Womenfolk, drop everything and rush, yes RUSH, to Tate Modern to see these two wonderful exhibitions by artists Sonia Delaunay and Marlene Dumas, which currently sit grandly on opposite sides of the Tate’s exhibition space.
I am hoping that one day I wont have to mention that these are two female artists being celebrated, but since it is still a rare-ish occurrence for big art institutions to be focussing on women -even rarer for two at the same time- I am flagging this up as Important To Support. Remember Where Are The Women? Also, the two exhibitions are both stonkingly good.
Firstly, Sonia Delaunay, who was not just a brilliant fine artist, but blossomed over her lifetime to become a print and dress designer, interior architect and jolly good business woman. She even opened a shop, Casa Sonia and a brand- Simultané, selling her designs and also had a seemingly happy and supportive marriage with husband Robert Delaunay. I’m not certain but I think this might be the first time I’ve ever seen so many clothes recognised as art in the Tate, there’s a whole room full of her designs.
You may know Sonia best as a colourist, her bold use of unexpected hue manages to be both modern and strangely comforting at the same time. Her paintings are easy to access and seem uncomplicated but at the same time are full of challenges, both in her use of colour and shape. Her backgrounds in particular are thrilling, either bright and strong or decorated in graphic patterns.
The clothes she designed range from ballet costumes, for her friend Sergei Diaghilev at ballet Russe, to graphic coats, to swimming costumes that I’d quite like to wear now (LOVE the black and white one…)
I was very taken with the dress poems too, incorporating poems by avant-garde poets such as Tzara and Vicente Huidobro,
The whole thing is glorious, a proper celebration of an insanely innovative and talented woman and extremely inspiring to visit. If any young person is wondering how to make a multi facetted career in art work, Sonia Delaunay might prove a wonderful guiding light.
And then across the way is another incredible (living) artist, Marlene Dumas. Here she is below, doesn’t she look indomitable?
I’ve been meaning to visit this exhibition since it opened but just got distracted. I may well have to squeeze another visit in before it closes as once was just not enough.
Marlene’s paintings look like nothing I’ve ever seen before in terms of portraiture. She seems to pull the very soul of a person right out onto their face with what looks like a few artfully placed blurry lines. As we all know by now, simple is never easy, it relies on amazing talent and observation.
Her work is dark and thoughtful, despite seeming to be very light of touch. You may have already seen the disturbingly eery image of Marlene’s daughter Helena, below, who is pictured with hands covered in paint and a pretty mean look on her face. In fact the image is taken from a photo (she never works from life) of Helena in a garden, having been painting, but by removing all the original background context we’re left with this ghostly figure. It’s challenging stuff but in a very good way.
PS, I hope you all have Barbara Hepworth Sculpture For A Modern World in your diaries too, it’s bit of a moment for women artists, about time too.