Art: Must Sees @ Tate Modern

Tate has held the national collection of British art since the 16th century, till today. Having opened in 2000 in the Bankside Power Station, Tate Modern has rapidly become one of the world’s most influential contemporary art galleries. It routinely hosts ground-breaking exhibitions, and its new Turbine Hall installations draws hug crowds daily to the South Bank. It’s ever-revolving free display of contemporary masterpieces are the main crowd pleaser however, and Art Rise have hand-picked ten that any self-professed art enthusiast should go see.

Marilyn Diptych © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Wikicommons
Marilyn Diptych (1962) by Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol is of course already a renowned figure in the world of art, and this print of Marilyn Monroe is strangely more relevant in today’s Instagram, and fame-obsessed culture than ever before. Made in the months following the genius’s death, Warhol blended motifs of permanence and the cult of pop by replicating the same image of the tragic beauty with a fading gradient that conjures mortality as it is paired with the fluorescent bright images on the left.
Nude Woman With Necklace (1968) by Pablo Picasso
One of Picasso’s best-known works, this portrait is bursting with colour, energy and life. Depicting Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque, and her enigmatic facial expression is full of enough mystery to rival the Mona Lisa – she is at once vulnerable and defiant. The complexity of her portrait and the chaotic figuring of the body as simultaneously landscape and natural energies encapsulate the turbulent nature of their marriage.

Nude Woman With Necklace © DACS 2002/Wikicommons

Mountain Lake (1938) by Salvador Dalí
This quiet and unassuming surrealist piece is perhaps one of Dalí’s most nuanced works. The soft greys and browns are used to a highly realistic effect, and the shimmering body of water hovers somewhere between being a lake and being the body of a fish, reflecting the surrealist idea of allowing multiple planes of reality to co-exist in a single image. This duality is redoubled in the public and private themes at work in the image; the natural lake is a meditation on his brother’s death, whilst the disconnected telephone alludes to negotiations between then British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Hitler.

Triptych (1972), by Francis Bacon
The atheist, troubled artist, Francis Bacon is one of the most disturbing, and impactful painters of the twentieth century. When he was first publicly recognised, in the aftermath of the Second World War, his paintings were witnessed with horror. They have since been widely appreciated as gut-wrenching reflections of humanity’s frailties and drives.

This work is generally considered one in a series of Black Triptychs which followed the suicide of Bacon’s abused lover, George Dyer. Dyer appears on the left and Bacon is on the right. The famous image in the centre is derived from the photograph of wrestlers by Eadweard Muybridge, but is also blatant in homo erotic insinuation. The coupled, seated figures are set against black voids and the central flurry is understood as ‘a life-and death struggle’.

The painter’s biographer wrote: ‘What death has not already consumed seeps incontinently out of the figures as their shadows.’
Gallery label, September 2016

Francis Bacon, Triptych – August 1972 1972, Oil on canvas
The Uncertainty of the Poet (1913) by Georgio de Chirico
De Chirico uses an extremely convincing style to create a scene that becomes more ghostly the longer you look at it. His paintings often have an air of unsettling stillness, reflected in the lack of human subjects and the use of bold, block colours. The artwork combines the twisted statue and arcades with the modern steamboat on the horizon, and the ripened bananas to create a space where multiple realities and situations co-exist. Of De Chirico’s spooky, surrealist town squares, Paul Eluard reflected: “these squares are outwardly similar to existing squares and yet we have never seen them … We are in an immense, previously inconceivable, world.”

“Seagram Murals” (1950s) by Mark Rothko
Originally commissioned to create murals for a New York dinery, Rothko quit the job as his work took a darker and more contemplative turn. Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence influenced these reflections on red, grey and brown, as Rothko sought to recreate the library’s claustrophobic atmosphere. Rothko gave the final collection to the Tate, and they are displayed as he originally intended in an enclosed, dimly lit space that allows the viewer to take in their morbid and meditative character.

Lightning with Stag in its Glare (1958-1985) by Joseph Beuys
This mammoth installation piece absolutely takes over the room with its colossal size and power. The hovering bronze triangle is the physical embodiment of a streak of lightening, casting its light and energy over the group of shapes surrounding it. Beuys was a talented performer as well as a sculptor, and this installation piece appears to vibrate the energy of performance.

Lightning with Stag in its Glare | © Jennifer Morrow / Flickr
Jazzmen (1961) by Jacques Mahé de la Villeglé
Villeglé’s work displays the debris and traces left behind by the modern city. Villeglé was part of a group of artists known as the ‘affichistes’, and his work explores the tireless capitalist culture that surrounded Paris in the 1950s and 60s. This piece is collaged of from ripped advertisements and billboards across ‘the city of romance’ capturing, on the one hand, the stream of advertisements bombarded at the city’s inhabitants and on the other the reckless, energetic creation of the modern artist.

Blindly (2010) by Artur Żmijewski
This moving video installation documents scenes from an artist’s workshop, where visually impaired people are asked to paint a portrait, a landscape, and an animal. Zmijewski is known for dealing with difficult subjects, and this is one of his most effective pieces examining the world from the perspective of those living with disabilities. There is a highly personal and tactile element to each painting created, but always lurking in the background is the realisation that we can see each work whilst its creators cannot.

Tiny Deaths (1993) by Bill Viola
It’s not a common occurrence to become fully immersed in a work in a gallery space on a busy Saturday afternoon, however Tiny Deaths manages to draw the viewer in to do just this. Bill Viola has been one of the most important video artists for over 40 years, and with Tiny Deaths he asks the audience to immerse themselves into the darkness, where three video images are just about perceivable. Engulfed in the darkness, senses become heightened and the disconcerting music and near invisible images gather a crescendo of light and forms, encouraging us to ponder on the space between our inner and outer world.

(Words by Russ Taner)

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