Saturday, 7 November 2015

Frank Auerback at Tate Britain

Head of JYM II 1982
Friday was a good day, despite the rain. I don't get up to London to look at art very often these days so it was good to have the opportunity to go to Tate Britain to see the Frank Auerbach retrospective.

I've been craving a good exhibition of paintings for some time; and for me, that's what this is. 

The work ranges from the 1950s to present day with the same subject matter often repeated. Portraits of the same handful of sitters, paintings of the same scenes around Auerbach's studio, views of his own studio. These provide a good sense of the way his work has developed over the years; subtle changes from thick layers of brashly coloured paint built up in almost sculptural relief, scraped back to more subdued tones on a flatter surface. The paintings lose none of the energy and movement and noise of the earlier works though.
Self-portrait, charcoal on paper, 1958

Head of Catherine Lampert II, 1985
Interior, Vincent Terrace, 1982-84
In the Studio IV, 2013-14

 I love Auerbach's charcoal drawings - from the early self-portraits (see above) to the later, more abstracted ones. The marks and the energy are compelling, though I don't understand how he got to this point (yet... I bought a copy of Catherine Lampert's recent biography of the artist so am hoping to understand his working processes better).

I think the thing I like best about Auerbach's work is that it makes me work hard. I have to look at one of his paintings for some time to try and gain some understaning of it. I don't just mean to work out what's going on in the painting... I'm not explaining this well. I guess I get sucked into the painting - the rich colours, the indistinct forms, the light and shade... the mystery of it. These works hold my attention in a way that I don't really expect or understand. Not sure if that makes sense... Anyway, I left the exhibition thinking, thinking, thinking about the work and wanting to know more. That has to be one of the signs of good work.

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