= The Crawford Arts Review: September 2014

Friday, 19 September 2014

A Look at the Natural and Built Environment Around the Tate Modern Extension Development

Natura Artis Magistra: Nature, Teacher of the Arts.The motto applies to architecture no less than to the arts.* Looking at the Tate Modern Extension, emerging in rotated geometric form from behind Tate Modern, I find it beautiful even in its concrete underclothing. It is of course the product of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the Swiss architects entrusted to transform the mighty building of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott from power station to the Tate Modern we know today. 
 Indeed, the gallery, open since 2000, has just announced record-breaking numbers of visitors, over half a million for Matisse: The Cut-Outs (see review below), making it the most visited gallery of contemporary and modern art in the world.

The new building's shape and roofline is visible only if you go round the back of the main building. Indeed, you'll find not so much a roof as a flat, storied platform, somewhat like the flat-topped ziggurats of old,  the precursors of the pyramid forms we know today. The intention then was to act as an interface between earth and sky. I have a feeling that this extension, no less than the great symbolic buildings of the past, and due to open in 2016, will have lessons to teach us about the natural world and the arts. 

When complete, the extension's façade will be chequer patterned with glass and terracotta tiles. I imagine it as a kind of glittery brick, well in keeping with with the restrained and beautiful detailing of Tate Modern I.

Go further round the back. The whole of this part of Bankside is transforming. In train with the new building you will find developments that come with woodland integrated into the scheme, and backllit shops that look naturally brighter than any shops you've ever seen. There are coffee shops, places to sit, picnic areas - and great views.

These art museums are places where the permanent collections are free to visit. These are places where the paid-for exhibitions come complete with lectures, courses, talks, and events for children. For, unlike the ziggurats of old, where the priests ascended during fire or flood and the non priests stayed below, this is art for all.

As an endnote, consider that none of this easy accessibility to modern art would be possible without the Millennium Bridge linking it all together, opened in 2000, and Lord Foster and Arup's enduring triumph. 

At Tate Modern Level 3 until Sunday 26 October, Kazimir Malevich (see review below)


*I have borrowed the motto from the Amsterdam zoologic and botanic gardens, ARTIS.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Sensory Colour Feast of Krijn de Koning's Sculpture at Turner Contemporary

Until Sunday 2 November
A first visit to a new gallery always represents a special journey. Mine was along the promenade at Margate, gallery buildings shining from the harbour, to Turner Contemporary.

Even before I entered the gallery complex, my eye was captured by colour. Krijn de Koning, an international award winning Dutch artist, has inserted his work "Dwelling" on the South Terrace, between the gallery's external walls and the old town's southern edge on Fort Road. Pictures cannot do it justice.

To create his "Dwelling", de Koning has employed smoothly planed wooden beams. Joined together and painted, never did such simple means provide such a multi-faceted result. Walk inside, step up, step down, go through, turn, look up, look down to see the whole structure interact with the light coming off the sea to shape shift before your very eyes.

Open 106 daily
Turner Contemporary
Note: As part of Krijn de Koning's commission, his first public commission in England, and in celebration of the Folkestone Triennial, the identical twin of "Dwelling" has been constructed on the zigzag path on Folkestone seafront. The time, entering fully into the English seaside experience, the artist has inserted the work inside a Victorian grotto. Mr de Koning can be assured I will be finding out about trains to Folkestone as well as about future exhibitions.

Open 105 daily
Folkestone Triennial

I love the Dutch/GB/Belgian link here. We share much in our history with the low countries: seafaring, especially long sea voyages, fishing, trading spats, painted seascapes, big infrastructure projects. Indeed, we share, on our eastern coast, the whole North Sea. Language too shows the links between proto-English and Dutch/Flemish. Thanet, for instance, is very like the modern Dutch ten ende, at the end. Margate was known as Meregate in 1264, "mere" being an inland pool of water accessed by a "gate" or gap in a cliff. The Dutch word meer means lake.

Part of Turner Contemporary's raison d'être is that it commands what I will call "The Turner View". Sent to school in Margate in 1786, from the 1860s Joseph Turner, by now JMW Turner, England's most celebrated painter of ships and the sea, visited regularly. His subject was always before him: Margate's unique interface between coastline, tempestuous North Sea and sky. Indeed, Turner is recorded as saying that the skies in this part of Kent were "the loveliest in all Europe". The architect David Chipperfield has marked this fact by placing the gallery's main south facing window to align with the view Turner would have had. Even in our anthropocene epoch, it exerts the same effect it always did.

Three exhibitions fill the gallery complex's interior. Mondrian and Colour shows the development of the Dutch artist's practice from figuratve to abstract, and includes the superlative Composition in Oval with Colour Planes II, 1914, a "soft toned" Mondrian, and one of many works generously lent by the Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag.
Until Sunday 21 September

Edmund de Waal's "Atmosphere"
is an installation for the viewing of which you are invited to lie on the floor looking up. Generously plump yoga-style mats are provided for this purpose.
Until Sunday 8 February 2015

Works by Spencer Finch, include a rather nifty cloud construction that reflects the changing light from the gallery's clerestory windows and roof lights.
Until Sunday 21 September

All exhibitions at Turner Contemporary are free.

Getting there
Your reviewer took Southeastern's HS1 offpeak service from St Pancras International to Margate, a total journey time of 88 minutes.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Tate Modern's Matisse: The Cut-Outs

Tate Modern: part of the north
Photo © the reviewer 2014
The works assembled in the Henri Matisse Cut-Outs Exhibition cover Matisse's artistic recall of his earlier visits to the South Pacific and Tangier when he swam in the ocean and remembered the plants and animals he saw there for the rest of his life. These are the vivacious natural forms a scuba diver might hope to see today. On the walls of a gallery, they speak of another world, one made up of the undulating leaves of a tropical lagoon. They are among Matisse's most famous works, prized by private collectors all over the world. 120 of them have been painstakingly brought to London (paper works are particularly fragile) and just as painstakingly assembled to best show the stages of their development. The exhibition was 6 years in the making. £16.30 is not too steep a price to pay. National Art Pass holders (see below) get in for £8.15. 

Matisse assembled his cut-outs while living in Villa le Rêve, his home and studio in Vence near Nice. Remembering his daily swims in the lagoons of Tahiti, and using paper previously painted by his assistants and a sturdy pair of scissors, he fished from his memory tropical fish, shellfish, leaves, seaweed, coral, birds, all manner of leaves. "I absorbed everything as a sponge absorbs liquid," the artist was to write, "It is only now that these wonders have returned to me, with tenderness and clarity."

The results fill 14 Tate Modern rooms with colour, form and movement. In Adrien Maeght's film of Matisse at work (made in 1945 when the young Maeght was just 14 and shown in the exhibition) we see the adaptations the artist used when too ill and frail to work with brush and paint at his easel. He took to a chair. One scene shows him sitting at his studio table assembling cut-outs for a panel. When a leaf of paper threatens to tip over onto the floor, we see his hand spring forward to save it from falling, positioning it with a no-nonsense paternal gesture at the edge of the acanthus leaf it is going to be part of. We also see the artist using a long cane to indicate the area in which he wants a newly made cut-out to be positioned by his assistants. They would first pin the pieces and later, when Matisse was satisfied with the overall composition, paste them into place and mount the finished piece on canvas. 

This is a ‘once in a lifetime’ exhibition so go online and track through the room guide before your visit. Go online and visit Flavia Frigeri’s blog showing the Vence Chapel and describing how Matisse's sequence of work there unfolded. Scroll down to see how the artist covered the very walls of his Paris apartment with cut-outs.

Don’t forget the online shop. Customised prints start at £25 and there is a wealth of material to choose from.

Here are three examples: 
Creole Dancer, June 1950 
Blue Nude II, Spring 1952 
Snow Flowers, 1951

Tate Modern
London SE1  

National Art Pass (discounts exhibitions such as the above to half price)

Opening hours
Sun–Thu, 10am–6pm
Fri–Sat, 10am–10pm
please check latest opening hours for Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th.

Matisse: The Cut-Outs ended Sunday 07 September. To book online for Kazimir Malevich, go to the Tate website