By 1941, Henri Matisse was bedridden and wheelchair bound due to health problems. His mobility declined and thus his ability to paint quickly became impossible. Despite his lack of strength, Matisse turned to a new medium which would allow him to continue to create his vivid and bold creations. With the use of an old pair of dress making scissors, Matisse arguably created the most charming and dynamic works of his life: The Cut-Outs.
The Tate’s curation of the exhibition follows the origins of Matisse’s cut outs; from the beginnings of him experimenting and reappropriating his own pieces such as Still Life with Shell and his Dancers into collages, through to his ambitious and colossal sized works as he neared the end of his life. The rooms transport the crowds through a maze of exhilarating colour, form and texture, with fragments of shapes surrounding our vision like a paper jungle. Needless to say, the exhibition is captivating from start to finish and is one that ignites a fundamental sense of joy.
What the exhibition offers, which is perhaps impossible to fully appreciate elsewhere, is an opportunity to view these famous works in a three dimensional sphere. In comparison to the postcards in the Tate gift shop, both the smaller and larger cut outs hold a sense of presence and energy through their overlapping textures. This becomes evident in pieces like Two Dancers, where small strips of paper are held down by pins, allowing the paper to flail from the surface creating a feathery like texture. It is only through seeing these works up close and in real life that this sense of movement is really appreciated, injecting the exhibition with more excitement and vigour than I had perhaps anticipated.
I think what Izzy and I found most interesting however, was the video of Matisse projected onto one of the walls in room 6. Here we see Matisse stuck in his wheelchair, guiding his dressmaking scissors through brightly coloured paper, gently snipping and slicing away like some sort of Edward Scissorhand-type figure. Matisse believed that using scissors was the “graphic, linear equivalent of the sensation of flight”. Just like the fictional character, Matisse’s scissors resist their violent connotations and instead become the tool to create something beautiful. After seeing this video showing the physical act of cutting, I then began to fully appreciate Matisse’s natural eye for colour and form, giving his works in the exhibition a second coating of impressiveness.
It is this idea of cutting and arranging in terms of the medium of collage that I made comparable links to the actual curation of the exhibition. As you reach the end of room 5 you are confronted by a whole wall covered in small framed collages, arranged in such a way that the wall echoes the medium of the works themselves. In fact, the whole exhibition is like one large collage. The Tate pieces Matisse’s works together to tell the story of his remaining years, only to create one whole final product which celebrates the perseverance of a dying man and his love and optimism for life and art.
Maddy Martin: BogeArt
(Image courtesy of Wikiart: http://uploads6.wikiart.org/images/henri-matisse/two-dancers-study-for-rouge-et-noir-1938.jpg)
BogeArt: Humans of Art
Anisha, 20, Student; Tate Modern