Just missed, and last week to view…

Edvard Munch and Images 36

Two visually striking London-based exhibitions were on display at the beginning of this month, and whilst you may have missed the Munch retrospective at Tate Modern, you have seven rainy days to get yourself down to Somerset House before another chance to view is lost forever.

Edvard Munch, hailed as one of the ‘Blockbuster’ shows of the autumn, comprised twelve rooms of the artist’s garish, nightmarish visions interspersed with little seen photographs and film work.

Advertising image for the Tate Modern show. Edvard Munch, detail of ‘The Girls on the Bridge’ (1927), oil on canvas.

There were some significant weaknesses in this exhibition. Munch was a strong printmaker; I was disappointed that more of his linocuts, woodcuts and lithographs were not considered important enough for the retrospective. The lack of The Scream was as glaringly obvious as the latent misogyny in the work, a slightly disturbing thread weaving its way quietly through the narrative (which Tate would probably argue should be viewed within the context of the time). The ubiquitous crowds also made for irritating and fragmented viewing.

However, there were major strengths in highlighting the artist’s repetition of themes and showing some of his lesser known works. The last room in the display was the most descriptive for me; of the artist’s character, his fears and of the preoccupation with death and disease which dogged him his entire life. You imagine him as a hugely awkward and introspective individual, and it was obvious from the vein of the exhibition that it isn’t possible to separate the artist and his work, and the life that he led and suffered.

On the whole the paintings were exactly what we would come to expect: stunning, brash, vivid, dark, descriptive, almost hallucinogenic, rich and sombre. Most people are aware of some of the darker biographical moments in the artist’s life, and the textual interpretation alongside this show explained much more. Munch’s body of work represents a unique and troubled mind, one that inspired many others in his wake, and if you made it to Tate Modern in time to see this show I doubt you regretted it.

On a completely different scale is Images 36 at Somerset House, an exhibition of the best of British illustration from 2012, as judged by the Association of Illustrators (AOI) competition.

Advertising image for the Somerset House exhibition. Illustration by Anuska Allepuz.

This is a vivid, engaging and lively little show which will no doubt have attracted fewer visitors than it deserves. Don’t let the advertising image lead you into believing that this is a show of images designed for children. There are three large rooms displaying various themes and techniques employed by working illustrators, with work created for a variety of publications. Advertising campaigns, pieces of political satire, magazine commissions and graphic novels are all represented within the competition, as well as the expected animal characters and sweetly rendered scenes from storybooks.

It was a revelation for me to be exposed to such diversity in method, and I can see how the judges must have had a difficult time in choosing the winning entrants. This exhibition has all the things that the Jerwood Drawing Prize (see post dated 06.10.12) is lacking; glaring talent, a neat and professional display, a coherent yet broad range of works and an ability to induce real delight and curiosity. This exhibition made me want to rush home and crack open my underused colouring pencils, watercolours and inks. What loftier aspiration can organisers have, than to try and encourage the sleeping creative potential in its visitors that we each secretly possess? One not to miss.

Lenka Hrehova, Tell the truth and look which way you are going to run (2011).

Edvard Munch was curated by Nicholas Cullinan, assisted by Shoair Mavlian.

Images 36 is on display until 28th October 2012.

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/edvard-munch-modern-eye

http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual-arts/images-36-best-of-british-illustration

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