Very recently I went to see the Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany exhibition currently at the Tate Modern. First off, its free to get in so that's a bonus right away for those of us trying to save money in an expensive city!
Secondly, it's so worth a look through as the work is exquisite and the content fascinating especially if you're an artist like myself. I'm fascinated by art history and though I have many favourite areas in art history to which I'm most drawn to, (no pun intended!) but I do find very intriguing, the early part of the twentieth century because it feels to me like it's had the biggest impact on my own art practice. I'm interested in patterns you see, not just in my creative process but in history too and so I find this time period of 1919 to 1933 in Germany most interesting indeed as it does have some echoes into our place in history now for good and bad.
Get ready though if you go to this exhibition, some of the work is difficult to look at and there is a room in which a sign has been put up to warn people that there are some disturbing images. I didn't stay long in that room and I didn't take pictures in there either as some images did make me cringe.
I will say that when I was in art school in the early 1990s, and in the honeymoon stage of being a painter, I found myself living at the fine art museums and literally drinking in the moody paintings of Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz and Max Ernst. I'd then return to my studio and whip out my own moody renditions but without a clear understanding of the history behind why the painters that inspired me painted the way they did. It was only after years of reading and researching that I began to grasp what those artists went through and what they were doing in their own creative processes.
Even going through this exhibition at the Tate was eye opening in many ways mostly because I'm at the stage in my life as an adult where I can relate to those artists and what they wanted to express in the world they lived in.
I've always been what I call, an "Art Activist" and many times have used my artwork and creative ideas to express how I feel about a political situation that has an impact on my world. My ongoing peace project, "11 Million Hands for 11 Million Lives" is an activist project because it's about fighting for equality between all humans on this planet. I've made it clear in my peace project on multiple occasions that I do not support the little orange president in America as well as the inequality and tension he and other world leaders have brought to our existence. So I can relate completely to the artists making art in the Weimar Republic due to the aftermath of war, the political shifting climate, the economic crisis and the unstable social environment which isn't much different than our own time.
The artwork in this exhibition is potent and speaks volumes even a hundred years later! I found myself lingering over certain pieces and trying to imagine what the artist was feeling at the time of making it. Their reactions in pen, paint and pencil to their rocky environment in the aftermath of a devastating world war still rings true today. The impacts of social changes and economic hardships still resonate to what I hear in our news now. The repeating of a pattern in history is a concerning weight and I do wonder how our next few decades will pan out.
There's a quote on a board in the 2nd room in the exhibition by the artist, Max Beckmann that reads, "What I want to show in my work is the idea which hides itself behind so-called reality. I am seeking for the bridge which leads from the visible to the invisible."
I find I can relate yet again to this thought process because I'm often in search of a similar concept in my own work except that it's taken me a lifetime to understand how to go about it and I've yet to arrive at my outcome......Maybe in another forty years!
The exhibition itself shows how artists "spoke out" and expressed themselves in times of terrible trauma during and following World War 1 and that's as it should be......artists are the beating hearts of society and will bleed through their work not to make pretty pictures to be be "real". It's something that feels very much the same for today's world. Nowadays our visual input online or in the galleries is pretty pictures or "how to" videos on how to speed draw an eye......it's all meant to entice and be "pretty" and those of us artists who do make artwork that isn't pretty are often put to the side of society because we're doing something risky and different.
As an artist who feels for humanity I know what I want is "real" because I'm fed up with our inequality, conflict and injustice in our world now and pretty just doesn't work for me.
I think we artists should learn from the patterns of the past and the artists who dared to speak out and we should make art that shocks and wakes up nations because equality is vital for our survival as a human race.
So yes, go see the exhibition at the Tate Modern because it'll open your eyes and help you see the patterns in history and how those artists during that time put their hearts and souls into showing real reactions from the world around them.
** Artwork above from left to right:
"The Beggar of Prachatice" 1924 by Conrad Felixmüller
"Into the Abyss" 1943 by Lea Grundig
"The Rider II" 1919 by Heinrich Campendonk
Some links you may want to check out:
To take part in my art activist peace project, send a photo of your own hands (palms up please) to:
The highlighted words above in the text will take you to orange things, museums and helpful explanation pages to give you further reading.
*If you enjoy reading my Thursday postings about exhibition reviews then stay tuned for next Thursday when I review the Interim Show for the postgraduate courses at Central Saint Martins.
My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. I'm interested in blogging about art materials, art events and conducting artist interviews.
*Disclosure: The links I'm using on this blog will only ever relate to the products I myself use in my own practice.