Weekends in July in London tend to be hectic and hot, and during this touristy time it can be a struggle to find pleasant things to do in the city. Tate Modern is overcrowded with keen to be cultured visitors whereas TateBritain seems to be left for Londoners to enjoy. When I visited last weekend it was a perfectly cool and serene place to spend time.
This landmark museum is currently showing a collection of Barbara Hepworth’s works. Many associate this influential artist with Cornwall, which is where I first remember seeing her sensual and smooth sculptures. The exhibition is displayed chronologically – showcasing her evolving style and use of different materials, changing organically as she moved through different periods of her life.
Most touching are the works which indicate the importance of a particular relationship, the small mother and child abstract sculptures that fit together so lovingly, or her use of her husband artist Ben Nicholson’s paint in her stringed, coloured works. Her treatment of wood is like nobody else’s, she soothes and cares for it, manipulates it into an expressive and vital figure or object.
Clearly the Cornish countryside and coast affected her work enormously. Some of the circular sculptures echo the rock formations and primitive earthworks found in Cornwall while others just possess a peace and serenity reminiscent of the land and water. I am not much of a fan of the final room which displays some of her more imposing, almost aggressive sculptures, designed for outdoor display. The jagged edges are harsh and slightly disconcerting after the calm of the earlier works
Barbara Hepworth is one of the leading sculptors of the 20th century but this exhibition is quiet and understated, a calm and beautiful presentation of her timeless art.
Exhibition continues until 25 October, more information here.
***My new travel book, CORNWALL by Weekend Journals is available to order here. Use the code TMM10 to get 10% off.***
Every year there are one or two shows at Tate Modern that I am desperate to see. This Spring as soon as I noticed the colourful posters for Sonia Delaunay’s exhibition appearing, I put the exhibition on my to do list and ensured I saw it as soon as my busy diary allowed.
Sonia Delaunay had a long and interesting life – a Russian-born French artist, her work is striking and unique. She spent most of her career working in Paris with her husband Robert Delaunay, who was also an artist. Together they founded the Orphism art movement characterised by its use of vibrant colours and geometric shapes.
This major retrospective comes from Paris and features an impressive collection of Delaunay’s paintings, designs and embroidery. The first room instantly reminded me of Gauguin with the rich colours and expressive figures. The vividly coloured nudes are confident and bold, they illustrate her desire to break away from academic convention and are dark and moody in style.
It was when she met her husband in 1907 that her style began to incorporate abstraction. The use of Simultanism (a theory of simultaneous colour contrasts) is evident in all media, including a patchwork cradle cover she made for her young son. Delaunay’s abstract paintings (of which there are many) initially appear to employ random colours and shapes, but on closer inspection show the influence of modern technology and machinery, less obviously than in Futurism.
In was the later rooms dedicated to Delaunay’s contribution to fashion that surprised me the most. I had no idea she had had such a prominent role in design, textiles, and indeed was such a remarkable businesswoman – an area where many talented artists fall down. I loved seeing the outfits Sonia designed for dance productions, and how she applied her fascination with abstraction to the wonderful costumes.
It is clear wandering round this colourful show that it is the abstract works and decorative patterns of Sonia Delaunay that have had the most lasting success. However it was the first room of haunting female figures that I remembered long after leaving Tate.
Sonia Delaunay continues until 9 August. If you visit I recommend also popping into the Agnes Martin exhibition, very different to Delaunay but equally moving.
Book tickets here.
Small but mighty, the Courtauld Schiele exhibition does not disappoint. This significant show, the first ever solo museum exhibition for the Viennese artist in London, reminds us that we must not cast aside Germanic artists such as Schiele any longer and should recognise these artists in our galleries regularly. Upon arriving at the show, it is almost impossible to understand any potential resistance to the work, with the black lines of Schiele’s nudes appearing bold against delicate patches of gouache and watercolour giving us an intriguing portrayal of the nude figure. In addition, some of the perceived vulgarity dissipates when observing Schiele’s works in the flesh, with his incredible ability to combine eroticism and provocation with an inherent technical virtuosity and aesthetic beauty.
Schiele creates a heightened reality with his nudes, distorting areas of the body to emphasise the actuality of it. An example of this is seen within the 1910 portrait of a mysterious friend of Schiele, Erwin Osen where his torso is lengthened to create an emaciated, sinewy form. Before attending ‘The Radical Nude’ I was largely unfamiliar with Schiele’s work, but this exhibition has made me fall in love with his art and has prompted me to research this fascinating era in Vienna. The show displays only Schiele’s nudes, an effective choice as we appreciate these startling works without any distraction and in chronological order, we see a well conceived introduction to the work of this great artist.
Exhibition continues until 18 January, book tickets here.
Written by Thoroughly Modern Mini, Eloise Kenny-Ryder.