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 a graphic design myself, I am interested to hear Matisse described as influential to the field. This has much to do with his developing a flat asthetic - quite literally a cut and paste approach of moving elements around freely to reach a final composition. You can see how this technique evolved later with designers like Saul Bass in the 1960s through to how Abode Creative suite works today. But I am also a big fan of Matisse as a painter, for his spontaneity and irreverent brush strokes.

The short film at the end of the exhibition was a little cringe to watch though - 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 the open affair between Matisse and this 'muse', Lydia. But that's a whole other story! With no Matisse, what would be the nature of graphic design today? The work is beautiful, hats off Lydia for all the cutting and pasting and to Matisse the original Art Director. It's a timeless and useful exercise for any artist to start with some basic elements and just play. Spend a day focused just on a colour, shape or texture and see what unfurls.