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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
22 November 2010 § 3 Comments
Following the unremarkable Newspeak: Part 1, Charles Saatchi‘s review of ‘British Art Now’ continues with the opening of Newspeak: Part 2. I conducted a gloriously unscientific review of the critical opinions following Part 1 and planned to subsequently add the latest assessment to create an overall league table of artists and a full review of critical opinion to cover the whole.
Sadly, the second, similarly unremarkable, part has proved so unattractive to newspaper editors that only a handful of major papers have run a review. Here then, is a less than comprehensive selection of reviews followed in the next blog by a critics selection of artists – both good and bad.
By way of a brief reminder Newspeak: Part 1 was, almost in one voice, branded as unco-ordinated – ‘a mess… the contents of someone’s attic’ (Independent). The quality was perceived as indifferent; ‘some good, some mediocre, some ghastly’ (FT) with ‘one or two instances of inspired brilliance’ (Guardian).
Five months down the line, we sadly have much more of the same. I wandered through one attractive space after another loosely filled with largely indifferent and uninspiring art. The critics agreed that Saatchi had perhaps once again used a scattergun approach to selection. ‘Arbitrary’ was Amy Dawson’s view in the Metro, adding that it is ‘difficult to make sense of this baggy hotch-potch of the good, the bad and the downright ugly’. Brian Sewell wondered if the work ‘truly represented British art Now’ whilst Laura Mclean-Ferris commented that the curating was ‘basic and clunky’ and that ‘if you want to see an exhibition that defines current art practice Britain [then] this is not it’.
But was there a deeper concern – that there was actually not much good art out there to select from? Brian Sewell thought that, contrasted to Sensation and the period following, ‘there is nothing to excite nor offend’ … ‘British Art has fallen in to a trough of sameness’ (Standard). ‘There is little to get excited about’ concurred the Mirror.
The only mild dissent, if you like, came from Richard Dorment in the Telegraph. He commented that the show was ‘strong‘ and gave a ‘good idea of what is going on out there’ but in the end what was out there was’ just the great big simmering bouillabaisse of good, bad and mostly mediocre art that we’ve been seeing for decades now’.
Once again there was little personal criticism of Saatchi himself and Brian Sewell seemed to hit the nail on the head observing that he was really ‘part impressario and part Svengali, part Barnum and Bailey’ and stepping in where the Tate should had not, to support the here and now of British art. It seems that – in the end – one has to say that there is not much confidence or consensus in quite what there is right here and right now!