The Way We See

The Arts

id_010new_1It’s unlikely that such an extensive exhibition of Henri Matisse’s late works will ever be put together again, says the curator of ‘Cut Outs’ at the Tate Modern. And it is astonishing to see them all gathered together here. When Matisse’s health was failing he switched to this paper-and-scissors technique and undermined the argument that great art arose from paint alone, because of all of hallmarks remained intact. His ability to compose and space these slabs of colour creates tension in the simplest designs, and he reduces figures to a single flow of movement in much the same way that Picasso did with his bull drawings.

The strange thing about seeing these large pieces in a gallery, though, is that they’re in no way contemplative artworks. You don’t sit in front of them for an age and quietly feel their power. Because we’re so familiar with bombardments of graphic art, we stop, look, pay respect, move on. I found myself hardly spending any time in the gallery, which is unusual for me. Ultimately they’re beautiful but surface-slick, like book jacket designs.

The Matisse exhibition is the late summer big-hitter for the Tate Modern, but that’s to risk missing the other exhibition currently showing there.

Kazimir Malevich, an artist as influential as he was radical, cast a long shadow over the history of modern art. This, his first retrospective in thirty years and the first ever in the UK, unites works from collections in Russia, the US and Europe to tell the story of revolutionary ideals and the power of art itself.

Malevich (1879–1935) lived and worked through one of the most turbulent periods in twentieth century history. Having come of age in Tsarist Russia, Malevich witnessed the First World War and the October Revolution first-hand.

Malevich invented Suprematism, a bold visual language of abstract geometric shapes and stark colours epitomised by his picture Black Square. One of the defining works of Modernism, the painting was revealed to the world after months of secrecy and was hidden again for almost half a century after its creator’s death. The exhibition requires more concentration and time to be spent on it, and is therefore the less popular but more rewarding of the two.






4 comments on “The Way We See”

  1. Vivienne says:

    I read a book not all that long ago called The Art Thief by Noah Charney. Quite clever, the plot dealt with Malevich paintings – forgeries or otherwise. I’d never heard of him, but the same week he was featured in the Independent’s art series by Tom Lubbock (much missed). Will definitely make sure I get to this exhibition.

  2. snowy says:

    “Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.”

    “I will be your guide as we tour through the Malevich exhibition.”

    “On you left is his most famous work ‘Black Square’, this is one of the four versions of this work he painted in his lifetime. I’d like to read to you what a philosopher said about this painting:

    “There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.”.

    “To the right is ‘Red Square (Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions)’ from the same period and the title is a mis-nomer as it’s not really a square, was the artist seeking to reflect the struggles of the kulaks under state-oppression, or had that git Alexander Archipenko nicked his ruler again?”

    “Right of that is ‘Suprematist Composition (blue rectangle over the red beam)’ from 1916 or as it is more commonly known, ‘Somebody sneezed in the fuzzy-felt factory and now they want to palm it off as Art!”

    “I’m sorry, Ladies and Gentlemen, we will have to pause the tour for just a moment, it seems that we have had that Alain de Botton in here again changing the labels again.”

  3. Helen Martin says:

    Snowy sounds frivolous but he’s got a point or two.

  4. C Falconer says:

    I don’t know if I’m unduly shallow but while I admired the Malevich (and there were one or two which passed THE TEST – ie would I nick it and find a place at home for it?), I LOVED the Matisse as it filled me with joy, and yes I did stand enraptured in front of some of them.

    Although it was amusing to see those people with the iPad and headphones, looking down at the screen at the digital representation of what was actually in front of them.

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