‘The Wing of the wind of Madness’, 1982, Avis Newman
I hadn’t been to the Tate Modern in a long time, as I often find myself seeing the same works of art over and over again. However, recently, I have discovered that there has been a new exhibition; ‘Making Traces’ which I had heard good things about. I was more concerned with the minimalism works within the modern, as related to my dissertation topic focusing minly around it, as well as enjoying the trip to ‘the big smoke’.
A room which I have not fully understood on previous visits to the Tate modern, and yet, has caused me to pause and ruminate upon the works within the room. Rothko is a very interesting artist, more specifically, a very interesting painter. A friend once described his work as being ‘physical manifestations of thought’, and I feel like this is apt. Rothko’s style is very interesting, the paintings harbour a great deal of depth, almost as if one is looking out of a window onto a dense fog. This attribution of mist is very relevant to the idea of dreams, as considered by many beliefs, mist and dreams are often depicted by mist, or some form of cloud. Yet, the addition of very subtle and very realised colour gives the mist human, almost conscious, properties. The paintings shown here are from Rothko’s ‘Seaman murals’ series, and there is a lot of debate as to what he wanted to showcase with the works; many people see the works as distinctively spiritual and transcendent, as objects of reflection and worship. Yet, in interviews with a close friend of his Rothko described that he wanted the paintings to be torturous. the restaurant in which the paintings would be installed was a gathering place of the rich and famous, a place to show off to one another. rothko was born into poverty, and spent his early years as an artist living on the poverty line; yet, he enjoyed the struggle of it. He wanted to make the ‘higher ups’ suffer under the weight of his paintings, to block out the windows and suck the light into them. I find an odd comfort in this room, and have stopped to pause within many times now, finding new meaning in the works each time. The darkness is a blessing, as opposed to the sheer white of the rest of the gallery.
‘Triptych November 1981 – Januayr 1982 (Left Panel), Francis Bacon
The main purpose of my trip to Tate modern was actually to see the work of Tracey Emin, although not a fan of Emin, there was an exhibition on recently that starred her famously controversial ‘My Bed’, alongside a series of Paintings by Bacon. Imagine my surprise when I turned up and realised that I had actually missed the exhibition. This was incredibly frustrating, as it had been removed just a few days before and I hadn’t checked, a fault of my own, but a frustrating setback nonetheless. Despite this, there is a new exhibition on, and was able to find this piece by Bacon within the gallery. Typical of Bacon, it has a garish, violent background of orange, as well as the outline of the ‘room’, a symbol of an independent world existing in the painting, yet what really interested me were the objects within the room; the hung chicken carcass, and the lump of what can only be described as ‘Flesh’. The way that Bacon moves the paint around the canvas is masterful, and still surprises me to this day within it’s relevance. Bacon stated that he aimed to invent ‘methods by which reality can force itself upon our nervous system in a new way without losing the subject’s objectivity.’ What I take from Bacon’s style of painting is that he was concerned heavily with the ‘potential’ of a painting, that it could create a level of experience in the viewer, not unlike witnessing a scene or object of immense emotional weight in the flesh. I have struggled with this idea for a while, as I aim to bring this emotional power into my tumour works, but have felt unable to bring it into 2D works. However, if Bacon is able to do this, then why can’t I?
‘Ren-Shiki-Tai’, Kishio Suga 1973, partly remade in 1987
Another piece which I have seen previously in the Tate, but have realised the true nature of on my later visits is ‘Ren-Shiki-Tai’. An interesting piece that focuses on one of the important concepts of minimalism; gravity. Many minimalist artworks that want to explore the importance of the energy inherent in their materials utilised, use gravity as a vehicle of highlighting this. However, Suga uses a very interesting method of suspension between the monotonous materials, which causes the viewer to be unaware of what is supporting what. This is very interesting, as it seems to ‘lighten’ the load of the stones and bricks, giving them an ethereal quality not seen before within the materials. This idea of changing the materials inherent qualities is very interesting, as my work holds a certain weight, and I am attempting to make them spiritual in nature.
‘Untitled (A New World Order lies in this Golden Age), Terence Koh 2006’
A piece that caught my eye for it’s aesthetic beauty, yet did not hold much substance conceptually in order for me to appreciate it fully. The piece is beautifully done, with it’s arrangement of ornate glass cases gilded with a fine gold leaf, yet the conceptual blurb next to the piece does not add much. It merely states that the gold leaf ‘transforms their appearance and meaning.’ This really stuck a chord within me, how can something like this be placed in such a ‘high class’ establishment such as Tate Modern? As of late, especially in the past few years, I have felt that the great ‘Tate’ has been suffering from a certain lack of character and substance itself. The way that it treats contemporary art, focusing more on artworks that have come and gone, instead of the more important contemporary world, is laughable, deplorable even. This annoys me, as new, struggling contemporary artists do not gain a step for them to break out into the artworld, and the giant ‘art institutions’ do not provide this step up for us ‘little guys’. It’s incredibly frustrating, and almost abhorrent.