Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Schwitters in Britain at the Tate Britain

Feeling the need for a cultural injection, I took myself along to the latest exhibition at the Tate Britain.  Schwitters in Britain is the first major look at the artist's late work in Britain, and tells the story of the Schwitters' journey from Germany in the early 20th century, via Norway to living and working in Britain, from 1940 until his death in 1948.

Schwitters work and life resonated with many artistic movements in Europe at the time, including Dada, De Stijl, and constructivism, and he was respected widely among artistic circles.  Whilst still in his native Germany, Schwitters pioneered a new approach to art and painting, whereby he combined any and every material within a painting, and gave equal value to all components and materials on the canvas, board or whatever other base he worked on.  This he coined as Merz, a part-word which originated from one of his collage pieces.

This approach, this democratisation of materials, was integral to all Schwitters' work , including his sculpture, installations, and throughout his move to Norway and exile to Britain.  Through his work, we are led on an interesting chronological study, of the artist's surroundings, situation and emotion.

Schwitters work causes an instantaneous emotional response.  The immediacy of the materials in the work and the obvious imagery capture the viewer and the intense attention to detail and care in the construction of the pieces draws us in, we linger and examine.  We are lost in the multiple textures, the relationships between objects, images, lines and colours. 

In my design work, collage is one of my main drawing tools; I love the freedom you experience by mixing your own hand crafted lines and colours with found images.  I am challenged once again by Schwitters long experimentation with his Merz theory; there is so much yet to be done, so much depth as yet untapped.  

This innovative, brave artist also experimented with poetry and performance, applying surrealist theories to these disciplines.  What was created was seemingly nonsensical series' of sounds and words, but these words create a kind of spoken music, or audible art.  As someone who appreciates poetry to a certain degree, they appeared easily accessible and I found a childlike joy in articulating the syllables and discovering meaning in them.

Delving into the various pieces in this exhibition in turn made me want to laugh, cry, sing, dance and most of all create.  Schwitters captured a rare magic in his art.  His is not solely self serving, naval gazing art; it speaks, and it inspires, it plants a seed of creativity in the viewer.  If you engage with his work, you become part of it, you are drawn in and are no longer a viewer, but a participant. 

I urge you, if you're looking for something to do, go and see this exhibition and spend some time engaging with an intriguing artist.  You might get more than you bargained for.

A x

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