Someone from Liverpool was once quite famous for singing about peace and freedom. An exhibition of art by the legendary Picasso is running at the Tate in that same city and Peace and Freedom is its title. Me and my better half went to see it today. The first thing that strikes you when you go in is how revolutionary it seems even today. Anyone expecting realistic depictions of recognisable places, people or objects will be feeling like a stiff drink and a little sit down after five minutes. Creating visually accurate or ‘photographic’ representations is certainly not what the man was about.
This is a major exhibition bringing together over 150 works by Picasso from across the world at Tate Liverpool from 21 May to 30 August 2010 (it’s nearly over!) It aims to give an insight into the artist’s life as a tireless political activist and campaigner for peace and examine in-depth the artist’s engagement with politics and the Peace Movement. There’s also a nice line in novelty Picasso pencils, mugs, bookmarks, postcards, jewelry, T-shirts and badges available from the shop.
I’m no expert on modern art but I like to think I approach it with an open mind. I did get that uneasy feeling, though, the one that most non-experts get when they look at work which, at first sight, might seem confusing, ridiculous or meaningless. ‘That looks like something my five-year old kid could do,’ is a common response. ‘I just don’t get it!’ is another (and one that I came out with a couple of times today).
I really wanted to understand why an artist with such obvious talent would choose to paint in this bizarre and confusing way. Why not communicate with people in a way they can understand? Surely you could reach people, touch them more effectively that way. Here is a response to those questions from someone who is pretty well qualified to have a view; Picasso himself…
“Everyone wants to understand art. Why don’t we try to understand the song of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people think they have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only an insignificant part of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world though we can’t explain them; people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.”