Kurt Schwitters 
Untitled (This is to Certify that) 1942
Kunsthalle Mannheim

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.

I finally went to the Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde exhibition at Tate Britain (half price with my National Art Pass whoop!). It is a fantastic collection, with paintings, books, sculptures, carpets and even a bed on display.

Never just a pretty face, the Tate Britain gave us a history lesson as well:

“They believed that art had become decadent, and rejected their teachers’ belief that the Italian artist Raphael (1483–1520) represented the pinnacle of aesthetic achievement. They looked to earlier art whose bright colours, flat surfaces and truth to nature they admired.

But rather than imitate the early masters, they espoused a rule-breaking originality. Whether painting subjects from Shakespeare, the Bible, landscapes of the Alps or the view from a window, the Pre-Raphaelites brought a new beauty and intensity of vision to British art.”

You have to love the Victorian era – women wore bustles and rebels used paintbrushes.

What I found remarkable was how standard the paintings were. I don’t mean that in a negative way, it just that for me they are the the first style that comes to mind when I think of the word ‘painting’.

If you asked a kid what they were actually trying to draw with their crayons – I think the pre-raphaelite  bright colours the realism and the drama is what they were imagining.

The other thing I noticed? The artists had a soft spot for a flame haired lady…

We all know that the entries in the Turner Prize can be a little out there. I refuse to jump on the band wagon and be negative about the works that I didn’t like – there is a huge chance that I just don’t know enough to understand it and I would just end up looking like a nob.

Therefore I am just going to tell you about the one artist that I liked. See, problem solved.

Introducing Paul Noble. He does large scale pencil drawings that are architectural daydreams. They are half fantasy and half plausible building plans. I love this type of art, it seams so simple and authentic. Although, I think even ‘normal’ building plans have a special something (yes I am a Grand Designs junkie).

If you get the chance go and see Nobles work in real life, the shear scale of these drawings need to be seen. They will transport you some place nice.

 

I am always after sneaky sneaky ways to see art on the cheap. In the UK most of the major galleries are free, but all the special exhibitions (i.e. all the interesting ones you want to see) have a charge. So, introducing the National Art Pass, run by the Art Fund charity.

For £18.75 (under 26 and pay by direct debit) you get:

– Free entry to over 200 museums, galleries and historic houses
– 50% off many major exhibitions
– Art Quarterly
– Exclusive shop, café and catalogue offers
– Special events, such as lectures, visits and private views

I know it seems like a bit to spend, but let me show you the exhibitions I am going to go to before I ‘break even’

1. Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde @ Tate Britain – £14

2. Turner Prize 2012 @ Tate Britain – £10

3. A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance @ Tate Modern – £10

4. Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present @ National Gallery – £12

With the National Art Pass I only pay half price for the above four, which means I save £23 – more than the cost of the card. And that is only two weeks of art going for me. I have an entire year of fabulous art discounts to look forward to.

xx