Nu aux organges (Nude with Oranges),1952-3, Gouache decoupee and india ink. Copyright DACS

matisse: an open invitation to experience colour

Our Arts Correspondent Hannah Sharp reviews our current Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors Exhibition, on display in our Keady and Broighter Galleries until 14 November.

“Matisse: Drawing with Scissors” is an open invitation for colour lovers everywhere to come and experience the stunning spectrum of paint and infectious energy that has made Henri Matisse one of the most influential artists of the past 100 years.

 The 35 lithographic prints that were created under Matisse’s guidance in the later years of his life are a celebration of colour and culture, flora and fauna, the female form, and above all, the joy of living. Through block colour and simple shapes, Matisse has created a series of cut-outs that communicate what life is worth living for, even though he was facing debilitating illness and compromised mobility. These cut outs were created simply with paper painted in gauche (an opaque water colour) to fill the artistic needs of Matisse who could no longer paint due to his diminishing health.

Many eager art enthusiasts of all ages attended the official opening of the exhibition on Thursday 24th October where live Jazz music flowed as freely as the conversation. I feel the live jazz band was a fantastic accompaniment to the main show as Matisse himself was very fond of this genre of music; in his own words, “Jazz is rhythm and meaning”. 

The event was also attended by the Mayor of Limavady Cllr Gerry Mullan, and a representative from the City of Cultue team, Noelle McAlinden, both of whom gave a short talk about the exhibition, and how art is an important part of our culture. “In my opinion, that is the pure Matisse.” said Cllr Mullan “To me, it represents the best of Matisse’s work even though it is prints of the paper cuts he made because he wasn’t able to paint any longer… This is a once in a life time opportunity to see work of this calibre”.

Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors Exhibition at Roe Valley Arts Centre until 14 November 2013

Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors Exhibition at Roe Valley Arts Centre until 14 November 2013

With regards to the prints themselves, the stars of the show, and some of Matisse’s most iconic pieces were the “Nus Bleus”, or “Blue Nudes” , four blue silhouettes of a woman, posed in the same way each and cut out from blue painted paper- the artists own celebration of the female body. Each of these portraits is individual, each with different scissor lines and therefore their own energy. With these pieces more than any other, I can feel that Matisse was really carving into the colour, as if the nudes were sculptures rather than paintings.

This use of bright colour throughout Matisse’s career, not only in his exhibited, later works but also in his earlier Fauvist paintings, gives the whole exhibition a very contemporary feel. It is almost incomprehensible that these works were made over half a century ago, and I can’t help but wonder about the effect these works would have had on the people that first saw them. Would they have been shocked by the innovative use of block colour? Maybe they would have felt sadness for the diminishing health of a great artist? Or maybe, as in my case, felt an overwhelming sense of happiness that some of the joys of life had been captured in such a light-hearted and energetic way.

I often caught myself smiling and even laughing out loud at the raw energy and humour of some of his brightest works, such as “L’escargot” (“The Snail”) and “Nu aux Oranges” (“Nude with Oranges”), the latter of these being a surreal portrait featuring a hand drawn female figure, surrounded by hovering cut-outs of oranges!

Nu aux organges 1952 53 Gouache decoupee and india ink 155x108cm Copyright DACS

Nu aux organges 1952 53 Gouache decoupee and india ink 155x108cm Copyright DACS

After visiting this exhibition many times, I can say that the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre building really lends itself to displaying the works of Matisse; the wall-sized windows let in every possible ounce of light into the gallery area, further illuminating the already vibrant work, even on the most characteristically cloudy Limavady day.  

The centre is also holding many events to accompany this exhibition, including free exhibition tours taken by art historian Deborah Logan at 11am, 12noon and 1pm on Saturdays 26 October and 2 November, perfect for families or large groups who want to explore the world of Matisse. Even younger kids can get involved in two creative classes at the excellent price of £12 each- the Artspeak Lab for children aged 8-12 years of age, and Matisse Masterpieces for Little Ones for ages 5-7, each introducing the children into the world of Matisse by allowing them to design their own creations inspired by the exhibition. For a full list of events, please see the RVACC website (http://www.roevalleyarts.com/news/marvel-at-matisse/).

If you haven’t already seized the incredible opportunity to see “Matisse: Drawing with Scissors”, then I would urge you to do so! In my opinion, you can only truly understand this work by immersing yourself in it, and this extraordinary exhibition is available right on our doorstep until the 14th November.

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This entry was posted on November 1st, 2013 at 3:51 pm by Desima

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