The Magic Lamp Book Cover

The Magic Lamp

Dreams of Our Age

Words by Ben Okri and images by Rosemary Clunie

An exhibition of original artwork at

Abergavenny Museum, Castle Street, Abergavenny NP7 5EE

May 26 – July 15, open 11am – 4pm daily. Free Admission

The Magic Lamp is an extraordinary collaboration between artist and artist –  the Booker prize-winning writer Ben Okri and the painter Rosemary Clunie. Together they have created a world, and peopled it with dreams. Fairy tales for adults, these narratives are a response to our times, informed by our world but not limited by it, imaginative, enchanting, haunting – both prescient and prophetic. The original paintings, beautiful, playful, intimate and dreamlike, pull you in to a land of colour and vision. Both words and images grew together out of a long friendship and creative symbiosis.

A special exhibition at Abergavenny Museum, showing from May 26th until July 15th features fifteen of these original works by Rosemary Clunie, and each are accompanied by the beginnings of each story written by Ben Okri.  In addition there are two prints that were specially created as further collaborations between the artist and writer – combining words from the stories together with the painting to create a new image.

Rosemary Clunie’s artistic collaboration with Ben Okri dates back over 20 years. Her paintings have drawn considerable inspiration from his many works of fiction, essays and poems. She has designed illustrations (unpublished as yet) for several of his books. Their latest project, The Magic Lamp (published by Head of Zeus), combines 25 stories and 25 paintings. In recent reviews of the book the New Statesman said: “Clunie’s use of colour is billowing, rich and dreamlike”. The Financial Times wrote: “…artist Rosemary Clunie, whose work recalls that of Joan Miro or Quentin Blake … her colourful images – in rainbow hues.”

Writing about the creation of The Magic Lamp, Ben Okri says “In this book the paintings came first. The stories came after each painting had been lived with for a long time. The stories do not illustrate the paintings. They reach to the world from which the paintings came, the under stream of our lives. There one dream shades into another in a vast sea of being that we all unknowingly share.”

Ben Okri has published many books including The Famished Road, which won the Booker Prize in 1991, The Age of Magic, Dangerous Love, In Arcadia, and Astonishing the Gods. He has published ten novels, three books of short stories, two collections of essays, and three volumes of poems, the latest being Wild. His works have been translated into 26 languages.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an honorary fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford. He was awarded an OBE.   He was born in Nigeria, and lives in London. His latest books are: Rise Like Lions and The Magic Lamp: Dreams of our Age.

The exhibition includes some of Rosemary Clunie’s other work, both paintings and prints, textiles, ceramics and pen and ink drawings, including some self-portraits and pen and ink portraits of Ben Okri. Her prints and some paintings are also available for sale from the Museum exhibition.

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