By Arlene Sharp
On 25th January a group of about ten students and OCA tutor Jim Cowan met at the Tate Modern to visit the Paul Klee Exhibition “Making Visible”. This was a student organised visit – stemming from an initial idea in December on the Facebook group – OCA Sketchbooks. It generated lots of interest and it was great to meet with other students some whom had come from as far away as Scotland and Naples! We were also very fortunate to have tutor Jim join us too.
Before we went in Jim gave us a lively and very informative overview of the exhibition – introducing us to Klee’s work, his background and influences.
The exhibition is arranged chronologically tracing Klee’s life and development from the late 19th century through to his final, major exhibition in Zurich in February 1940 a few months before his death. The exhibition is very large – there are around 200 paintings arranged over 17 rooms in total and you do need to allow at least a couple of hours to go round. It was impressive to see the evidence of how prolific a painter Klee was and the depth, variety and quality of his output. He was meticulous in cataloguing his work – identifying all his paintings with the year and a number and listed them in his so-named ‘oeuvre catalogue’ together with records of his techniques, exhibitions and sales. Many thanks and our appreciation to Jim who made sure he caught up with us all individually to chat as we wandered through.
Jim asked us to select three favourite paintings each, some of us found it quite difficult to choose – there was an enormous variety of work. Our highlights included:-
“Aerial Combat, 1920 an oil transfer drawing with what looks like a plummeting bird alongside a boxlike plane, on a textured surface. In contrast, ‘Seaside Resort in the South of France 1927’ which was very innocent, childlike, pointillist, direct onto paper; stripes of blue and purple sea with lots of pink dots of sand enclosed in squares, graphite and crayon.”
“My three favourites, so difficult to choose, Project for a Garden (1922) watercolour & pen, Aquarium (1921) watercolour & graphite and Dancer (1929) oil on canvas….could have been a different three entirely.”
“My three were (and it was hard to narrow it down) Familial Space, 1915, Picture of a Town, 1923, and Lying Down, 1939.”
The general consensus was that it was an excellent exhibition, well curated and definitely worth visiting – summed up by the comments below:-
“…inspiring – loved the textures and all the different media …”
“Yes, it was great to draw on so much knowledge and experience. What a brilliant day. Thank you Steve for organising and Jim for enlivening the visit with his mini-lectures. Just for the record, my favourite Klee paintings were Blue Knight (1937) and the earlier Ghost of a Genius, which was almost verging on a joke I thought!”
“…he was constantly experimenting – he never stood still..”
“…I didn’t realise how much different work he had done – some of his spray paintings were wonderful – likewise the oil transfer drawings…”
We rounded up over lunch with a chat about our favourite paintings and a lively discussion about the merits of different courses and how they worked together in the degree pathway.
After lunch we wandered over to the nearby Bankside Gallery – the gallery of the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers – to browse the latest exhibition of watercolours, etchings and prints. There was a wide variety of affordable work – some very good, some perhaps less so – a few of us had an interesting discussion about how you put a price on artwork and how much people are prepared to pay. There was a lot here that we could relate to and draw ideas from.
Many thanks go to Steve for organising the visit and to Jim for joining us and giving us the benefit of his knowledge and experience.
(Images courtesy of Katrin Paas and Jim Cowan)