Thursday, 12 July 2012

Edvard Munch at the Tate Modern

On Monday I mentioned that I had been to see Edvard Munch at the Tate Modern the day after it opened. And so I did. As that was already two weeks ago, it's about time I shared my thoughts, right? 

Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye

What I liked most about this exhibition was... there were no references to The Scream. We all know Munch primarily because of that one painting and there is so much more to him than that. I really loved this exhibition, although I knew I would as I am a fan of his generally. But, as with all exhibitions at the Tate, I found myself learning more about Munch as an artist and discovering aspects of his work that I hadn't known about before. In this instance, it's Munch's photography and videography work. He was really interested in the ideas of something beyond the tangible world and his photos really capture this; they play with exposures, focus and light creating a sense of 'other worldliness' that was quite magical. In some of his photos, you get the impression that there really is something else there, and, while you know that it's because he has double-exposed it, you still wonder what that blur in the background really is. 

The exhibition covers 12 rooms and each room shows a different aspect of his work. I hadn't realised how often Munch had revisited the same paintings, sometimes changing the background, sometimes the expression on the faces, sometimes the clarity with which the painting was focused. It was fascinating seeing how Munch's work changed over the decades but came back to similar themes. In the room 'Optical Space' I was struck with how the figures in his paintings seem to be attempting to escape, how they come out towards you and how the perspectives are changed to create movement within the piece. I absolutely loved his wood carvings - especially the self-portrait one at the start of the exhibition. 

Munch is well-known for his images of alienation, but this exhibition showed a more personal side to the artist; we saw the difficulty of trying to cope with his anxieties, the recurring theme of the fight he had with a young artist who accused him of a lack of patriotism, his attempt to reconcile himself with his sister's death and the emotional turmoil he clearly went through. I was really impressed with how Munch had kept up with the latest scientific discoveries and how he had depicted them in his own work (often through photographs), how well he knew himself (as seen in the copious self-portraits) and how he used his choice of medium to show his emotional state. I really enjoyed this and came out wondering why people tend to think of Munch only for 'The Scream'  - I really like Vampire, Starry Night, his self-portraits and love his woodcarvings. Another brilliant exhibition that is definitely worth a visit. 

Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye

Tate Modern, London
28th June - 14th October
Tickets: £14 (free for members)

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