Monday, 6 February 2012

Migrate to Tate...

...with this journey which explores the impact that migration into this country has had on British art for hundreds of years. This exhibition that opened earlier this week at Tate Britain is mostly made up of artworks from the Tate's own impressive collection and features work from a diverse list of artists from Anthony Van Dyck to Kurt Schwitters. It even produced a few surprises (at least to me), such as the two advertisement posters designed in 1937 by Laszlo Moholy Nagy, a former teacher at the Bauhaus.

The show coherently works its way from the 16th through to the 20th Century with each room having a clear theme and context relating to race, nationality and influence. However, towards the end of the exhibition there are The Moving Image rooms of video installations that I feel are a little disjointed from what came previously. These arguably dont sit as comfortably together as, for example, works from the historic collection that are sandwiched between early and late 20th Century art in the Tate Britain's permanent collection. Nevertheless, there are many artworks that the Tate show in a different light. These are my personal highlights...

Just outside the entrance to the exhibition I was blown away by this Willem Wissing painting, especially the beautifully painted girls face's and fabric of their dresses:

 Portrait of Henrietta and Mary Hyde (1683-5)
Willem Wissing

The incredible (almost photographic) detail in Canaletto's paintings can sometimes have the same effect on me!

London: The Old Horse Guards from St. James' Park (1749)
Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal)

The face (in profile) of the lady on the left in Portsmouth Dockyard by James Tissot initially stood out (although its hard to see it here):

Portsmouth Dockyard (1877)
James Tissot

The way that John Singer Sargent leaves Study of Mme Gautreau (below) looking unfinished reminds me of some of Francis Bacon's work, where he paints the subject matter in the centre of the painting and uses the natural colour of the canvas to work around it (almost like a page in a sketchbook).

 Study of Mme Gautreau (1884)
John Singer Sargent

This beautiful stone sculpture (below) carved in a 'Primitivist' style contrasts with some of Epstein's other art, such as the Futurist work The Rock Drill (1913-14).

Female Figure in Flemite (1913)
Sir Jacob Epstein

I like the randon element of the (disproportionately small) (toy?) sheep standing on this table in this Marie Louise von Motesiczky still life:

Still life with sheep (1938)

 Marie Louise von Motesiczky

In The Mutilated by Jankel Adler (below) the contrast between the natural-looking, rough earthy figures and the smooth, colourfully painted background stands out:

The Mutilated (1942-3)
Jankel Adler

Marianne Maquis (1942)
Oskar Kokoscha

The contrasts between styles and the backgrounds of the featured artists were often apparent as I walked round this exhibition. This is reflected, for example, in the soft, light, almost impressionist style painting by the Austrian Oskar Kokoscha (above) and the dark foreboding Crucifixion (below) by the Indian artist F N Souza.

Crucifixion (1959)
F N Souza

Chessmen One (1961)
Anwar Jalal Shemza

I'm probably trying to compare apples with oranges again, but I like the difference in styles of these works by two more artists from the subcontinent that are hung next to each other in the show. The order, precision and limited palette in Chessmen One (above) by Anwar Jalal Shemza and the swirls, chaos and free use of colour in Avinash Chandra's Hills of Gold (below).

Hills of Gold (1964)
Avinash Chandra