I was commissioned to write these by WhyNow.
Stephen Shore – American Surfaces
Go to: Tate Modern, Bankside.
You might feel: Appreciative, fulfilled, humoured.
Here you are, sucked into Stephen Shore’s road trip across America, surrounded by neon signs, breakfast tables and picture frames, intimate portraits and toilets. Affirmed here is that normality is to be celebrated. Appreciate the peculiarities of your environment, be they humorous or profound, and recognise how they have shaped you and continue to affect you.
It is the insignificant writ large, overwhelming from afar, boring from up close. 312 small photographs spread across the wall in a grid, in no order, with no obvious theme other than the document of his journey. These pictures are monotonous, the subject matter is often repeated, the whole is greater than the individual parts. Shore tells us that there is art and interest in the most mundane aspects of your life; the radio you tune into, the cars that drive past you, and the people who walk by you.
Shore is celebrating the everyday, the buildings and patterns and lives in his artwork are no more important than the lives we lead, those people we see and the scenes we all walk through. The familiarity conjured here is both individual and collective, there are portraits of people we could never know, yet we feel close to them. Time has passed since those photos were taken, their lives ever more insignificant to ours, our lives insignificant to theirs, the mundanity shared is something to be cherished.
Life does not have to be a fast-paced adrenaline shot rollercoaster ride in order to be fulfilling. Looking around and understanding the value of our peculiar normality, as Shore does, is essential.
Picasso – The Weeping Woman
Go to: Tate Modern, Bankside.
You might feel: Alarmed, eerie, unnerved.
Picasso takes the horrors of war and violence and loss and pours them into his weeping woman, they distort her face, they contort her gestures, she is jagged and overcome. It is a haunting picture.
It immediately unsettles you; she shouldn’t look like that, her skin shouldn’t be that colour, her eyes shouldn’t be so desperately hurt. An atmosphere is conjured that totally unnerves you; there is no escape from the bleak of this woman’s life, from the dark of her pain, each angled brushstroke locks you in and holds you there.
Her skin like shrapnel, her tears rendered solid, this unhealthy, eerie state consumes what is within the frame and bleeds outward. With those yellows and greens and blues and whites, Picasso shoves everything at you, he forces you to be alarmed, to be uneasy.
Who wouldn’t be, when confronted with the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War? That nightmare invades the image, lives through her wailing, it takes you straight to the human cost, it pleads with you on your level. A mother without her child, torn from her hands, torn from the picture, rupturing and disrupting in front of your eyes. The whole painting wails with her, it confuses and tortures, it mangles her hands and it fills her stare with anguish.
It is a product of atrocity, it is created from horror, Picasso’s Weeping Woman acts as a powerful conduit for these things to reach our eyes.