A ‘combative encounter’ with Picasso and groveling art-speak.
I’m not Picasso’s greatest admirer and I went to the National Gallery’s Picasso exhibition armed with my usual misgivings about the nature of Pablo Picasso’s so-called ‘genius’. Whilst I haven’t previously seen many of Picasso’s paintings in the raw, the ones I did make efforts to view, including Guernica, didn’t exactly scorch the depths of my being.
Anyhow, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and for that reason was not to be missed.
It is a cliché that Picasso was one of the (if not THE) most influential artists of the 20th century. But how you see his influence on the world of art depends on your understanding of what the true essence, purpose and pinnacle of art actually is.
For the sake of my own simple mind, I sometimes imagine art through the ages as being one long tapestry through time, on which the (varying shades of) genius of each generation has left its indelible mark. When we get to the beginning of the last century, much of the tapestry starts to get cloudy, as can be seen in Claude Monet’s ‘Water-Lillies’ in Tate Modern. Brush strokes then fragment as isms and ists spring up like ‘toadstools after a rain’, and art’s tapestry is blurred by murky footnotes and textual spin. Judging purely from Picasso’s paintings in The National Gallery exhibition, he was quick to seize upon deconstruction and what unfolded through the six rooms was less like a painter eagerly ‘responding’ to the past’s rich tapestry, as one ripping out the threads and re-weaving them to suit his own ends. And whilst the styles may flutter, the hub of the work on the walls was unchanging.
Two defining facets of genius are these:
Firstly, that it rarely (if ever) comes via a committee’s approval, and secondly, that compromise makes an uneasy bedfellow. Continue reading Picasso: Challenging the Spin