Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Tracing the Century: Tate Liverpool

A couple of weeks back I paid a few pre-Christmas visits to Liverpool. One of these visits encompassed a day spent wandering around Tate Liverpool, I was eager to see the 'Tracing the Century' exhibition which as their website describes: 

  "highlights drawing’s fundamental role as a catalyst and vehicle for change in modern and contemporary art... Tracing the Century has at its heart artworks based on the human body and the inner self, opening up the conversation between figuration and abstraction that characterised art in the twentieth century. Rather than approaching abstraction and figuration separately, the exhibition will integrate these genres to explore the continuous slippage between the two"

I can't say I was overly impressed with the show as a whole, I didn't feel like the concept was explored in a coherent enough manner, some pieces felt a tad random in the context of the show, it wasn't quite meaty enough for my liking...

It was however a huge treat to see Sir William Orpen's chalk/pastel drawings on simple black paper, they were both bold and graphic yet detailed. This is the first showing for the works since the Tate acquired them, originally used as a teaching aid for his classes at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin, they show the human form not as a person or individual but as a biological specimen. 


Taken from his 'Overpaintings' series Rainer works freely in various media ontop of photographs of himself. The act of working into a self portrait plays with the notion of self-reproduction, but also acts as a symbolic transformation and destruction of oneself - the quick, fluid expressive marks here suggest a series of quick violent strokes - almost as if he is being punched. 

Anthony McCall's installation "Line Describing a Cone" was a real treat, I'm usually a bit hit and miss with video projections and light installations don't normally lure me in either, but I entered McCall's piece with a complete open mind, and it was like stepping into a Steven Spielberg film! 

A perfect cone of blue/white light pierced the centre of the room projecting an animation of dancing lines, circles, patterns and static onto the wall whilst fog shrouded the floor, I felt like Elliott in E.T approaching the glowing light. I was convinced that the beam of light was in fact a solid form of glass, but was then surprised to find my hand could slice straight through it, which of course was quickly followed by walking through it, and standing the centre bathed in the glow of the beam, transfixed in wonder by the whole installation. 
The work is incredibly evocative of cinema - it reminded me so much of Spielberg's films [E.T, Super8, Close Encounters etc] and the atmosphere it creates is eerie yet captivating, you cannot help but be drawn into the beam of light, its a truly hypnotic work of art.  

Here's what the Tate themselves have to say about the piece:

"Line Describing a Cone is made from a beam of white light emitted from a film projector positioned at one end of a darkened room. Passing through the projector is an animated film of a thin, arcing line that, frame by frame, gradually joins up to become a complete circle. Over the course of thirty minutes this line of light traces the circumference of the circle as a projection on the far wall while the beam takes the form of a three-dimensional hollow cone. Mist from smoke machines gives the beam of light a greater density, making it appear almost tangible... Line Describing a Cone probes the boundaries between film and sculpture, light and dark, materiality and immateriality. By eschewing conventional narrative content it demonstrates film to be, in its simplest form, a durational process, which, coupled with an activation of the viewing experience, liberates the medium from the confines of cinema while foregrounding the temporal as well as spatial conditions of sculpture."

"Tracing the Century: Drawing as a catalyst for change" runs until January 20th 2013 at Tate Liverpool.