I highly recommend this exhibition of Picasso’s work. Curated by John Richardson who is writing his 4th and last volume on the Life of Picasso, and hosted by the Gargosian Gallery it is on until the 27th of August 2010
Previous publications by John Richardson are : The Prodigy, 1881-1906. The Cubist Rebel, 1907-1916, The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932. Accompanying this last visually stunning volume is this Exhibition titled the Mediterranean Years 1945-1962.
Check out the interview with John Richardson and the arts desk writer Jasper Rees http://www.theartsdesk.com
The Gargosian Gallery in Britania Street has been divided into 4 rooms to transform into a quiet ostensibly private space to accommodate this special exhibition of paintings sculpture drawings and pottery on loan from Picasso’s Family and Friends.
I have seen it twice and it made me want to examine his work and the man afresh. When John Richardson spent time with Picasso in ‘the MediteraneanYears’ Picasso was in his mid sixties working from a villa in Vallauris. It is said that he saved the towns ceramic industry, because he had fallen in love with clay. Given that clay is the oldest materials in history to make art with , Picasso still managed to challenge, invent and extend the range of art that could be made from it into joyful humorous pieces.
Equally fascinating , foremost and moving are his paintings in the first room depicting intimate moments of domesticity and portraits of his children and wives. Exposed amongst the work is his love and affection for his children and his intimate understanding of the notions of motherhood.
‘Femme et l’enfant dessin’ 1957 is a painting of a mother watching over her children engaged in drawing. The mother is the dominating element of the painting , she is drawn into the paint with a delicate and scratchy outline exposing the ground of the canvas. Compared to the rest of the colourful plains making up the composition of the painting, the line depicting the mother seems insignificant, but in contradiction it appears all the more stronger for it , for it draws the whole work together, gives it meaning and completes it. Just this painting alone illustrates the emotional impact on viewers. As is proven by the fact that I visited the exhibition first time with a companion who is in his 80tees and childless and not at all given over to sentiment but was on this occasion compelled to comment, that Picasso must have loved his children.
On visiting a second time my companion was, note, also childless in his early twenties and he decided on the very same ‘Femme et l’enfant’ being his favourite painting over the many brilliant other works in this show.
Iconic and lesser-known pieces in this exhibition include: ‘Jeu d’enfants 1951, ‘Enfant dans sa voiture 1949, Paloma et sa poupee 1953, all paintings that produce joy and and appreciation in the viewer. I also spotted some small cardboard cut outs, simple and obviously spontaneous little nothings an artist makes all the time, and funny sketches that showed Picasso’s humour and ability to laugh about and at himself. All qualities that contradict our ready assumptions of Picasso the great self-promoter, the forceful and tactless artist fabulously wealthy and obsessively passionate about bullfighting and the man who broke every woman’s heart he was in contact with. John Richardson in his interview with Jasper Rees when talking about his time with Picasso emphasizes on how much contradiction was part of Picasso’s make up.
Leading me to that famous line and quote attributed to Picasso: ‘Art is the lie that makes us realize truth.’ and it may reveal something more about the man and his work than is obvious at first glance?
We have all seen this quote written up on t-shirts and posters while travelling on the underground, and I have tried at times to discussed its meaning with other nerdy artists and writers like myself resulting in intentionally serious nodding a few puzzled appreciative grunts and shrugs saying: ‘Well its Picasso isn’t it’.
Eventually I was pleased to find while reading Merleau-Ponty, Philosophy and Painting, a description expressing the very same illogical sentiment and insight about painting that Picasso understood so well and tried to convey, and I quote it here:
“Painting is a spectacle of something only by being a ‘spectacle of nothing’ by breaking the ‘skin of things’ to show how things become things and the world. The point is not to construct anything, or even less to find an escape. Nor is it a matter, I would add, of the surreal. The origin is not more real than what it founds, but its presentation leads the real to its truth.”
Phoebe Pool cautions in an edition of the Burlington Magazine 1957, that any investigation into the sources of artistic production of Picasso’s is bound to be an incomplete and delicate business and quotes Picasso saying: “How can anyone enter into my dreams, my intentions, my desires, my thoughts which have taken a long time to mature and to come out into the daylight’?”