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