I Took a Look at Matisse’s Work!
In 2014 The Tate Modern staged a comprehensive show of work that the artist Matisse had produced in the latter years of his life. The works on show were referred to as ‘The Cut Outs’. It was a phenomenal exhibition and I felt honoured that I could go along and experience it. Dare I say it, it was only spoilt by the hassle of sharing it with a great many others elbowing their way from one great piece of work to another.
Nicholas Serota, at the time Director of The Tate, curated the exhibition. The whole experience, for me, was outstanding. As well as the master’s works there were annotations, photographs and examples of colour mixing all of which allowed one to dwell on how Matisse set to work and, indeed, just how much precision and selection was going on in each piece. A display case was literally loaded with small samples of colour – a precise record of how many colours he thought of before making selections.
The whole way of working - ‘cutting out’ developed as a result of Matisse losing mobility due to health problems. However, rather than a decline in artistic power one sees a gathering up of creativity and output in the face of adversities.
(For some examples, see Blue Nude (11); Celestial Jerusalem (1948); The Parakeet and the Mermaid (1952)
As well as the powerful use of colour, there was the way shape and line were created - dictated by a pair of rather long scissors… to me they resembled the type used to cut wall paper! Matisse said about one piece of work
‘The contour of the figure springs from the discovery of the scissors that give it the movement of circulating life’.
Which explains the vigour and life in his 'seemingly' flat work.
But, in particular, it is the experience of how he used colours and the balance of forms that I took away from the exhibition - which suggested ways in which I might develop my own thinking. I did not want to move towards ‘cutting out’, but I decided that I should re-evaluate my own palette and begin to explore new pigments and tonalities. I recognised that this in turn would stimulate a change in the way I used shape, form and line in my work.
As a result of my thinking about these issues I came up with a series of pieces of work ... all acrylics on untreated canvas. They were the first part my response to the inspiration I gained from such a master. I would like to share them with you, dear reader.
Image 1: 'Softly through my Window' acrylic on untreated canvas
Image 2: 'Fuji' acrylic on untreated canvas
image 3: 'Octopus's Garden' acrylic on untreated canvas
All works by Liz Cleves. Prices on request
Memories of being an Artist
.John Blight in his 'Camelford Gallery', North Cornwall, where I had my first solo exhibition.
Painting 'en plein air' in Snowdonia, North Wales with my friend Angela Youdale (under the umbrella!)
Delivering a painting.
Exhibiting at The Rock Institute, Rock, North Cornwall with friends... Ivor Cleves and Jaki Rothery.
11. Creating a Series of Pictures
Filitosa 1, 2 and 3
These three acrylics are on calico. They are all unframed at the moment so the price is a reflection of that. £850.00.
See more details on the gallery page "New Palette'.
All three pictures are on the same theme. The reference point for my thinking was 'The Planets', and 'The Planet Suite' by Holst.
The titles refer to a set of standing stones at Filitosa on Corsica.
Does a picture need a frame?
When I look at art work of the 20th Century, and before, in galleries most of the work is framed. I think that most people expect a picture to be framed once it has been completed. The first image below shows work exhibited at Woodhayes Gallery, Honiton, Devon in 2016. Most of the works were acrylic on canvas and were unframed. The question remains... would they have looked better with frames? The jury is out on this!
For me it depends on the picture and, also, what the artist had in mind.
For the sake of the argument the second picture 'Rise', an acrylic on canvas is framed.
Liz Cleves at Woodhayes Gallery in 2016
'Rise' acrylic on canvas - Liz Cleves .... framed 2019
10. Why use Letters and Words in a Composition?
In this picture 'Below the Surface' I wanted to think about the 'hot' political topic of drilling for oil in the polar regions. The idea of drilling in the pristine arctic wastes filled me with horror and and I wanted to make a picture that would focus on that. I decided to use words as part of the composition. I used words that were in documentation about how the drilling would be done.
The dark border and the tinges of red alluded to my fear for our Mother Earth.
The picture has stimulated a great deal of discussion amongst viewers about the work itself and the issues it covers.
I have been asked about the whole thing of writing on art work. People are strongly divided 'for' or 'against' doing it. I do it when I feel it is a necessary part of the expression of the idea. Another contemporary artist who often uses this devise is Kurt Jackson (eg See 'Sennen 19.9.98 3p.m. surfers rushing into the sea.......')
Below the Surface - Liz Cleves:
Water colour on acid free paper 87cm x 68cm - mounted and framed. Price on enquiry.
2. Living with Pictures
Here is one of the painting I made earlier in this year. It was painted after I had been studying Matisse's cut outs - which were done later in his life. I have hung it in quite a small space so it can be seen on the way up and down the stairs.
It's called 'Stellar Rising'
You can see details about it on my galleries page under 'new palette'.
1. Living with Pictures
'Lamorna' acrylic on canvas 80 cm x 60 cm by Liz Cleves
This picture was painted as a response to a life long love of the little valley that ends up in Lamorna, in West Penwith. I spent many hours there as a child. The harbour is simple, yet very beautiful, and the water so clear. This picture is full of light and clarity... like the place itself.
I thought it would be good to share some images where the art work is hung in a home (in this case). I am thinking of a series of blogs on this theme.
This piece is for sale - see my galleries page. I think it would suit a contemporary home or an 'open' office space.
PS There is a lovely song, sung often by folk singer Brenda Wootton... 'Way Down to Lamorna'. She reckoned her songs were her friends... I feel like that about my pictures.
9. Mixing Earth Colours
Filitosa 3 acrylic on calico 73 cm x 52 cm £1200 Liz Cleves
The colours in this painting were inspired by the colours of the Devon Cliffs. When I swim from Budleigh Steamer Steps, I can swim along parallel with the water's edge and look up at the amazing Old Devonian Sandstone cliffs. I started off this painting working quite pale, but as I began to focus in on what I wanted the outcome to be I started to mix up warmer colours. I introduced blues and greens to help to keep the compositional balance right.
I think that much of the composition consists of curves and part circles because I am so aware of the morning sun and also the movement of the ocean.
N B When this work is framed I will probably turn in the edges and then mount the whole thing on a white back board and frame.
8. Moving from green to blue
'Filitosa 2' - acrylic on calico £1200 Liz Cleves
I enjoyed painting 'Filitosa 1' to such an extent that I was inspired to follow through with the theme that emerged from watching the programmes about The Planets presented by Professor Brian Cox.
In this second piece I have biased the palette towards blue. I have used indigo, cerulean, cobalt teal and ultramarine blues. The orange areas are there to create a dynamic contrast.
Working on calico is interesting in itself because it absorbs paint fast allowing me to keep working faster than I can on canvas duck.
(My next piece... Filitosa 3 will use warm reds and earth tones).