. You will then receive links to access the event on Zoom.



Day 1 Wednesday 9th June 2021

2.00-2.20 Conference Welcome and Introduction Jessica Kelly (UCA)

2.20-2.45 Toni del Renzio and Surrealism in England Anne Massey (UCA)

2.45-3.10 An Adult Play Centre: Surrealist Legacies of Juxtaposition and the Emergent Curatorial at the Early ICA Ben Cranfield (RCA)

3.10-3.25 Q & A/break

3.25-3.50 Surrealism and the Everyday Kerry Meakin (TU Dublin)

3.50-4.15 “Just Think What Toucan do”: Surrealism and Advertising in the 1930s Alan Powers (University of Kent)

4.15-4.30 Q & A/End


Day 2 Thursday 10th June 2021

2.00-2.10 Introduction to Day 2 Jessica Kelly (UCA)

2.10-2.35 Fragments and Frameworks: Architectural Possibilities for Edward James’ Archive George Charman (UCA)

3.00-3.25 Townhouse Surrealism: Edward James’s Transformation of 35 Wimpole Street David Stent (West Dean College)

3.25-3.40 Q & A/break

3.40-4.05 Dissecting the Naturalist’s Miscellany: Edith Rimmington’s “false collages” Tor Scott (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art)

4.05-4.30 Marion Adnams and the Margins of Surrealism Teresa Forde (University of Derby)

4.30-4.45 Q & A/break

4.45-5.00 Closing Remarks Jessica Kelly and Anne Massey