16 Aug Not liking Picasso
It’s taken me more than a week to think about not liking Picasso. And now to write it down. One’s anxious about ‘coming out’ as a Picasso Doubter, So I’m being brave here.
Tate Modern has an exhibition showing work from 1932, a year billed as one of the most productive of his career. We went. I never feel thrilled at the prospect of Picasso but try to keep an open mind. But I do get jaded with the disjointed bodies, frequent phalluses and rampant astigmatisms on display. Eyes left or right, up or down.
Very possibly, I’m already blaspheming.
I have a love/hate relationship with the curator’s blurb. That lengthy text at the entrance to each room can be a challenge. I’m sufficiently clueless to feel I have to read it, to orientate myself a little, contextualise the work. Discover its meaning, sometimes even the intent of the artist – at least as far as curators and admirers are concerned. Honestly, sometimes it’s all quite mystifying. How do they know what the artist intended? And, having read it, how do I then feel free enough to decide for myself? Was it really true that some great burgeoning of love or lust drove Pablo P to spend 1932 painting his latest squeeze? Or did he have an astigmatic eye to the main commercial chance? Paint more women, or more of the same woman. They will sell.
There I go again, blaspheming.
Not that it should matter that you can earn a crust from painting your girlfriend. But it gets boring having these paintings together in one place with their weirdness and their freaky angles. A case of overcrowding. Though Cubism never quite did it for me, came a point in the morning when I yearned to have a bit of it back. Just for a change.
Maybe I have to confront my philistinism and find better ways of seeing.
On the other hand, last night I watched a TV piece on John Minton, written and presented by Mark Gatiss. Thoughtfully. I hadn’t known much about John Minton before. But I could understand him through his work in a way I can’t understand Picasso. Maybe it helps to be less well-known. Maybe tortured souls are easier to read.
They say Picasso was an innovator and that art always needs people to break the rules. I’m fine with that. If you see some of his old stuff you realise that he certainly can paint. And the lines he makes on these 1932 canvases are extraordinarily firm. Maybe he just got carried away with himself. Maybe the ego was more powerful than the artistry.