16 July 2015

Sonia Delaunay and more at Tate Modern

I took a week's holiday in July to use up some of my annual allowance and to give me something of a break before my main holiday in November. I had no plans for the day other than to do something in London.

As it happened, I had to pop into our Kings Cross office to collect something that I had printed so I set off for there first. On the train I checked the Arts Fund app for somewhere to go and it suggested the Sonia Delaunay exhibition at the Tate Modern. So I had a plan.

The first thing to do was to walk to Tate Modern from Kings Cross, a modest trek of around 4km. The suggested route would have taken me over Blackfriars Bridge but I was on holiday and so I took the slightly longer route and crossed the Thames on the Millennium Bridge which lifts my spirits every time that I use it. The novelty had not yet worn off and was showing no signs of doing so.

I knew absolutely nothing about Sonia Delaunay beforehand and relied on the exhibitions popularity as the reason for going. I quickly learned that her works were all about colours and the way that they work together. This preoccupation with form rather than subject mean that her works usually had the feel of abstract art even when they were of specific things.

The style of her work changed little over her long career (and there is nothing wrong with that) but there were significant changes in form and the exhibition included paintings, fabrics, posters that varied in size and completion from character sketches for a ballet through to three very large murals for an exhibition, one of which is shown below.

I never know how long an exhibition is going to take me so I first went around the eleven rooms at some speed to gauge what was there and where best to spend my time. I then went back to the beginning, not a great distance in a straight line, and went through it all again looking in more detail at the displays that had caught my eye the most the first time round.

It also enabled me to focus my surreptitious photographing on just my favourite objects thus reducing the risk of being caught and, in the worst case scenario, being forced to delete the photos I had taken (it happened to me in a theatre once).

My main problem was the guide seated in the gap between the final two rooms, both of which had things that I wanted to photograph. I hung around there for some time and eventually took the picture above of designs for magazine covers when somebody conveniently engaged the guide in conversation and stood between us while doing so.

There was much to like in the exhibition. My favourite room was that covering her work with fabrics and fashion which included a bow-tie that I would be very happy to wear. My favourite piece was in the room before it and is the picture at the top of somebody trying on some of Sonia Delaunay's clothes in her front room which she had also decorated.

I found the exhibition very enjoyable and I was grateful to Art Fund for pointing me to something that I would otherwise have let slip past.

The main exhibition took me something just over an hour to go around and then it was time for some coffee and cake. The usual argument that the profits went to the Tate kicked-in and justified the cake.

I had plenty of time left in the day so I decided to wander around some of the free exhibitions.

I walked around these even faster looking for things that made an immediate impression rather than trying to take it all in. I love free museums and galleries precisely for this reason.

I was delighted to see the Russian posters back. A few years ago they had been in their own space, Red Star Over Russia, in Room 11 on the fifth floor but the last few times I had been to the Tate they were not on display, or were well hidden.

Another nice surprise was the little room of architectural oddities by Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin. I felt that there was something of Philippe Druillet about them in their scale and oddness, at least that was the closest reference point that I had. Most of their works were posters and there was this one wonderfully industrial model.

The surreal exhibition surprised me in two ways; I learned that I do not, as a rule, like surrealism when I thought that I did and I also learned that I like Picasso when I thought that I did not.

Hence this photo of a Picasso piece.

One of the obvious things to like about the Tate and that is the scale of the place. It would be fun to walk around even if there was no art in it. But there was art, and lots of it.

In a fairly random stroll across the floors that seemed to have free exhibitions I saw some classic works by Warhol and Lichtenstein and collections of things that I presume was sculpture.

I also ventured out on to the smokers' balcony for its views of the City. A lot of people had the same idea that they really ought to designate this a photographers' zone and ban the smokers!

On the way out I looked at the model of the new extension and then ventured outside to see it taking shape. Actually the shape had been taken and it was now being finished and filled. It was originally due to open for the Olympics in 2012 but the best guess I can find on the internet for the actual opening date is "2016". Let's hope that it is worth the wait, my guess is that it will be.

I have been to the Tate Modern many times, sometimes just in passing or in a lunch break, and it has excited me every time. That is why I keep going there.

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