Matisse Cut-Outs, Tate Modern


It is difficult to dislike the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition. This expressive and colourful display of creativity and passion is currently livening up the white walls of Tate Modern.

This show features work from the final chapter of Matisse’s life. When the artist began to get ill in the 1940s, he became unable to paint and so swapped his brush for scissors initiating a new medium of paper cut-outs. After undergoing a crucial and risky operation in 1941, he felt he had been given another chance and a second life, explaining perhaps why his final works are so celebratory and liberated. He depicts subjects of wonder and fascination on both a small and huge scale.Although flat, the energetic shapes and patterns seem to create a magical depth and as you look longer the compositions appear more complex and the patterns become more intriguing.

I have always loved the work of Matisse, reminding me of long summers in the South of France, where I often saw his paintings in Nice or Vence. The collages are something I discovered later, but love equally, simple works but with an amazing ability to capture the imagination.

Every piece in this Tate Modern show exudes happiness… dancing figures and exotic creatures, beautiful shapes and joyful colours. We witness the artist’s studio layout, the decorative Oceania paper scene that covered the walls. The blue nudes are simple and classic, studies of the female form that work in tandem with Matisse’s earlier sculpted nudes, similar in pose and mood. The psychedelic Jazz prints are loud and humorous, depicting scenes from the circus and theatre.

Amazingly as Matisse grew older and his mobility became more limited, his technique seems to loosen and broaden… his final works show a surge in energy with a greater sense of movement and power. Bigger works such as the Snail are emotive and triumphant, he describes it as ‘abstraction rooted in reality’. The roughly torn pieces of paper are arranged in a playful spiral, the giant masterpiece manages to evoke a tiny creature.

Even now the shapes, shades and patterns remain imprinted on my memory. This is a cheerful and life-affirming collection of works, offering a colourful glimpse into the mind of Matisse.

Continues until 7th September 2014, book here.