Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Watercolour at Tate Britain - Review

If art exhibitions are not to be biopic they need the curator to explore some unifying theme or tradition - preferably in an innovative and insightful way. The choice of a medium, watercolour, presents a myriad of possibilities (there is so much material from which to choose) but, at the same time is fraught with problems (how to retain a sense of coherence beyond the simple connection of the medium). Hereby hangs the paradox of this exhibition.

The curator's notes give due warning to the visitor:
"This exhibition explores what watercolour can achieve in terms of technique and expression that no other medium can, and why it is capable of producing an astonishing variety of effects, from subtle atmospheric washes to brilliant translucent colour."
Watercolour at the Tate is eclectic but it lacks cohesion. Starting as it does with the pre-cursors and early uses of watercolour it seems, at times, to purport to track the history of the medium. However such a view is misleading as the exhibition swiftly abandons a chronological analysis for an uncritical celebration of "the association of watercolour with famous masters such as Blake, Turner and Girtin."

This exhibition is a missed opportunity as it lacks the necessary coherence, but it is an enjoyable romp through time and technique.

Watercolour runs at Tate Britain until 21 August

No comments:

Post a Comment