Georgia OKeeffe at the Tate Modern

 

‘From the faraway, nearby’ source: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/59.204.2/

I have loved the work of Georgia O’Keeffe for well over 20 years, since I first saw an exhibition of her work in London in 1993 at the Hayward gallery, so I was excited to be in London at the right time to see the latest exhibition at the Tate Modern.

Generally her work, is to me, ‘smooth’.   – what I mean is that there are no unnecessary fussy details. The paintings are realistic and yet simplified versions of reality. The colours are so very vivid to view ‘in the flesh’; really stunning. Her brushstrokes often flow in one direction or swirl together. I take note of this for my own use in future, how the direction of the strokes can add a depth of feeling and movement.  She has little touches…her uprights are not always bang upright and are often slightly ‘off’.

There was a section on O’Keeffe’s interest in synaethesia and the influence of Wassily Kandinsky’s ‘The art of spiritual harmony’. Some of her abstract work tries to  describe music. I thought it might be an interesting project to try and paint my own description of a piece of music.(Whilst working I am normally tuned into rock music…:-) ) I believe it is possible to visualise music, in fact I think my memory tends to be visual rather than anything else.

‘When I found the beautiful white bones on the desert I picked them up and took them home…I have used these things to say what is to me the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.’

The skulls and bones paintings are what I think of first, when I think of O’Keeffe’s work. One of my favourite things to paint is skulls and bones, and I am always pleading for people to lend me things they find in this area.  It is good practice to carry home objects of interest from walks to study and sketch and maybe to use against a backdrop of a local scene.

‘Mask with golden apple’, oil on canvas 1923. mask-with-golden-apple

source: http://collection.crystalbridges.org/objects/296/mask-with-golden-apple?ctx=fc268ef8-2032-4103-89b3-bd96ba4dfeca&idx=6

I enjoyed this simple but powerful still life. I liked the different idea of the mask being on its side, and the contrast of the apple, which is something I could try for my next still life with a wooden buddha mask I own. I note how the light has been set up for good contrast/depth and shine on the mask and apple.

georgia_okeeffe_calla_lilies_on_red_18332_exhibition_print_large

‘Calla lilies on red’ source: http://shop.tate.org.uk/georgia-okeeffe/georgia-okeeffe-calla-lilies-on-red-exhibition-print/invt/18332

The complement of the red and green brings a vividness to this painting, and makes the two curved white flowers stand out. It is not quite ‘real life’, there is an abstract quality to this  with the simplification of the leaves, which show no veins.

geooke1610_black_cross_stars_blue_medium

‘Black cross with stars and blue’, source: http://shop.tate.org.uk/page/search?q=black+cross+with+stars+and+blue&searchsubmit=Search

This black cross in front of the Tao mountain was never seen by O’Keeffe in this way, although she saw both many, many times. This teaches  me to feel free to move things around to create a pleasing painting and are I am not limited to how interpreting how things are exactly in the real world. I like the stars which I feel add just enough detail and aid the feeling of immensity in this work.

okeeffe_full

‘East river from the 30th story of the Shelton Hotel’, 1928, oil on canvas Source: http://www.nbmaa.org/original-site-assets/timeline_highlights/essays/okeefe.html

Completely different and yet it has that simplified reality that I think defines O’Keeffe’s work. I love the smoke rising from the boats and the chimneys, the muted greys and pinks and yet there are flashes of red and green which jump out(this was easier to see in front of the original!)  It seems to follow the rule of thirds quite well. There is a wonderful feeling of being up high and seeing so far into the distant horizon. The cubes and boxes of the buildings contrast with the softness of the smoke and the flow of the river through the centre.

Overall, a wonderful exhibition of beautiful work that has inspired me and enriched my mind.

 

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Author: Wendy Kate

Happily sharing my life with a tall bearded man from Dorset and a crazy wild animal masquerading as a tabby cat.

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