Thursday, 29 January 2009

Late Works

So I went down to London yesterday, for a mixture of record shopping and gallery hopping. That sounds way too neat an opening sentence, as though I actually spent some time thinking about it beforehand. Which I didn't. No, honest I didn't, I'm not that bad.

I didn't bother to check out any listings for what's currently on, exhibition-wise. I didn't want to feel any sense of pressure that I had to go and see such and such a show in this part of town, then journey over to a different part of town to see something else. So I decided it would be a good time to do something I've always intended to do, but for some reason have always ended up thinking, no, I'll do that next time.

That particular something was to go to the Chlore Gallery, part of the Tate, and look at the display of late works by Turner. It's so long since I've been to Tate Britain by tube that I couldn't remember the nearest station . The woman in Liverpool St station wasn't much help either, I knew it wasn't going to be easy when, after the third attempt at asking her, she asked me to spell Tate. She also gave me utterly rubbish directions to Pimlico, which I duly ignored, and surely got there quicker as a result.

Well I love Turner's late works, and the ones that they had on show really drew me in, and I can envisage myself visiting again to spend much more time in front of them. However it already feels like a long time ago now, since after I departed, I took a walk across to the other side of the river, to the Tate Modern. I know there are more imaginative things I could do, but it's a walk I've always enjoyed, and I wanted to revisit a couple of other old haunts nearby.

Well what I hadn't realised was that there was an exhibition of late works by Rothko, which was due to finish at the end of the week. Some of those works are part of the Tate's permanent collection, and I've spent hours in front of them before, but I didn't begrudge paying out to see them as part of an exhibition with a number of other works besides. The largest room displayed these: their familiarity was offset by the larger space afforded to them, and also due to them being shown alongside other less familiar (but closely interrelated) works.

I spent a lot of time yesterday wondering how best to describe these works and the impact that they have: really, I could go overboard with one subjective impression after another (and very little by way of analysis). But I'll restrain myself: one of the overall feelings that kept occuring to me, was just how much these huge paintings envelop me when I'm in front of them, which can be variously exhilarating, and uncomfortably claustrophobic.

Here's a list of other words or phrases which I was potentially going to incorporate into a huge overblown description:

time,
depth,
monolithic,
shimmering,
disquieting,
presence,
twilight/dawn,
silhouettes,
a space in which one can lose oneself,
a glimpse into something other and yet very familiar,
soothing,
unsettling,
all-encompassing...

et cetera. Thank goodness I restrained myself, otherwise I could have gotten embarrassingly tangled up in all sorts of hyperbole. One other word I would happily include though:

Fulfilling.

6 comments:

Mei Del said...

i love that trail you just did too and when i was living in tachbrook street years ago, it was great to be able to walk to the tate, it was the only one in london at the time, the modern was simply a derelict power station.

zola a social thing said...

All a little bit blurred, I guess, in the sunset of our minds.

Fire Byrd said...

Saw quite a few Rothko's recently, and although I trid to get into them, didn't touch me as much as the Kadinskys I saw.
But I am aware that my appreciation of modern art is increasing as I get older, which I'm pleased about.
Course I could tell you where I'd seen all this art work, but that would just be name dropping!!!
xx

trousers said...

I do recall the days when there was just one Tate, mei, I used to love it in there, and could spend hours. It feels a bit flat in there now by comparison, though I'm sure if I had the patience (rather than dashing straight through to the Clore gallery) I would find much of interest to sustain me. I also remember the early days of the Tate Modern, there was a fantastic cafe not far away, between there and Southwark tube station. I think it might still be there, but for a long time I've headed to the Tate on the aforementioned walk from the other side of the river - and the other day I was there far too late in the day for any greasy spoons to be open.

zola, that comment sounds more appropriate on my new post!

fire byrd, thank you for not mentioning where you saw all those paintings - it wouldn't do for me to have a fit of jealousy right now, would it? Grrr.
:)

Queen Vixen said...

You mean you were in London wed/thurs. Trousers! We could have met up and done something. I am well disappointed. I hardly get to see you!

trousers said...

Silly me, qv, I should have given you a shout. Damn. Still, I was only there Wednesday (back the same evening), would it have been feasible?