Learning from those who have gone before

Next week I will be going to the cinema to see the Matisse exhibition live streamed from the Tate Modern in London.

matisse exhibition

I live in the North of England, miles away from London. Occasionally I do get to London to see an exhibition (I wrote about the Royal Academy’s Sensing Spaces exhibition on this blog not so long ago), but the recent advent of live streaming exhibitions (as well as theatre, ballet and opera) has made such a difference to those of us who live ‘out in the sticks’.

My first experience of viewing an exhibition via live streaming was the Manet exhibition streamed by the Royal Academy last year. I saw this in Ambleside in Cumbria.

Manet exhibition

This streaming provided inside information about how the exhibition was mounted and in depth close-up information about most of the paintings in the exhibition. The experience is not quite the same as being there in person, but it comes a very close second.

In the run up to seeing the Matisse exhibition live streamed I have watched a short BBC4 programme in which the musician, actor and artist, Goldie, introduces the Matisse exhibition from a personal perspective.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 23.57.12

I have watched this on the same evening that I have read a comment on Cristina Costa’s blog post – The web and the academic divide – which suggests that somehow the older generation do not have the experience needed to understand the younger generation and by implication, that the experience of the older generation cannot be taken seriously. But it seems to me that we are still learning from Matisse many years after his death.

Goldie starts his personal tour with a look at Matisse’s cut out – The Bees (1948).

The Bees

It’s interesting that he talks about this cut out in terms of Matisse splicing and editing ‘in his own head’. He talks about how the cut out relates to graffiti, movement, video and brings method to the madness in the chaos of nature.

Goldie also talks about Matisse being ‘far ahead’ –  the paintbrush comes along and everyone is using the paintbrush – but all of a sudden Matisse comes along and says ‘let me just use a pair of scissors’ – the equivalent of aerosol use by graffiti artists. Two Dancers (1937-8) is a great example of the use of scissors.

Two Dancers

In Creole Dancer (1950) Matisse brings order to chaos by balancing colours – ‘he balances the two oranges in the middle here, he has the two pinks here, he has these two blues here and he has this black weighing in with the blue there – it is so balanced – that is a real artist that can do that’.

creole dancer

Of Blue Nude IV (1952), Goldie says:

This was his colour, this was the colour that made him feel safe, this was the colour that made him feel at ease, this was his resonance, this was his ‘hum’ – the sound that a musician finds, it vibrates so much that it stays still, it makes you feel at peace with yourself. Goldie calls this the humming bird effect – that beautiful vibrant blue was Matisse’s humming bird.

Blue Nude

And finally in A Thousand and One Nights (1950) we see Matisse ‘elongating his life’ – telling the story over and over again in a thousand and one cut-outs, which have become bigger, bolder and larger with his advancing years.

a thousand and one nights

All this confirms for me the value of experience. We can learn a lot from the past and the experience of those who have gone before us – those who have learned to achieve balance in their lives and uniquely express themselves with confidence, without worrying about whether the paintbrush is a better tool than scissors or vice versa.

Update 31-05-14

I have been told by a friend that the point of this post is not clear. And on reflection, I see that perhaps it is not. The point I was trying to make was that Matisse, four years before his death in 1954 was using scissors to make these cut-outs, when the received wisdom of the era was that ‘art’ should made with a paintbrush. Sometimes the older generation are ‘far ahead’ (to quote Goldie) of the younger generation, despite their advancing years.

2 thoughts on “Learning from those who have gone before

  1. M Funes May 30, 2014 / 7:51 am

    I love your writing. I always read even if I do not always comment.

    This post has made me think with my morning coffee and taught me something about Matisse, learning on the web and skilful conversation via text.

    You show how the web can offer learning prior to an event. You show how you learn from it even if it maybe diffferent from how others do.

    A thread that runs through your writing is the integration of different realms of experience: art, walking, people and how we learn and interact, and all this is brought into reflections about the online experience.

    Thank you. Few people have the breadth and depth of thought to weave the rich tapestry you do on this blog. Young or old. I need to read Christina’s post, your summary struck a chord. I do see something qualitatively different in how some of the young relate to the web, particularly around the notion of ownership of ideas.

    Off to book a viewing of the exhibition I did not even know was on!

  2. jennymackness May 30, 2014 / 10:18 am

    Thank you Mariana. If you do see the exhibition – I would love to hear your thoughts on it and what you learn from it.

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