Monday, 3 August 2009

Interior illusions

Chris made this fabulous comment on my previous White Room experimentation: to look at Matisse and how he arranged objects in space.

And that's what I did. I swiftly made two (in)expensive book purchases... small format, b/w photos and a lot of text on

So, I've been reading these books on my various journeys across Berlin's public transport system for the past week. I sought out the cut-outs for a variety of hunches: to flatten space, to simplify space and to make objects moveable - to be placed and shaped where one likes. In that, I explicitly ignored Matisse's numerous earlier paintings of decorative still life and the curious games he plays with them with the construction of space.

And thus I stumbled to the extraordinary end point of someone's extraordinary artistic career. Which clearly doesn't make for an easy starting point for someone else. And neither should it.

So: we need a series of diversions, complications and confusions if this is something to work with, on, besides.

Let's start with a couple of his cut-outs. Yes?!

Henri Matisse, The Heart, 1943,
papiers decoupes
Jazz, tablet vii, 44.5x67.3cm
Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris

Note the limited colour scheme; note how the different forms do not touch each other; note that in print the depth of the collages is lost; note how the heart makes the rest of the construction fall out of place - passionately.

It's constructions of space by cut out - the practice of cutting shape into colour - there is little more direct in approach than how Matisse - so late, and after decades of searching - stumbles onto this new medium that in its simplicity provides such clear expression. Playfully innocent and all the same something to arrive at after years of searching.

Henri Matisse, Figures, 1944
papiers decoupes
Jazz, tablet ix, 44.3x67.1cm
Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris

Positive and negative shapes, space; the frame is as important as what is (not) inside. And yet: the positive remains incongruent to the negative; the forms do not match; do not exhaust themselves in each other. Instead, they are subtly changed, amended, rounded, flattened; so: one is not the opposite of the other.

So, I'm standing on the sidelines and my jaw is dropping in awe.
Don't forget to breath, dear
... and now??


Anonymous said...

gosg A link!
So glade to have been of use,The other thing you might like to look at is stage design. The bit when directors or producers think of the set. very often these can be simple interiors or one room and people move around on the stage.the audience looks from one vantage point...No/ oh well!!
I do love Mattisie though.

Gesa said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Chris - though I'm terribly slow in replying at the moment. That's a good tip - it's interesting how stage design but also the importance of props came up on our California project: how good props/ a good design make transformance and performance very easy.

I'm letting the stage design rummage a little longer with the Matisse ensemble and see where they will get to together. Thanks!