Untitled (This is to Certify that) 1942
Drop everything and get yourself down to the Kurt Schwitters exhibition at the Tate Britain. Before I went, the only thing I knew about Kurt Schwitters is that his last name is frighteningly fun to say*. So I was in no way expecting to:
A) Learn some interesting social history;
B) see the inspiration for some many contemporary artists; and
C) Really like the art.
Schwitters was a native of Germany, but left in 1937 when his art started getting some nervous sideways looks from the Nazi party. He then briefly settled in Norway before once again escaping the Nazis and moving to Britain. Where he was promptly put in an internment camp on the Isle of Man (which is also where runawaykiwi’s grandparents met during WWII).
The Tate Britain curators outdid themselves with this exhibition; the rooms were laid out in chronological order so you could see the impact of Germany, exile, internment and eventual freedom on Schwitters work. Particularly for someone who had ZERO knowledge about the artist, it made it really easy to understand and take in.
What was really lovely was seeing the collection almost as a scrapbook from his travels. Schwitters for the most part worked in collage, so you can actually see the scraps of landscape or newspaper that he picked up while fleeing from one country to the next.
My favourite room by far was Schwitters work when interned on the Isle of Man. Because art supplies were not a priority for the inmates, the artists and poets were forced to use whatever came to hand – I imagine that the guards were a little pissed off when they discovered the floor tiles uprooted and used as a canvas!
Collage is not normally a must see for me, but the combination of social history gave it an added depth.
Get down to Tate Britain and Schwitter yourself.
*you are now saying Schwitters out loud…and you will continue to do so at random points throughout the day. You are welcome.