Steve McQueen – Tate Modern, London

5 March 2020 § Leave a comment

Steve McQueen is now familiar to us for his critically acclaimed films for cinematic release; most specifically the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave (2013) but he has also made Hunger (2008), Shame (2010) and Widows (2018).

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

Less widely known, was that well before this, McQueen was a highly regarded visual artist, winning the Turner Prize in 1999. It is this side of his output that brings McQueen to the Tate Modern in an exhibition that features 14 major works spanning film, photography and sculpture.

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

This is the first survey of his work in the UK for over 20 years, offering a timely opportunity to experience the depth of McQueen’s visual art career in this country for the very first time.

The single sculpture is Weight 2016, a forgettable sculpture first exhibited at the recently closed Reading Gaol. Presenting a gold-plated mosquito net draped over one of the prison’s metal bed-frames to create a shimmering apparition. Weight unsuccessfully ’explores the relation between protection and confinement, the physical and the spiritual’.

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

Much more interesting are his films, which vary in duration from a few minutes to over 5 hours. They also vary in presentation; some shown in darkened rooms by timed entrance, others on huge projected screens, and yet more on grainy super 8 projected on to the walls.

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

What all the works in Tate Modern share, are a powerful determination to show life as it is. The human body, including the artists own, are filmed in unflinching detail. As and when required we are exposed to unconfortable intimacy, extreme physical duress, emotional and psychological pressure, all filmed with an often uncomfortable sense of proximity and engagement.

Despite reflecting output over some 25 years, the films are not arranged in any chronological order, and there is tacit encouragement to take in the films in any order in the open plan arrangement of the gallery exhibits as well as to re-view and re-examine them. There are unfortunately significant gaps such as the pre-1999 works created for the Turner Prize and many recent works, but the exhibition nevertheless spans the artists practice well.

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

One of the first works encountered is Once Upon a Time (2002), replaying the bizarre images sent in to space by NASA in 1977 reflecting a utopian world strangely free of poverty, disease and conflict accompanied by an unintelligible invented language.

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

Alongside is Static (2009), a deliberately un-static and disorienting close-up portrait of the Statue of Liberty filmed from a moving helicopter.

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

In the red-tinted short Charlotte (2004) the actress Charlotte Rampling has her eye pushed and prodded by the artist whilst, shown opposite in Cold Breath, McQueen does the same to his own nipple first gently and then with unexpected violence.

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

The film installation Ashes shows a two-sided story on two sides of a screen. One side is a joyful ride on a fishing boat bobbing in the sunny Caribbean, the other features preparations for a funeral. Ashes, the male subject was sadly caught up in a deadly drugs deal.

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

The black singer and activist Paul Robeson, or more specifically the record of his 30 year FBI surveillance, is the subject of the mediocre End Credits. Secret documents run on the screen for an unwatchable 5 hours with a deadpan commentary listing all the redactions.

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

The masterpiece of the exhibition is undoubtedly the dark and intensely claustrophobic Western Deep (2002) – a journey down in to the world’s deepest gold mine. From the start we are plunged into intense darkness with just overbearing sound of the rattling mineshaft lift. In grainy Super 8 faces flicker in and out of the picture before the cage arrives deep underground.

We smell the sweat and feel the heat as the miners labour in the roar of heavy machinery. Sometimes there are sudden silences or bright lights, each as uncomfortable as the intense darkness or unbearable noise. We cannot help but be transported into the daily working hell of the miners. It is a shocking and visceral experience.

Steve McQueen Tate Cellophaneland Exhibition Review

McQueen’s work does not always succeed quite enough to engage us in a gallery setting, however you cannot question the commitment of the artist to his expression of the often harsh and troubling realities of life, and the revelations of inequality, untruth or injustice. Even if only part of the exhibition hits home, it is nevertheless essential viewing.

Steve McQueen is at Tate Modern London, until 11 May 2020

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Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern

5 July 2016 § Leave a comment

‘When people read erotic symbols into my paintings, they’re really talking about their own affairs’ – Georgia O’Keefe

This post also appears at

This is the largest exhibition Georgia O’Keeffe ever to take place outside America and the first retrospective in the UK. Given too that there are no works in any British collection this is a rare opportunity to take a close look at the work of one of the most famous of American artists.

Georgia O’Keeffe Tate Modern review at

Famed for her close up flowers, New York cityscapes and desert landscapes – with or without bleached animal bones – this is somebody has come to represent the crowning achievements of American modernism.

Georgia O’Keeffe Tate Modern review at

Her journey was a remarkable one and in the Tate’s largely chronological approach we can see her development, from Wisconsin art student, via New York and a relationship with the leading proponent of European modernism, Alfred Stieglitz, before retiring to a ranch in the arid southwest.

Georgia O’Keeffe Tate Modern review at

The show opens with an impressive reconstruction of her 1916 show at 291 in New York. A group of charcoal sketches, heavily influenced by tutor Arthur Wesley Dow and Kandinsky’s abstract and spiritual approach, were shown to Alfred Stieglitz, the gallery’s influential owner. He spotted her early promise and put the works on show.

Georgia O’Keeffe Tate Modern review at

O’Keeffe soon moved to the city, and in to a lengthy relationship with Stieglitz. She adopted the philosophies and scientific ideas of the time: theosophy, synesthesia, with the spiritual underpinning her work. She painted abstracts – one of the first Americans to work this way – with an unmistakeable erotic symbolism that Stieglitz drew on to market her in the gallery.

Georgia O’Keeffe Tate Modern review at

He added his own nude images of her and stated that as a woman she ‘painted from the womb’. O’Keefe distanced herself from this angle, said the eroticism was in the eye of the beholder and from then veered away from abstracts. Even many years later, when artists like Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro claimed her as an early feminist artist, which she obviously was, she sadly continued to avoid and deny this.

Georgia O’Keeffe Tate Modern review at

It was in New York too that, bored of the city, she began painting her iconic flowers. Despite stating that ‘I hate flowers—I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move’  they are now her most recognisable works. One somehow imagines them to fill the walls, but when seen at the Tate they seem surprisingly small and less impressive than anticipated.

Georgia O’Keeffe Tate Modern review at

A 1919 trip took her to the desert, which she adored, returning frequently and eventually moving to Santa Fe from New York when Stieglitz died in 1949. There are plenty of these desert landscapes here and the influence of Emily Carr, a Canadian artist that she met, is clear to see. Carr herself was strongly influenced by another Canadian, Lawren Harris and the Group of Seven. All were concerned with the spiritual within the landscape and one wonders how strong this influence was.

Georgia O’Keeffe Tate Modern review at


In the desert she painted the colourful, arid landscapes. These are often impressive, but also sometimes they miss the bright light and sharpness you would expect – often appearing rather distant and flat. She also painted the weeds and adobe buildings and some of these stand out in the exhibition as more appealing for their simplicity and abstract forms.

Georgia O’Keeffe Tate Modern review at

She also loved the sun dried animal bones. Perhaps these represented for her the spirituality of the land but these are perhaps the least impressive works. It is all too obvious, especially when skulls are tackily suspended in space within the landscapes.

Georgia O’Keeffe Tate Modern review at

Fans of O’Keeffe are sure to love this exhibition whilst for others it may show up limitations, but this is still a show to admire. The Tate has put on a wonderful exhibition, which truly does justice to the fascinating works of a remarkable woman and a groundbreaking artist.

Georgia O’Keeffe is at Tate Modern until 30 October 2016

For more information visit

Agnes Martin at Tate Modern, London

16 November 2015 § Leave a comment

My paintings have neither objects nor space nor time nor anything – no forms. They are light, lightness, about merging, about formlessness, breaking down form. 
Agnes Martin, 1966

Agnes Martin is not for everyone. In sharp contrast to the eye-popping bling of the current The World Goes Pop exhibition a few yards away on the same level of Tate Modern (reviewed here) this is art that is understated and serene. There is nothing here that is brash or demands attention, and its appreciation requires a willingness to take a deep breath and slowly take in what the artist has to offer.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

It is however well worth the time and effort. Agnes Martin’s art is about the search for sublime beauty and serenity, she herself states that “art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.”

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

Working in the second half of the 20th Century, her early career covered the era when Abstract Expressionism was overtaken by Minimalism. She is often considered as a pivot between the two – her fine-lined grids, bands and square blocks of pale color fusing the emotional resonance of the former with the sparce purity of the latter.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

The show is laid out chronologically, and begins with her highly derivative early “biomorphic” works reminiscent of artists like Joan Miró and Mark Rothko. Seeing her work in Taos in 1957, the dealer Betty Parsons however saw something in Martin’s talent and persuaded her to move to New York.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

It was here she fraternised with, and was influenced by, artists like Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, and Robert Rauschenberg in the hot-bed of art that was the Lower East side at that time. She made sculptural assemblages using found objects such as boat spikes and nails and began to depict simple geometric forms such as squares, rectangles and circles as well as a range of linear marks and dots, often repeated across the surface.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

By the early 1960s, Martin’s geometric compositions had evolved into what would later be seen as her signature style: the square grid. The beauty in this simplicity is seen in works like Friendship – where gold leaf is incised to produce a grid of tiny rectangles. Referring to these paintings, the critic Lucy Lippard described them as ‘legendary examples of an unrepetitive use of a repetitive medium’.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

By 1967 however, fighting against mental illness, Martin left New York in search of solitude and settled in New Mexico for a self-imposed five year break from painting. When she did start again the grids are replaced by horizontal lines, and the darker tones by palest pink, blue and yellow. The colours are evocative of nature: sunsets, light through the mist, rocks in the sun.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

Shown together in their own room here are The Islands I-XII  – a spellbinding series of 12 near white paintings from 1979 that Martin considered a single piece These paintings can be seen as Martin’s most silent works and invite concentrated looking over time in order to see their fine lines and subtly nuanced surfaces.


The works convey a contemplative quality, indicating Martin’s interest in East Asian philosophy, and spirituality however knowing about Martin’s schizophrenia it is also clear that this calmness was hard won – the result of a deep inner battle.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

Agnes Martin is at Tate Modern until 11 October 2015

Images by Tate and CELLOPHANELAND*

Malevich at Tate Modern

29 July 2014 § Leave a comment

Despite Kasimir Malevich being widely feted during his lifetime as a leader in non-figurative art exhibitions of work since his death in 1935 have been few and far between. With the location of many works not only behind the iron curtain but considered subversive – the seminal ‘Black Square’ was actually hidden from view until the 1980’s – the opportunity for bringing together a significant body of Malevich’s work has been limited.

Kasimir Malevich Tate Modern

This show is quite simply breathtaking.  A 2003 Guggenheim-sponsored tour was impressive but this Tate show dwarfs anything previously attempted. An unprecedented international collaboration has brought over 150 major works plus another 150 works on paper, publications and film. It was with great anticipation therefore that we previewed the Tate show, entitled simply Malevich and were not disappointed.

Kasimir Malevich Tate Modern

Malevich is of course most famous for one of the defining works of the 20th century – Black Square. This slightly uneven shape painted with a white frame, was created in 1915 roughly contemporaneously with Marcel Duchamp’s groundbreaking readymades.  Equally revolutionary it boldly and clearly signalled the end of painting as it was then known.

Kasimir Malevich Tate Modern

Bringing an end to centuries of representation this was a giant artistic full stop. He had momentously declared that art was now free of history and was ready for “the beginning of a new culture”. Malevich’s new beginning was Suprematism – a bold visual language of abstract geometric shapes and stark colours and its first exhibition was The Last Exhibition of Futurist Painting 0.10 (Zero-ten).

Kasimir Malevich Tate Modern

The Tate has recreated this momentous event with by reuniting nine of the remaining twelve known works and rehanging them according to the only black and white photograph of the original exhibition. This small photograph shows, in black and white, two walls densely hung with Black Square positioned in the top corner – taking the traditional place of a typical homes religious icon.

Kasimir Malevich Tate Modern

Despite the many missing works the impact upon arriving in this room is huge. Suddenly one is aware of what a massive impact must have been felt one hundred years ago upon arriving at the same viewpoint; an earth-shattering assault on the senses that can never have been previously experienced. The effect is almost as strong today – the black and white works are bold and striking, the others surprisingly colourful.

Kasimir Malevich Tate Modern

The remainder of the show necessarily takes a back seat but is still impressive. Starting from his early paintings of Russian landscapes, agricultural workers and religious scenes, the exhibition follows the influence of the French Impressionists, particularly Matisse, and his journey towards abstract painting and his suprematist masterpieces.

Kasimir Malevich Tate Modern

In 1913, together with musician Mikhail Matyushin and poet Aleksei Kruchenykh, Malevich produced a manifesto calling for the dissolution of language and the end to rational thought before producing with them the futurist opera Victory Over the Sun. The collaboration helped bring forward ideas to wrest painting away from its duty to render a world of myths, stories and representations.

Kasimir Malevich Tate Modern

The exhibition moves in to the Suprematist era with a stunning series of rooms that chronicle the Malevich’s most inventive period. Despite shortages and poor living conditions we see exciting geometric abstracts on the white backgrounds of ‘infinite space’ and a variety of monochromes or bold shapes. Call up to the war however soon slowed down output before the gradually increasing disapproval of the new Soviet leaders of avant-garde art forced him in to abandon painting for teaching and drawing.

Kasimir Malevich Tate Modern

Possibly chastened by the Stalinist state in to conforming he later returns to painting combining his early style with the strange introduction of aspects of realism and Renaissance portraiture. It is notable however that many of his last works are not signed but instead feature a tiny  black square – the same Black Square that hung over his death bed and led his funeral cortege. Malevich certainly realised that this was his key achievement – an iconic work that symbolised both the end and a new beginning.

Kasimir Malevich Tate Modern

Malevich is at Tate Modern, SE1 (020 7887 8888, until 26 October 2014

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

Miroslaw Balka DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG 25,31m AMSL at White Cube

10 April 2014 § Leave a comment

White Cube’s latest exhibition at their Masons’ Yard space is Miroslaw Balka’s DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG 25,31m AMSL. The title refers both to the building’s altitude above sea level and the original German title of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams – the exhibition running concurrently with another at London’s Freud Museum (73,32m AMSL).

Miroslaw Balka White Cube

The title immediately suggests a connection with mental landscapes whilst – as with his vast steel box construction, How It Is, which occupied the Tate Modern turbine hall a couple of years ago – Balka’s work also is strongly connected with the body, materials and the physical.

The ground floor gallery houses just two minimalist concrete sculptures. The first, entitled 100 x 100 x 20 TTT, is a flat structure from which an internal light shines. Is it a plinth, a grave or perhaps a trapdoor to a subterranean space? Alongside is a trapezohedron, open at one side, that is inspired by the mysterious object in Abrecht Durer’s Melancolia 1 (1514) and matches the magic ‘invisibility’ helmet from Wagner’s Das Rheingold.

Melencolia Albrecht Durer

In the basement space Balka has installed Above your Head – a steel mesh canopy (chicken wire to you and me) fixed just above head height. He has added to this dim lighting and the whistled soundtrack of the Great Escape theme tune ‘to continue the theme of refuge and confinement’.

Miroslaw Balka White Cube

This all relates to recurring Balka references that cover topics like Polish history and the holocaust. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. The White Cube space looks like – well – a big space with a chicken wire ceiling and doesn’t invoke the claustrophobia and sense of confinement that it is meant to. The whistled tune is annoying and obvious whilst the ‘escape hatch’ sculpture of the upper gallery is far too simplistic.

'DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG / 75,32m AMSL', Freud Museum  Photo: Jack Hems Courtesy White Cube

‘DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG / 75,32m AMSL’, Freud Museum
Photo: Jack Hems
Courtesy White Cube

The attempt at some sort of mystery supposedly introduced by the enigmatic tarpezohedron seems just a little desperate and the whole is far too literal. Perhaps the second exhibition at the Freud Museum makes more sense, but I won’t personally be finding out.

Miroslaw Balka DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG is at White Cube Masons Yard until  until 25 May 2014 and at the Freud Museum  until 25 May 2014

Paul Klee – Making Visible at Tate Modern

15 March 2014 § Leave a comment

“I want to be as though new born, knowing nothing about Europe, nothing, no pictures, entirely without impulses, almost in an original state”. Paul Klee 1902.

Klee was one of the last century’s deepest thinkers about artistic theory, the above early diary entry perhaps presenting his initial starting point. Anybody who has tried to read – or rather ‘plough through’ – any of his writings will know how much complex thought he has invested in to his art.


I here say ‘plough through’ advisedly since his writings are more like complex scientific text books that essays on art thinking. Illustrated with innumerable diagrams, sketches and graphs they present new ways of thinking about the creation of art, largely developed during his periods of Bauhaus teaching.

Greeting 1922 Paul Klee

His Pedagogical Sketchbook for example begins with thirty pages of closely reasoned text on the significance of ‘the dot’ before apologising for brevity and moving on to ‘the line’. The published ‘notebooks’ of his thoughts and writings whilst at the Bauhaus exceed a thousand pages and feature headings like ‘The concept of analysis’ and ‘Corporeo-spatial tensions’. Every aspect of image making is pored over, analysed and scientifically dissected.

Paul Klee Tate Modern, London

One might think that somebody who analyses art so deeply would be far too ‘bogged down’ in theory that they would find it all but impossible to produce any appealing art. Surprisingly though this show at the Tate proves the opposite. This deep thinking stimulated him into production of a wide variety of interesting work within relatively short time bands.


The Tate’s chronological approach successfully shows the twists and turns of his style as well as his great early confidence. From the start, despite unfavourable reviews from his first solo show, he was already precisely numbering and cataloguing each work. A Constructivist period leads in to his time with the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) group, where the influence of Kandinsky is strongly visible. Cezanne, Bracque, Picasso, Matisse and especially Delaunay were further influences before Klee threw himself in to a decade of teaching at the Bauhaus.

Klee - They're Biting 1920

The exhibition repeatedly surprises as successive rooms show the depth of his talent. Oil, watercolour or oil-transfer are given equal prominence and plenty of space to shine. An early realisation that there is much more to Klee than you thought you knew leads to an acceptance that this really is a master of modern art. Repeated innovation, prodigious in production and immensely talented a relatively early death in 1940 surely deprived the world of much, much more.

Paul Klee Making Visible is at Tate Modern until 9 March 2014

damien hirst at tate modern

2 September 2012 § 1 Comment

It seems hard to believe that it is over four months since I was at the Press Preview of Damien Hirst at the Tate. How time (butter)flies. I have been meaning to write up a review ever since then but the thought of doing it is so depressing I have almost daily delayed the act. So here we go. I’ll try and make it and short and painless as possible. And as close to the end of the run so you won’t even be tempted to see how bad it really is.

The first thing that you actually notice is that the Tate have cunningly nicked one of the permanent exhibition areas to create three paid-for shows and so reducing the tally of free-to-view from four to three.  Clearly the sneaky idea is to maximise revenue for the Olympics.

And so to the exhibition. I  firstly should say that Damien Hirst has an important place in the art work. Almost single-handedly he created the yBa phenomenon and gave British art a kick up the arts that it most definitely needed with his Freeze graduate show. He deserves congratulations. He deserves to be remembered and have a nice big entry in Wikipedia. But he doesn’t deserve this show and neither do we.

The first room at the Tate shows this student work. Interestingly, of the artists at Freeze Hirst was one of the last picked up by a major gallery and its easy to see why with these rough half-formed ideas. He actually called them “embarassing” himself – so why are they here? 

The Tate’s excuse is that it is not a highlights show but a mid-career review. So where are the execrable paintings that the the Wallace collection misguidedly showed a couple of years back?

Following his post-student lull we all know how quickly he made up for lost time in the get rich quick world of the 90’s and noughties. He was at the heart of the rise of art as commodity and artist as a brand. An artist who set out, unapologetically, to make shock-art that also made money. Accompanied by the rise of the super-galleries this is an era that much of the art world is trying hard to forget – a time where cash and vulgarity ruled.

Hirst explains: “I always thought it would be great if art galleries were more like the Natural History Museum (London), where you go in and there’s this big wow factor, rather than having to ask yourself, ‘What am I supposed to be thinking?’

So here you get room after room of “wow factor” art that hits you in the eyes. I won’t bother to describe it all – I’m sure you know them all by now: spots, vitrines, spin paintings, butterflies, anatomical dummies, medicine cabinets. Each is repeated ad nauseum – usually bigger or bolder or with more diamonds stuck on.

The net effect is tedious and repetitious. You come out feeling like you have been slapped around the face or punched in the stomach. Dizzy and slightly nauseous. Note to Tate – must try harder.

That is all you are getting. Just don’t go. Please.

Damien Hirst is at Tate Modern until – no I can’t do it – I’m not telling you!

edvard munch – the modern eye at tate modern

30 June 2012 § 1 Comment

I have two problems with this exhibition. Firstly ‘Modern’. I guess the title says a lot. It desperately looks to confirm how modern Munch is – it is even of course being held at Tate Modern. The exhibition frequently tells us that Edvard Munch is thought of in the context of the 1880’s and 1890’s, when he did actually produce some of his work – seeking to show us that, despite our deeply held beliefs and prejudices, he is a thoroughly modern, 20th century painter who reflects upon the latest cultural and technological developments.

Well, excuse me for being ignorant, but I always had Munch as a 20th century artist and had conveniently pigeon-holed him as stylistically (sort of) alongside say, the Blue Riders and German Expressionists. And didn’t you too? The Scream as Impressionist/Symbolist/fin-de-siecle? I dont think so.

I guess accepting that Munch was already considered modern would have undermined a nice way of curating this exhibition – so they ignored it and carried on regardless.

Secondly, everywhere I went during the Press preview I was regularly cut off by suited heavies who were stopping me from approaching any artworks that lay within a twenty metre range of a nondescript middle-aged lady, who turned out to be the Queen of Norway. She was unfortunately touring the exhibition at the same speed and in the same direction (naturally) as myself and obviously could not breathe the same air as normal mortals. Very annoying.

In all other respects the show was exceptionally good. Unless you are able to pop over to Oslo regularly there is little chance of finding more than a couple of Munch’s in the same place and it is hard to develop a considered opinion of his work. Here though the assembled works, often with repeated themes, allow a real opportunity to see what the great (as I now accept) artist was up to.

It was easy to see for example that the return to these certain images was not a commercial decision. Often separated by many years the works developed and changed ‘I build one painting on the last‘ as he said.

There was a clear view of his use of handling of space with exaggerated perspective, strange compositional arrangements and unusual viewing angles – perhaps linked to Japanese prints or his own experiments with photography and film.

He frequently suggested the sense of motion with blurring and figures approaching the viewer directly. This was re-inforced by the exhibition of his own distorted and shaky photographic and film works (presented here with rather exaggerated importance I felt).

He frequently engaged with and investigated other aspects of perception. Some were connected with scientific discoveries of the era – X rays, radio waves, others with photography – double exposure, out-of-focus images. He looked at visions of claustrophobia and tried to put on canvas the problems he has with an eye haemmorrhage.

The whole exhibition puts together a timely reminder of just how good an artist Munch was. The absence of the Scream (in any version) was not important – infact it actually allowed you to see his other works undisturbed by the taint of hard cash and demonstrated that other works are better anyway.

By the way for a ‘real’ review you should read Brian Sewell in the Standard – link below!

Munch – The Modern Eye at Tate Modern until 14 October 2012

paolo reversi at the wapping project bankside

8 March 2012 § Leave a comment

I dropped in recently to the very pleasant Wapping Project Bankside space in Hopton Street, just a latte’s throw away from the Tate Modern, to see what they had on. It turned out to be Paolo Roversi – not a name that I was familiar with, but apparently ‘one of the most esteemed fashion photographers currently working’.

I have seen similar phrases quite often, usually where photographic galleries seek to monetise fashion photographers’ back catalogues of stored work. Fashion images are naturally usually taken for one-off magazine publication before being consigned to storage, but in this case it the published phrase held up to scrutiny with Roversi actually being truly revered in the industry and these works being genuinely interesting.

Having started working with Associated Press in 1970 Roversi moved in to fashion in Paris in the 1970’s. A Dior campaign in 1980 made his name and since then he has continued from his minimal Paris studio working with names like Comme des Garcons, YSL, Dior and Valentino and featuring in exhibitions in many of the worlds top museums.

It does not take long viewing these images before you realise that Roversi’s work was somewhat more interesting than the typical fashion photographer – an early give-away being that many of the images do not feature any fashion or even any clothes at all! His work is delicate and ethereal featuring models, of both sexes, chosen for their enigmatic and mysterious looks are pictured against simple backdrops.  All are taken with a 10×8 tripod-mounted camera which provides a distinctive appearance – shallow depth of field, occasional blurring and an old-fashioned ‘look’, helped here by the fact that almost all the images are in black and white.

He has said ‘I started to work with this camera for its size, the 8×10 format. Taking pictures one by one is a slow procedure. I found my way through this camera— how to work. It was the ideal way to express myself. By now, I know it very well. It has become a part of my skin; my blood.’

This is a lovely small exhibition in an attractive space, well worth a stop on the way to the Tate (or vice-versa!).

At the Wapping Project Bankside until 31 March 2012

PS: ‘Lips’ is not in the exhibition but a nice example of his unusal work…

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