Monday, 24 September 2007

Picasso on paper - exhibition

Eventually - and not before time, seeing that it was the last day of it - I managed to get across to Edinburgh to visit the Picasso on Paper exhibition at the Dean Gallery. Exhibiting over 140 paper-based works by the prolific artist, the exhibition provides an excellent insight into Picasso's draughtsmanship, his varied printmaking techniques and the innovation with which he approached media and subjects.

The exhibition covers a wide span of his working life - from pastel drawings from the 1890s, the pre-war era cubist work, many etchings from the Vollard suite of the 193os, 1940s lithographs and some fabulous multi-coloured linocuts from the 1950s through to drawings and etchings from the last decade of his life.

Many of the works are on loan from the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, which holds an extensive collection of the artist's graphic work.

I had taken my sketchbook with me - but once we were there I quickly suffered from a good dose of artist admiration (which isn't quite the word but you hopefully get was I mean), but took out the sketchbook out to do a number of quick shadow shapes sketches.

I enjoyed the sense of artistic and technical development coming through his works - exploring different type of print techniques, mixing them up (e.g. by scraping on lithographs), and while my understanding of print techniques isn't good, I found Picasso's continuous search for something different, stretching the boundaries of what is known, done and understood fascinating.

Let me illustrate with an example from his cubist work - daily meetings with George Braque led to an exploration of collages and geometric minimalism - how little information is needed to denote a sketch as a human head?

Described by Brigitte Leal, in The Ultimate Picasso, as 'papier colle revolution', Braque's interest in materials was taken up by Picasso throughout 1912 and 1913. Here painting and collage influenced each other mutually.

Leal illustrates how the use of ready-made materials such as newspaper cutouts introduced an anonymity to the works - making art for the cubist not dependant 'on the painter's hand' (p. 162). In the process
the form no longer depends on a drawn or painted structure; papier colle has taken its space. Cutouts and assemblages alone define the spatial composition. Here color 'working simultaneously with form,' Braque put it, takes priority, disrupts the two-dimensionality of space.
Moving this further, Picasso created a series of head within which the capturing of a simple pictorial essence became the key. Only few reference points help distinguishing between different objects - such as this head and guitar here:

Head, Papier Colle, Pablo Picasso, 1913
Private Collection

Guitar, Papier Colle, Pablo Picasso, 913
Private Collection
Leal (p. 170), again:
The painter is playing with the ambigous nature of the clues: the same triangular bases for both, the same bands of black and blue glued paper to stabilize the forms without mimicking the subjects, and the use of the double curve that usually evokes the guitar to form the head.

There's more to follow on this one - notably Picasso's process of abstraction through a series of lithographs.

1 comment:

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks, Gesa, for this post. Very enlightening, and I sure would've liked to see the installation.