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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Gauguin at the Tate Modern

Finally I got a spare hour to nip over the river and see the Paul Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern. This show is the first major Gauguin show in Britain for 50 years and is expected to set a new Tate record with its ticket sales. The collection on display includes over 100 of the French artist’s work as well as letters to his wife and fellow artist Vincent Van Gogh.

Entrance is rather pricey at £13.50 full price, or £10 concession. The show spans 11 rooms and examines a variety of his work focusing particularly on myth, storytelling and the construction of identity in his life and art. The work is not presented in chronological order but instead thematically. This is a little confusing especially for those less knowledgeable about his work.

Gauguin was bold and brave in his work and this confidence is obvious in the Tate’s display. I adore his use of colour, surprising and often spectacular. This unique use of colour evolves through his work as his surroundings and subject change. The first room looks at Gauguin’s exploration of identity and self-mythology with a selection of self-portraits. They are diverse in style due to the varying dates of production, the earliest he painted in his late twenties. The rest of the rooms show work from Gauguin’s travels all over the globe.

My favourite paintings are those done when Gauguin travels to Tahiti, they are the pieces that characterise his style and are probably the most recognisable of his output. I can fondly remember learning about works such as ‘Nevermore O Tahiti’ (pictured above) in my AS Art History classes, and admiring the work back then in my younger, more naive days. I found it interesting to observe Gauguin’s depiction of women and the relationship they have with the viewer or indeed the artist. Many of the female models are looking round directly to the viewer, making the image rather eerie.

When observing Gauguin’s work it is intriguing to think about the symbolic intentions of his colour. Blue, for example was often recognised as a colour of wealth. The final room features many paintings with deep pinks and purples that are striking to see in Post Impressionist paintings. These unusual shades emphasise further the exotic influences over the artist.

Even if the work of Gauguin is not your ‘thing’ this is a once in a lifetime exhibition and a must see.

Exhibition continues until 16 January 2011, book tickets here.

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