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  • Sophie Harpley

Cut it out Matisse

The Tate's Matisse Cutouts exhibition has been hotly anticipated. (2014) What's not to like? It's bold, it's colourful, it's French. So everyone flocked including me. Because I trained in graphic design myself, I am interested in Matisse's cut out phase - said to be a precursor of graphic methods - quite literally a cut and paste approach of moving elements around freely to reach a final composition. I think those techniques are probably just a practical development of bookmaking and much older and broader and not really linked to Matisse at all. But what is very evident is that he was something of an early influencer for the 'flat aesthetic' of modernism. And this continues to be popular in all kinds of art and illustration today. I think it's the essence of why I love the whole modern movement in art so much too. The shift in focus form realism to a more experimental approach with colour and shape. I am as much a fan of Matisse as a painter, for his spontaneity and irreverent brush strokes. To me this is all part of one approach, that takes joy in reimagining reality.

Unfortunately the short film at the end of the exhibition was a little cringe to watch however - Matisse in his 80s watching a young female assistant climbing a ladder in a short skirt to paste his colourful cut-out shapes to the wall. We now know that his wife Amelie was incredibly hurt by Matisse affair with his 'muse', Lydia. Well, they say never meet your heros and perhaps that applies art exhibitions too!

Nevertheless, with no Matisse, what would be the nature of art or design today? The work is beautiful and an excellent lesson for any artist to explore colour and shape with feeling and see what unfurls.

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