Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Watercolour Exhibition in Tate III

As promised for some time now, I was going to write something in reaction to the article of Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times, that criticises  the Watercolour exhibition in the The Tate Britain... If you click the scan you can read it for yourself:

THE article... illustration by William Turner
(a watercolour and not a pure aquarelle, look at the yellow...)

The article is a great read and has an introduction that shows Waldemar understands - he sais familiar things!
How about:
"[watercolours are] difficult to display - not only does exposure to sunlight begin to dim watercolours the moment they are out of the box, if you hang a row of them on a wall, they will usually fail to impose themselves on your imagination in a visceral way. There is something timid about he medium. Something sensitive, something inherentely unsuited to the bunga-bungaworld in which we find ourselves..."
"...this aspect of watercolour, its facility for miniaturisaton is a feature too..."
Yep, that's us, with the one-hair brush! Much more difficult for the users of the thicker media of course.
and about some 17th century beautifully precise flowers and animal watercolours he goes on:
"Technically, these are scientific illustrations with a scientific purpose in mind. What is being celebrated here is watercolours' excellent portability and descriptive usefulness. Un-technically, some instinctive associaton between watercolour and the yearning for paradise is also being sensed here. Innocence seems te be a watercolour quality too ..."

OK- so we established that he understands the medium- the point of his article is however, that watercolours aren't sexy, or "Groovy" and that the Tate has therefore put up work that can't be called watercolours:
"[the] organisers are so fearful of watercolour being seen as mumsy or old-ashioned they shovel in a host of contemporary practitioners who are undeserving of inclusion"

And that's a subject we'll discuss later, aquarellista Sandra Seymour-Dale is visiting the expo as we speak and we'll wait for her verdict (and I may go to London too, a bit later). The only thing I would like to argue, right now, for the record, is that serious and groovy watercolour artists do exist. They work in a serious and actual, nowadays style, abstract, surrealist, scientific, inspired by street art, etc. etc. They have something to tell and they do that with the poetic, fragile, transparent medium of aquarelle watercolours, in the tradition of Turner and Girtin and Cozens... In the coming time I'll show some watercolours that I think represent the 'groovy' that he refers to...
'Renew' a large size watercolour by Catherine Earle

1 comment:

  1. Critics bug me so when they generalize. Well I for one don't paint traditional watercolours. Many folks think they are oils...( give me a break Oils behind glass.) I gave up showing my work because of all the totally daft questions about me being self taught etc
    BTW this is a great site.


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