Sunday, 6 March 2011

Tate Britain's Watercolour exhibition I

Since 16 February and until 21 August, there's an exhibition of watercolours in the Tate Britain in London.

My first reaction was 'yippee!' followed by the decision to work extra hard for a while and save money to go there (and I still plan to do just that). It has loads of Turners and the whole history is shown, including very modern watercolours... Exciting!

Venice by William Turner
My second thought however was "why an exhibition on 'watercolours'???"
I was irritated! Why have an exhibition with a medium, a painting technique as driving force: nobody would organize an exhibition 'Acrylics' or 'Oils'...hgrrmpf... what do you think... might that be because watercolours aren't taken seriously as a stand-alone artform even in the country that has a watercolour tradition... Although it is the oldest existing painting technique! Although nothing is so beautiful, transparent, interesting, spontaneous! 

And then I realized that although there will probably never be serious exhibitions on 'Oil painting through the ages' or 'A century of painting in Acrylics' there is a very sympathetic reason for a watercolour-only exhibition: watercolours are a niche, an acquired taste, they are the 'poetry' of painting...

And we, the aquarellistas, the people who have chosen this technique as our raison d'être, as our most important means of expression of our art, we can be proud that we belong... to the poetry niche of all painting!

There is much to write about the subject. In the next post I'll react on an article about this Tate Watercolour expo in the Sunday Times. The article has got a lot of things right, but there's one header we can't let pass: "...don't ask [watercolours] to be groovy"  - mmmm - watch this space!

Watercolours can't be groovy?? Here's one - by Sandra Seymour Dale

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