Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern

5 June 2014 § Leave a comment

It does not seem many years ago that the late work of major artists was largely ignored. Large sections of an artists oeuvre were discounted as insignificant senile dabbling and considered to be critically  irrelevant. There has however been a steady and distinct change to this view – largely led by the market who often looked at late works differently to the critics.

Henri Matisse The Cut Outs Tate Modern

 

With the lack of quality pieces available to satisfy the increasing worldwide demand collectors were priced out of the market for many artists works. It didn’t take long for them to move on to, for example Picasso work in the sixties, and moving forward provoke critical reassessment from the art establishment.

Henri Matisse The Cut Outs Tate Modern

The late work of Henri Matisse is a perfect example of this re-evaluation. Produced only in the last seventeen years of his life before his death in 1954 these works were initially seen as an interesting novelty only gradually being re-evaluated as being not only extraordinarily valuable but highly important.

Henri Matisse The Cut Outs Tate Modern

Initially Matisse used the cut-out technique to plan his painted works, but in part due to his failing heath he turned totally to scissors in place of the brush. He had realised that he could simply create the artistic line directly with his scissors and as a result found that – like a sculptor he could literally carve his works directly from the coloured paper. This was a revelation and with the newly liberated freedom found a new era of creativity.

Henri Matisse The Cut Outs Tate Modern

Indeed once he got started there was literally no stopping him. An assistant would help him arrange the cut fragments around his walls, over the ceiling, occupying his entire living spaces. Installation-like these works were all-encompassing and evolving: frequently they were re-arranged, added to or discarded.

Henri Matisse The Cut Outs Tate Modern

An innovator to the last his work frequently seemed to anticipate future trends and even late in his life Matisse had an awareness of what he was doing. “It seems to me I am anticipating things to come,” he said. “It will only be much later that people will realise to what extent the work I am doing today is in step with the future.”

Henri Matisse The Cut Outs Tate Modern

Arranged largely chronologically it is hugely comprehensive and even reunites some works for the first time since they left the artists studio. This exhibition – if rather late in the day – provides a spectacular overview of the cut-outs, affirming them as his finest work – a perfect coda to a life of genius.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is at Tate Modern until 17 September 2014

 

Adrian Searles review in the Guardian

Brian Sewell review in the Standard

Richard Dorment review in the Telegraph

 

Henri Matisse The Cut Outs Tate Modern

jake or dinos chapman – white cube

18 July 2011 § Leave a comment

Correct – Jake or Dinos. Each of the infamous brothers has supposedly worked separately for around a year to each produce their own White Cube exhibition – one at Masons Yard and one at Hoxton. Having only collaborated since graduating from the RCA in 1990 this show is an experimental diversion – Dinos recently said ‘We’re not interested in our similarities between our interests, but the divergencies. This show will be an exemplar of that.’

What you get here is not really a surprise – the brothers have rarely, if at all, moved from their disturbing moral takes on politics, religion and morality and again we see few divergencies. It all starts comfortably enough upstairs at Masons Yard with a deliberately cramped display of forty-seven roughly hewn sculptural works, constructed of thick cardboard and roughly painted in dark shades. Each sits on its own white pedestal. Think Picasso or Schwitters assemblages as made by primary school children, a rethink of modernist sculpture.

Downstairs Dinos (I think, but it really doesn’t matter) really gets going. Uniformed Nazis, flesh stripped off and charred black, sporting deathly grins admire an exhibition of similar, but more monumental works in painted steel whilst randomly buggering or being shat upon by stuffed birds. A reversed and nightmarish version of Entartete Kunst – the Nazis exhibition of forbidden art – but here being enjoyed by the degenerate gurning guards. On the wall original Goya Disasters of War etchings are symbolically drawn over and blackened.

In a separate darkened room a work by Pieter Bruegel (his nickname ‘Hell-Breugel’) has been distorted and defaced with trademark Chapman figures. Breughel was presumably a Chapman influence – filling his paintings with hellish medieval grotesques of his own – so much so that Adrian Searle (in the only review I have read so far – Guardian) hilariously missed the Chapman’s additions!

Over at Hoxton disturbing animal-faced children huddle and admire the paintings – large, brooding Chapmanesque takes on fairy-stories. Childhood stolen and distorted. Upstairs are tableaux of household Catholic shrines, the tacky, gothic statuettes of religious figures in painted plaster are similarly deformed – baby Jesus with swirling tentacles instead of a face, Madonna with stitched-on patches of skin. These are sinister Orwellian ‘Big Brother’ Icons and more wonderful digs at the fakery of religion.

Some hard-boiled art critics have taken to criticising the brothers on the basis that their art no longer shocks. This is just not true – we may have seen it before or suspect what the Chapmans are going to show us but they miss the fact that this is art which gets you on a visceral level. It also pushes and prods us and intellectually challenges us whilst examining the history of art. Some find the Chapmans an easy target and, although I would love them to try something new, I prefer to side with Waldemar Januszczak who finds them amongst the most important artists working today. Love ’em or hate ’em it is a show you should see.

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