25 November 2013

Paul Klee at Tate Modern

Paul Klee is one of those artists that I had bumped in to a few times (notably in Hannover earlier this year), had liked each time that I had done so but had never seen that much of his work to understand its range and development.

That meant that the Paul Klee – Making Visible exhibition at Tate Modern was an obvious thing to see.

I like Tate Modern anyway and used the visit to the exhibition to approach it via the Millennium Bridge and to start the experience with coffee and cake in the sixth floor cafe with its excellent views over the river towards the ever-changing City.

The exhibition was spread across seventeen rooms on the third floor. Unlike the rest of the Tate, photography was not allowed (though there were the usual iPhone miscreants) and so I've lifted some pictures from various websites instead.

The exhibition was structured chronologically which was interesting in two ways. Firstly, it gave us the context of his work which included the distractions of both the First World War and the reign of Adolf Hitler. Secondly, it showed that Klee did not have phases as such but kept returning to similar themes and structures throughout his life.

Klee is probably most known for his colourful blocks of paint that were used in simple abstracts and also in landscapes. There were a few pictures like this in the exhibition but they were very much in the minority.

The variety of the work surprised me with, it seemed at times, every piece produced using a different technique.

Given such a wide range of styles and subjects to choose from it is hard to pick some pictures that are representative of Klee's work (especially as I was unable to photograph any) so I have just picked ones that I liked instead.

This tangled mess of blue and black lines hit me as soon as I entered the room because of its use of simple colour and abstract shapes. It was only when I got quite close to it that the abstract lines took the form of (benevolent) witches.

My usual judge of an exhibition is the time it takes me to pass through it and Paul Klee took two and a half hours. That is a fair reflection both of the amount of material in the exhibition (words and pictures) and of the amount of time that I spent on each one.

There was much in the exhibition that I did not like, or understand, and that is a positive too as it shows that Klee was experimenting and trying difficult things. It is easy to like simple works of art but it is not very satisfying.

There were quite a few pictures that I would gladly have on my wall at home if not for the lack of funds or burglary skills to do so. And the way that they were presented meant that their discovery was always a thrill.

Paul Klee – Making Visible was a rather good exhibition; something for Tate Modern to be proud of and for art lovers to enjoy.

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