Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Print K - Version VIII - Ian McKeever

Ian McKeever, Print K - Version VIII, 1997, woodcut on paper, 1129 x 798 mm, Tate.

McKeever has been exploring a lattice motif punctuated by torn voids for some years now.  This woodcut is more void than lattice, so maybe isn't that exciting, a bit like zooming in on the boring bit in a fractal picture.  If you look at it as part of the larger 'Eight By Twelve' series it comes from however, the emergence of the deep blue space has power.  Indeed, the collection as a whole carries a lot more weight than any isolated work from it.  It is the Exile on Main Street of the woodcut world.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Waterlow Park, Highgate - Rodney J. Burn

Rodney J. Burn, Waterlow Park, Highgate, c. 1924, oil on canvas, 1480 x 2970 x 55 mm, Tate.

This large painting was one of eight large works offered by a group of artists to decorate the new County Hall in London.  Unfortunately, County all didn't want it, so it's taking up space in Tate storage instead.
   A curious work, with modern Londoners depicted in the classical style.  A water-nymph straight out of Poussin leans on a picnic hamper, while a putto raises itself out of a pram.  Meanwhile a swam glides on still water.  The semi-circular frame creates the sense these well-to-do leisure-seekers of yesteryear are trapped in a glass paperweight forever.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Mother and Child With Wave Background I - Henry Moore OM, CH

Henry Moore OM, CH, Mother and Child With Wave Background I, 1976, lithograph on paper, 175 x 265 mm, Tate.

A late print by Moore raises the question: Why do the people in his drawings look like his sculptures?  As a good modernist, his sculptural figures look the way they do because he's being true to the nature of his material.  So his stone mothers and children look heavy and block-like because that's pretty much what stone is like.  Bronze, also on the weighty side.
   But why draw them like that?  This isn't a preparatory work for a sculpture.  It's its own thing.  It's almost as if Moore has set his sculptures loose in their own comic book.  The temptation to cover drawings like this in word balloons and onomatopoeic sound effects is overwhelming.  Although not so overwhelming I'd actually do it.

Monday, 3 June 2013

H-Block Prison Protest, Newry - Paul Graham

Paul Graham, H-Block Prison Protest, Newry, 1985, printed 1993-4, photograph, colour, on paper, 680 x 880 mm, Tate.

A photograph from Graham's 'Troubled Land' series, in which he documented subtle intrusions into the Northern Ireland landscape that provide evidence of the Troubles.  The graffiti on the path here is not readable, and seems innocuous enough.  That it in fact refers to the Maze Prison creates a gap of perception between the seeming banality of the scene and the politically charged reality encoded into the environment - a language of signs readily understood by its inhabitants but barely visible to the outsider.
   (I realise I'm verging on the tedium of the average gallery explanatory plaque here, but I don't feel like being funny about Northern Ireland, and there are some things it is impossible to say anything useful about without having immersed yourself in the subject first.  So better to just grimly explain how the image works and move on.)

Sunday, 2 June 2013

G. Space Age Archaeology. Left: Fathers. Right. Sons - Sir Eduardo Paolozzi

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, G. Space Age Archaeology. Left: Fathers. Right. Sons, 1971, etching on paper, 244 x 222 mm, Tate.

More from Paolozzi's 'Cloud Atomic Laboratory' series of prints, in which images from the early years of the Space Race are revisited post-Moon Landing.  As the title states, this is 'Space Age archaeology'.
   Thankfully, this reproduces a bit better online than the last, so we can see how the source material (photographs? illustrations?) has been uniformly smoothed to produce complimentary images that enter in a disturbing dialogue with each other.  The 'father' test pilots in the left image appear cheerfully engaged in unthreatening scientific endeavour, while the 'sons' on the right, with their toy guns and fallen soldiers, let the cat out of the bag.  Despite appearances of adventure for the sake of adventure, this is all to do with gaining military advantage.  They are the future their fathers are bringing about.  The smiling technician, meanwhile, is eerily echoed by the marionette in the playroom, not dissimilarly dressed.  Science is a puppet here.  The imagery isn't subtle, but not everything has to be.  It stings.  It works.
   (If you find some of these images too small, by the way, I recommend the zoom function on Chrome.  It really does let you get into the detail.  Yes, yes, I know Google are using the information to programme a sentient robot version of yourself who will one day replace you in the night, but that's a separate issue.)

Saturday, 1 June 2013

[title not known] - F. Derwent Wood

F. Derwent Rees, [title not known], 1916, bronze, 235 x 110 x 120 mm, Tate.

This is one of a number of studies that Rees made when he took part in a two-horse race with Alfred Drury in order to win a commission to make a statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds for the Royal Academy forecourt .  He came second.  Oh well, never mind, F.  Happily his widow donated the studies to the nation so his unfulfilled vision can still be enjoyed.  Yay! goes the nation.  There's an pleasing contrast between the rough modelling of the original clay and the permanence of the bronze casting in the plinth, while there seems to be a weird Phantom of the Opera-mask thing going on with Sir Joshua's face that all goes to make this study more palatable to the contemporary eye than your average finished heroic bronze statue.  Weird to think Picasso had already passed in and out of Cubism when this was made.  This, however, is the forgotten mainstream of art in the early decades of the twentieth century.  It served a purpose then, but who knows what to do with it now?  Is it a case of it being of no interest, or do we simply not know how to be interested in it?  Answers on a postcard, please...