Picasso 1932 - Love, Fame, Tragedy @ Tate Modern

This was, if I remember correctly, the first exhibition I've ever paid to see. Usually I find the concept of paying for a blockbuster exhibition a bit icky - as if only people who can afford it are worthy of seeing the work of the great masters. And you can never be sure if the profits are invested back into the gallery's public programs, or siphoned straight into the pockets of donors and art owners...

But anyway, pushing my views on the inequalities of the art world temporarily aside, I allowed myself to enjoy the exhibition for what it was - an absolute joy.

The curation of this exhibition alluded to the self-induced chaos and constant iteration that engulfed Picasso's life in 1932. A period in which he attempted to respond to critics' remarks that he was becoming 'an artist of the past', by experimenting with new and unusual work, see-sawing between loving portrayals of the female nude and Surreal depictions of manic women devouring their conquests. 

With 1932 being touted as Picasso's most productive year, the works were more than capable of speaking for themselves. The sheer volume of work was stunning if a little overwhelming - in my opinion Tate could have pulled off a solo exhibition with a third of the work they actually had on display - but hey, I ain't complaining. 

The room that contained both Nude, Green Leaves and Bust and Girl Before a Mirror (I believe this was room 4, but I really should've made a note of such details), was a personal favourite. Partly because this contained many of the largest canvas pieces which have a distinct presence all of their own, paired with that feeling you get in your gut when you know you're looking at some of the most famous paintings in the world. 

'Le Rêve' ('The Dream')

'Sleep'

'Still Life with Tulips'

It's worth mentioning that delightfully dotted around the exhibition, most notably in the Boisgeloup room (room 3), are photographs of Picasso's studio space - where the work appears to be in that stage between experimentation and completion. In this case, it's used to illustrate his foray into sculpture whilst working at his Normandy château.

There's something about seeing artworks in the place they were created (even via a photo), that lets you understand them better. It also reminds you that even masterpieces were made by regular humans - it's easy to forget this in the shrine-like gallery space.

The latter half of the exhibition was the most inspiring for me, personally. After curating and organising his own retrospective in mid-1932, Picasso took the rest of the year to create freely and explore new themes. Perfectly composed large canvases gave way to quick sketchbook entries and rustic-looking line drawings.

One small piece which instantly grabbed my attention, and I'm still not entirely sure why, was a tiny canvas depicting the chaotic scene of a woman struggling to prevent drowning. This piece certainly suggests that Picasso was getting restless - evident in his willingness to explore dark and intense subject matter. Picasso went on to produce several works based on the subject of drowning - perhaps since he himself couldn't swim (so alluding to a manifestation of some deep-routed anxieties). 

It was around this time that I turned to my sister and said, 'do you think Picasso ever made work that he thought was shit?'. Now, obviously I don't believe artwork that contains any degree of exploration of expression could be labelled 'shit', but looking at some of the simplistic, almost juvenile later works got me thinking about the amount of my own work I've written off as not good enough. Not expressive enough, not complex enough, not realistic enough etc.

Picasso often described producing art as a form of diary-taking. He often painted very quickly, allowing intuition to take over, and he trusted the various stages of the creative process. Thinking about this really inspired me to let go a bit, and to start making paintings that just feel right - resisting the tendency to get bogged down by the preconceived notions of what a good piece of art should look like. 

So, to sum up, was this exhibition worth the £22 ticket? Absolutely.

And since it's on display until September 2018, I'd be lying if I said another visit was out of the question...

'The Three Dancers'

Source: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/ey-exhibition-picasso-1932-love-fame-tragedy