All Too Human – Tate Britain

Last week I ventured to the Tate to see their new exhibition, ‘All Too Human’, looking forwards to seeing uncomfortably realistic Freud and soul-sucking, nihilistic Bacon. I also discovered a new artist, who has certainly struck a chord with me… I even bought a postcard. Christ, his work must be good.

The work of Michael Andrews (1928-1995) certainly held my gaze the longest, captured both by the subject matter and his beautiful, ethereal painting style. In ‘Melanie and Me Swimming’ (1978-9) the acrylic paint saturates the canvas; the dark, cool water had seeped into the painting, pooling around the figures. It’s a snapshot of human interaction, a fleeting event that may not seem significant.

With ‘The Deer Park’, Andrews uses luminous washes of colour, muted shades of violet and green. An exclusive club inhabited for eternity by ghostly figures, whispered rumours, illicit dalliances and too much champagne. There is something very Twin Peaks about this… Andrews used photographs of celebrities for inspiration – can you spot Marilyn Monroe?

Michael Andrews Melanie and me swimming
Melanie and Me Swimming – Michael Andrews
The Deer Park
The Deer Park – Michael Andrews (1962)

And so to Francis Bacon. This time, it was his colours that got me. Unexpected delicate layers of colour, creating the deepest purples. The longer I stared at this painting, the more colours I found. They seemed to shift. It struck me that there are similarities between Bacon and Rothko, with their choice of colours, method of painting, and the raw, human emotions they capture with their work.

francis bacon
Francis Bacon

However, with a title like ‘All Too Human’, I wanted unbridled EMOTION. I wanted to feel something, I expected to see paintings that made me ponder just what it means to be fricking human; shared experiences, pain, joy…  I now feel that perhaps I had got the wrong end of the stick; perhaps the exhibition title had conjured up mistaken preconceptions. Reviews of the show seem to be overwhelmingly positive, with a focus on the skilled representation of figures, and their surroundings. Ah well.

Somehow, most of the exhibition felt soulless. A room of work by William Coldstream and other artists from the Slade felt sterile and detached (Coldstream… a satisfyingly apt name!) Not at all human. Painstakingly painted still lives and figures that have had all the life and vigour sucked out of them. It felt to me that these artists had been so obsessed with accuracy and measurement, that they had sacrificed a fundamental… beauty and truth and feeling within their work. Not my cup of tea.

Coldstream reclining nude
Reclining Nude – William Coldstream

A fairly eclectic mixture of artworks I feel, and I wonder if my underwhelmed self has just had a little too much of exhibitions of this type lately. Looking forwards to becoming completely absorbed in the work of one artist; I hope to head to the Picasso exhibition at the Tate Modern this week!

Have you seen any inspirational exhibitions of late? Always on the look out for recommendations! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s