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Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Moore please...

The eagerly awaited Henry Moore exhibition did not disappoint. And if you can't quite face battling your way into the Van Gogh, Tate Britain provides a calm and equally beautiful alternative.

Henry Moore (1898-1986) was Britain's leading sculptor in the last century. His work and vision earned him respect internationally, his radical approach shocked and inspired many. This show presents his earlier work (1920s to early 1960s); a selection that must surely be considered his best work. There are several obvious recurring themes that run throughout his art - nature, mother and child, the primitive and he embraces these subjects fully. The exaggerated curves and sensual
representation of the figure shows the female as strong and elegant, the organic embraces between mother and child illustrate this further in a surprisingly reassuring way. Moore believed in honouring a material's natural qualities, and this can be seen in all his sculpture. The natural blemishes and grains of wood and stone were always celebrated rather than disguised - a particularly endearing and beautiful aspect of his work.

"Trunks of trees are very human... to me they have a connection with human life." H. Moore

My favourite works were the smaller delicate little figures, all so carefully carved. The tiny hands perfectly indented, so simple and yet so full of feeling and purpose. Also beautiful were the sculptures using threads - a technique that I spent too long trying to understand. Dark sombre shapes of stone stand with brilliant coloured thread stretched taught across the open space between the surfaces. They seemed comical but serious. The abstraction of these works relates to the work of other artists from the time such as Joan Miro and Paule Vezelay (an artist whose works were recently on display at England & Co Gallery in "Lines in Space").

If you are interested in something a bit more upbeat I would recommend the Chris Ofili exhibition, also in Tate Britain. As soon as I walked through the door I was captured by the grand, energetic and colourful paintings. And the whole collection provokes much consideration and thought. Although contrasting radically in immediate aesthetic properties to the Moore , Ofili's viewpoint and expression draws certain fundamental parallels with the work of the sculptor . Both depict women as a celebration of 'the female', with accentuated curves, and a mystical power. Both artists also reject accepted standards of sophistication and instead rely on primitive inclinations to add impact to their work. Just as Moore broke away from traditional values in sculpture, Ofili has often been the subject of much controversy and debate with his radical representations of black culture. He combines a high art form (beautiful ornate paintings) with pornographic collage, hip hop and gangsta rap imagery and, of course, elephant dung.

He says : 'I was drawn to Blake's image first as a watercolour... At the same time I was interested in how Snoop Dogg could sing quite vulgar lyrics with a sweet, smooth West Coast voice, in the coming together of the rough and the smooth. I was curious about trying to make older ideas contemporary and new, and somehow have a relationship to hip hop culture.' C. Ofili (referring to his work 7 Bitches Tossing their Pussies Before the Divine Dung, 1995.)

Often the Tate Britain is forgotten in our minds, for the new and trendier Tate Modern (and soon Tate Modern 2) but with exhibitions like these it is well worth the visit.

Check out the Henry Moore foundation here:

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