I have been here once before last November, when most of the artist names were new to me, so it was great this time to find they were more familiar!
I had a plan to look up some artists that I’ve been reading about for this course. First on the list was Luc Tuymans and the large sized canvases on display showed how book reproductions really don’t do them justice.
This is taken from a film still and shows a group of diamond smugglers on a beach minutes before they are all gunned down. What I liked was the composition – it feels brave to have the main focus a tiny percentage of a black canvas. The figures look restless, they’re all wandering about as if in anticipation. The composition really highlights them in the middle of the blackness. What are they doing on a beach at night? It looks sinister. Thin layers of white paint create negative shapes of limbs and heads. Some of the body parts have been left as the black background and in our imagination. Theres a tense energy in the group, no one looks relaxed.
This next one of his is again a muted colour palette. The sinister deformed mask like face grabbed me as soon as I walked in the room. The eyes are distorted, the nose is witch like and it’s wearing a strange safari style hat with what looks like a cigar coming out of its mouth. The hat has a faint layer around it as if it’s in motion. This is the stuff of nightmares! The background gives no clue as to what this is, but the title does. The name is of a murderer who cannibalized a fellow student in Paris in the 80’s. I felt compelled to look up more about this person who spent 6 years in a psychiatric unit before living free in Japan since 1986. He has written and given many interviews about the incident in which he comes across as a strange individual. I liked the way this subject is interesting and at the same time gruesome. I think humans are fascinated in general by the terrible things we are capable of. In the last month I’ve been looking at new subjects to paint based on what’s in the news. Sometimes I’ve painted people who I don’t like or have done awful things. It is compelling to paint a face that is tortured in some way and try to convey that emotion. It’s not easy to do. I don’t know what the artist felt when he was studying this man to paint – I have read the artist makes detailed studies before painting, which he says he always completes in a day. He has painted major historical events such as the Holocaust or Belgian colonial politics. He uses filmic techniques such as close ups, cropping and framing  and his work in undercut but what is left out or avoided rather than what is explicitly represented . This appeals to me. I feel a painting is more interesting by making the viewer work a bit to understand it. I know I will not forget either of these paintings.
This artist also does not steer away from macabre subjects. At first sight it could be an ecstatic pose, but reading the label reveals this is the corpse of a Red Army Faction terrorist. She is lying dead in her prison cell but there is still controversy over whether this is suicide or murder. Again reproduction doesn’t do this painting justice. The sparse palette of black, white and burnt umber is then added to with the face outlined in a rather surprising viridian green. Look closely and the brown mouth does look corpse like, and the lines around the neck could represent hanging ligatures. I like this artist because she is not afraid to paint contemporary issues. One that sticks in my mind is a gallery of men in which terrorist and victims are mixed up, so we do not know who we are looking at and can’t make the judgments we might if we were reading a newspaper article.
This artist is a new find for me. He uses photographs as a starting point for his work which fits with the current research for UPM1. I really like the composition he has used – missing out the main event in the first one, foreshortening the corpse in the second and making the corpse a splodged bloody mess in the third. In this last one the thick paint builds the corpse up in 3D and reminded me of Frank Auerbach’s paintings of faces. In the first two the onlookers are anonymous grey figures with large foreground hands taking video on mobile phones. In the second I like how the lights are blazing and the pink surroundings re echoed on the body like diluted blood. It reminds me to keep looking for images from unusual view points. I think paintings of mine have been more successful when I’ve done that in the past – looking up at a tree from the ground, a head thrown back for instance. This is an artist I’ll be looking out for from now on.
This is an older painting and I am more familiar with his more recent works of rather eccentric figures. I was immediately drawn to the face the two panels don’t quite fit together which feels disorienting. The colour palette on the two panels is similar but not painted in the same patterns. The snow looks too pink, fairy light like and too artificial for real snow. The figures are mesmerizing, starting right at the top as little dots becoming larger into the dynamic figures at the bottoms. This was painted from a photograph, it looks dream like and sugary. It’s not my favourite of this artists but still has a lot of depth to look at.
This artist was listening to the music of John Cage as he painted these and titled them after him. He uses a squeegee to wipe across the surface revealing random layers underneath. I imagine this would be a creative and fun to reproduce. I stood looking at these for a while but I was not sure they reached out to me in a way the previous works had. My eye can’t follow anything around them, or imagine anything within them. I have a book of his work ‘Panorama’ which has figurative paintings of his that I like much better.
I have picked out a few paintings to discuss that relate to the course I’m doing now. Other notable works for me were the Louise Bourgeois exhibition with that large maternal spider and her early painting of herself as a young mother on top of an apartment looking quite crazed. That spoke to me about my experiences of having young children!
It is painted in an appealing naive style I like.
I also enjoyed looking at and listening to the rather sinister sounds of Cildo Meireles’s Babel tower of radios. I had seen that being constructed in a film of the the Switch house being set up, but in reality in that dim room with the sounds of a thousand radios broadcasting simultaneously it feels quite sinister.
Its so tall. Really feels strange next to it, human voices pouring out like it’s alive!
Who could imaging the Tate Modern could get better, but the addition of the Switch House has added more space and interesting collections. It was packed on a 26’c sunny MOnday afternoon which was great to see. The audience is certainly in a majority of under 30’s and it’s interesting to see that this contemporary art really appeals to a younger generation
- Tate Modern The Handbook. 2016 Tate Publishing