Friday, 8 August 2014

Chapter 30: Matisse and the Art of Circus

Here's where I'm going with this blog: circus for me is a state of mind. It denotes flexibility, an ability to explore beyond boundaries and an openness to new ideas. And that's what I find interesting about the current exhibition of Henri Matisse, "The Cut-Outs", at the Tate Modern, where Matisse engages with circus, dance and all that jazz, innovative disciplines that play with form.

from the book "Henri's Scissors" by Jeanette Winter
I find Matisse's life story illustrates that point as much as his work itself. It was his mother's gift of a box of paints while he was recovering from an appendicitis that drew Matisse away from a career in law and set him on a creative path. Many years later, again crippled by sickness, Matisse turned to a pair of scissors and developed the cut-outs. He was also inspired one day to take a  long pole and tie a piece of chalk to it to design the faces of his grandchildren on the ceiling, who “looked down on him and saw his dreams”. That creative, bendy thinking when presented with an obstacle reminds me of the time my mother, balancing on a stepladder for hours, turned the stains on the kitchen ceiling (from a leaking basin upstairs) into a fresco of a koala sitting on a branch, munching on some eucalyptus leaves. So when she asks me “Lucy, this circus thing, where does it all come from?” I think you just have to laugh. Maybe it’s genetic. 

I like to think the kids will inherit that creative gene too. Only they aren't allowed to go to art galleries to foster it apparently, according to Turner Prize-winner Jake Chapman see link here. To get a rise out of the chattering classes he has declared, stop press!!!, that taking kids to look at pictures is a total waste of time. Well, of course it is.  That's the whole point, honey. If you were stuck at home with three kids all day, all summer long, you'd find yourself becoming pretty creative with ways to waste a bit of time too. We saw Matisse this time round, before that Lichtenstein, and Hockney the time before that. Each time round the kids have chosen a print or some colouring that they enjoy, and off they go. Of course the finer points are lost, but it's time out together that gives us a direction. We've not yet gone to an exhibition by YBAs such as the Chapman brothers though - I wonder what the kids would make of it? Would the Brothers Grimm enchant? Or would they think it was a load of old Pollock?!

Dragging the kids to the Tate Modern again...

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