Much of a muchness

Things that make you go 'hmm'…

Art for art’s sake

I have been really useless at keeping my blog up to date this week. In my defence, I have been really busy finishing a website and a blog for a paying client (hurrah!) and also updating an old website so I can show it to potential clients as part of my portfolio. I almost feel like a proper working person! In addition I’ve been working on my own website to sell my books. I’ve probably missed Christmas now but with a bit of luck and a following wind,  it will be up and running soon.


I went up to London yesterday to see the Mark Rothko exhibition at Tate Modern. It was just as wonderful as I expected it to be. My favourite room at Tate Modern is the Rothko Room which normally has the Tate’s eight Seagram murals (originally intended for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building in New York). For this exhibition, they have brought together others from Japan and Washington and the result is an inspiring exhibition. It also gives a fascinating insight into the techniques Rothko used to achieve the subtle tones and shading in these works.  Rothko specified these works should be viewed in subdued lighting and it makes the whole visit a very peaceful if not spiritual experience. It would have been even better if the gallery had been as quiet as the photograph – on Saturday, it was packed to the gills!

We also went to see a Surrealism exhibition and then had a mooch around the rest of the Tate’s collection. I particularly wanted to see ‘The Snail’ by Henri Matisse which is a particular favourite.


I remember the first time I saw this ‘in the flesh’ after knowing it well from seeing many reproductions. I was blown away. It’s enormous for a start (2864 x 2870 mm) and it is made from paper painted with gouache, torn into shapes and then pasted onto paper which is then mounted on canvas. The colours are rich and vibrant and I loved it on sight. It also reminds me of a trip to the old Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) when my #1 son was about 8 years old. His school had arranged a visit to the Tate as a treat and I went along as a parent helper.

A guide sat the group of about a dozen boys on the floor in front of John Constable’s ‘The Haywain’.


She coaxed the boys into discussing the painting. What did they see? Did they like it? Was it realistic? Did they like the colours? And so on. They then moved on to Picasso’s ‘The Three Dancers’.


The boys were encouraged to compare the two paintings. The colours, the style of painting, the subject matter. Which painting was painted most recently? And then they moved on to this. Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’.

the-kissThe guide asked the boys ‘ What is the difference between this and the two artworks you have just been discussing?’ She was expecting the boys to say that this was a sculpture and the others were paintings. What actually happened was this. One of the boys tentatively raised his hand and said ‘Well, with the other two, you have to put the light in but with this one, the light is already there’. The guide’s jaw hit the floor and we all looked at little Thomas in amazement. So succinct and one of those wonderful ‘wisdom of children’ moments.

We then moved on to ‘The Snail’ and after a discussion, the boys voted it their favourite of all the artworks they had seen. Not hard to see why, in my book.

I started writing this on Friday. Wrote the first paragraph and left it open to finish after my trip. Today, I finished the post,  saved it and then went to view it to check for typos – and discovered that WordPress has changed the user interface in the interim, and bottom line – it had lost all I had written. Aaaagh! So this is version 2. Not half as hilarious and informative and all round brilliant as the first version but there you go, it will have to do :-)

So to end, an art joke.


13 responses to “Art for art’s sake

  1. Creechman December 7, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Modern art is as mysterious to me as kissing in stone.

  2. Diane December 7, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    You would have enjoyed the guided tour the little boys went on….. :-)

  3. Teresa December 7, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    I was at the Tate in ’86…I remember not an ounce of it. And I wasn’t even drunk! I wasn’t drunk until we hit Barcelona (when I was tipsy going through the Picasso museum…such is life when one is 22).

    One day, I’d love to go back to London – I have such fond memories of it – and shall hit the Tate again. Thank you for the little tour in the meantime!

    LOL at the cartoon…love those deadpan answers.

    I cannot wait to see your new website!! And I’m glad you’re getting paid for your talent!

  4. 70steen December 7, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    I have never been to the Tate Modern in London but have been to the one in Liverpool many times…. (Tate Modern is now on my to do list)

    Seeing the actual work live after seeing it in books for years is such an awesome experience.
    A few years ago there was a Rossetti exhibition on at the walker in Liverpool .. I love Rossettis work and to see it live ‘blew me away’too… oh and also Muchas work in Madrid this summer had an equally ‘wow’ effect on me ….

    Great post :-)

  5. strugglingwriter December 8, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Saying Hi!

    I want to go to an art museum now.

    Good luck with all your work. :)

  6. daddypapersurfer December 8, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    I always find art galleries too full of stuff and I get very confused visually and mentally. I used to be an archivist at the RA and had to photograph exhibitions which concentrated the mind a tad though.

    One of the best ways to REALLY look at a work of art is to get a jigsaw of it, do it, and then go and see the original ……….

  7. Diane December 8, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Teresa – you must have gone to what is now Tate Britain. tate Modern is housed in what used to be a huge old power station on the bank of the Thames. It has the Tate’s collection of contemporary art and is rather wonderful. You would love it!

    70s – I’ve never been to Tate Liverpool – would love to one day. We should do a deal. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine! I love Tate St Ives too.

    SW – it’s one of my favourite things to do…
    Hi back! And thanks!

    DP – I know what you mean. When it all starts to get a bit much I like to stand in the middle of the room and look around then go and see whichever paintings stand out and catch my eye.
    Wow! That sounds like an amazing job – I never thought I would say this but I’m very envious!
    I like jigsaw puzzles…not done one for ages. I like creating order out of chaos…..

  8. LuUeE December 9, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Hahahaha.. Love your blog alot … will link it soon.. hiakz.. hahahaha..

  9. Arti December 10, 2008 at 2:00 am

    A comment from my 15 year-old son after his visit: “Tate Modern is brilliant!” I’m glad he liked it. Also, Thanks for the image of “Snow in the Tate”.

  10. Daddy Papersurfer December 10, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    It got rather tedious actually – artists are such divas ………

  11. sylvied December 11, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    I love Tate modern! the space is great and a really inviting one. I used to wonder for hours with my toddlers and never felt like I should not been there, the same cannot be said to other art exhibition centers.

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