Education (eradication) of the masses

The Red Star over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture (1905-55) exhibition at Tate Modern is a fascinating collection of visual works collected by the graphic designer David King. Set mainly in the aftermath of the 1917 October Revolution of the Bolsheviks when the Russian Empire was reshaped by communism into the USSR, it documents the visual culture that emerged under the radically new way of life. There are some really positive things to take from this exhibition and the way it documents the hopes and ideals of a new industrial nation forged out of civil war and revolution from urban and rural fiefdoms with few shared values. The avant-garde used art and architecture as tools for social change capable of creating a new order for citizens. No longer was art – often iconic – restricted to the ruling elite and the wealthy. Instead prints, posters, journals and photobooks became accessible to all. This shared visual imagery dominated Soviet life and appeared in public places, factories and workers’ clubs. It used bold imagery and colours, and short, punchy text, as large swathes of the population (almost three quarters) were illiterate and only a quarter of children ever went to school.…

Georgia O’Keeffe – Seeing Beyond Erotica

As an adolescent and a young adult I admired O’Keeffe’s work. I had a large framed print of Red Poppy on my wall for many years. For some reason I don’t think I explored her work very far beyond her flower paintings and the flowing feminine forms. I probably liked the myth that her paintings were female erotica – depicting sexual parts and full of psycho-sexual messages. So I went to the new exhibition of her work at Tate Modern (http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern) today with an open mind aware that she disputed this interpretation. She said: “When people read erotic symbols into my paintings they’re really talking about their own affairs.” I got much more out of the exhibition than this myth dispelled. Though I have to say I’m not entirely convinced. It may well be a case of she protesteth too much. Her creative and personal partnership with Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer and gallerist later to become her husband, revealed that she was not an unwilling muse and nude model. That said, her mission to make busy people take time to see what flowers really look like, as interpreted by her, is laudable and met with considerable success on both sides…

A Trinity of Women Artists

I love the number 3. There’s something about it. A symmetry with an edge. One in the middle. Two’s company, three’s a crowd type of thing. So it’s strange that in the space of a week recently I visited the exhibitions/studios of 3 women artists. And I visited them with my 2 daughters – so three women (well one woman and two girls) visiting three women. Except the third one – where I visited alone. I didn’t plan it this way. It just happened. But I believe in patterns. All three were a real inspiration and just made me want to pick up my brushes and tools. Let me talk about the first visit of the Trinity – Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern. The exhibition finshed a day or so after we visited so you can’t view it now. Wish I’d gone before but glad I went anyway. I have loved her work for years. The colours. The juxtapostion of the colours. And the shapes. “Colour is the skin of the world” she said. It so is Sonia. Sonia was a multi-disciplinary abstract artist and a key figure in the Parisian avant-garde. Alongside her husband, Robert Delaunay, Sonia  pioneered the movement…