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
I have begun to publish a picture image each week on Facebook.
This is the one for this week:
This picture is painted on unprepared canvas. I used mainly Golden paints.
It was developed over several months as I made decisions about the colours I wanted to use. At first, the picture was pale but over time I developed greater intensity in the colour. I also worked on creating texture using thick paint in some areas of the picture.
I thought a lot about the title - which didn't emerge till the work was finished.
I thought that the idea of global voyaging seemed to fit with a lot of conversations people are having at the moment, often about our carbon foot prints and the way we impact on the earth through our travelling.
It also reflects on travelling over oceans... which is exciting and sometimes perilous!
A Painting a Week: 2
Bowl of Light (acrylic on prepared canvas)
I painted this picture about five years ago when I was investing a great deal of interest in developing 'abstract' compositions. The picture evolved over a number of weeks. In that time I considered the composition in terms of colour, shape and balance.
The original inspiration for it came from a visit to Wales. A friend and I had driven to the top of a valley near Llangollen on a wet afternoon. As we turned to dip down into the valley the sun broke through and literally changed everything. The valley danced with light, and to add to the beauty of the event song birds began to sing. It was a magical moment. Moments such as that lodge in my memory and influence my mood and my ideas.