Thursday, 7 August 2014

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs


It was with a sense of anticipation and much excitement that I went to Tate Modern to see this exhibition of the paper-cut works by the master, and original 'Scissorhands' - Monsieur Henri Matisse. It didn't disappoint either.

It was a really uplifting, joyous blast of colour and shape created from paper, and for all the innovations that he brought to the medium of paint through his rivalry with Picasso, I got the impression that he was somehow "freed" through his work with these cut-out pieces.

Much has been said about the exhibition and also Matisse's deteriorating health, which saw him confined to his bed for long periods, and having to employ a bevvy of pretty young girls to paint and arrange the paper shapes that he cut to his specifications. One of the elements that impressed me was the sheer scale of some of the pieces, especially those towards the end of the exhibition, which indicated that his artistic vision and ambition weren't hampered as a result of his bad health.

It was good to see the original collages from his book Jazz, and the pin holes in the paper indicating how he would pin the cut shapes to a background, rearranging them many times before he felt content enough to glue them down. Some of the collages still had the pins in which gave the pieces another element of interest for me. It was also interesting to see the short films of Matisse at work cutting, and to see the huge scissors that he used in his work compared to the small ones that I use.

It was also interesting to see the pictorial evidence that he lived with these works surrounding him in bed, in his studio, letting them grow organically across his studio/bedroom walls adding and subtracting various elements until he was happy enough to have them glued down. In this it could be argued that he was creating the prototype of what has come to be known as "installation art".  

I was impressed by Matisse's cut-out designs for stained glass, and thought the collages translated well to that medium with the light giving them another dimension. Seeing the collages translating to textile designs for the chasubles of the priests for the chapel in Vence was also interesting, and it would be good to have seen some footage of the priests wearing them and the designs of the chasubles animated by human movement. From memory favourite pieces that stood out were Zulma and Creole Dancer, for the scale, colour and movement. 

The shapes of the birds in the Oceania pieces on display made me want to get to work cutting more of my own series of bird pieces.

Despite it being titled Blue Nude IV, this piece was the first in the series attempted by Matisse and I like the fact that his struggles with it are clearly visible in the charcoal outline drawing, and also the multi-layering of paper to complete the silhouette of the figure. This gives it more interest to me than the other three Blue Nudes of that series.
I loved the vibrancy of the colours, the torn edges and placement of some of the papers in The Snail, which takes the piece close to abstraction.

A very short piece of footage of Matisse drawing with scissors can be seen by clicking on the link.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs 
until 7th September
Tate Modern