Matisse @ RA

Notes on Matisse at the Royal Academy:

‘A composition of objects that do not touch- but nonetheless participate in the same intimacy” – Matisse

In one room of the exhibition, ‘Object is an Actor’, Matisse uses the same object but completely changes how we read it by contextualising in new way and describing its form in new lines/ techniques etc oil painting vs black minimalists line (‘soup tureen and handle of a chocolate pot’ 1900 ink on paper vs ‘still life with a chocolate pot’ 1900 oil on canvas).

‘Still life with a choloate pot’
1900
by Matisse
(oil on canvas)
‘soup tureen and handle of a chocolate pot’
1900
by Matisse
(ink on paper)

Matisse looked at ethnographic journals and explored Africans sculpture as alternative to western art but this form of art is just to be speculated, not explored anthropologically. Most people in room at RA are white middle class observing for aesthetic reasons. The gallery said matisse learnt about African abstraction and used in own work therefore we can conclude he was only drawing upon it from a visual aesthetic rather than deeper cultural understanding of why they express art in this stylistic way? Surely Matisse is separating ‘the other’, in anthropological terms, to cause distance so his work can be visually enjoyed.

“African masks made a particularly strong impact on his hortatory, both stylistically and conceptually. As he strove to convey the personal impact of his subject, the abstract simplification and forceful geometric designs of African art helped Matisse to go beyond straightforward resemblance towards portraits that, as he explained, suggest the deep gravity that persists in evert human being”– RA Guild for Friends

Matisse uses sculpture to evoke feelings of ‘likeness’ when depicting people. Masks have stylistically influenced his own practise. The gallery SAYS the masks also conceptually influenced him but I would challenge how much he researched into reason why African artists used more simplified forms, and therefore what concepts his work were actually bedded into.

‘Large face (mask)’
1952
by Matisse
‘Large Mask’
1948
by Matisse

‘The briefest possible indication of the character of a thing. A Sign’- Matisse has only preserved a sign which he says suffices when looking at form. Could I do the same in my work using a simplified window as a symbol? I think that looking into the power of symbols is something which could influence my work and discussing artist such as Richard Wentworth’s photography of everyday symbols on the streets. How are these socially charged?

Please see: Artist and Anthropologist

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