I wish I could sit here and give a discerning review of the retrospective exhibition currently taking place at the Tate Modern, celebrating the work of the American artist, Roy Lichtenstein. Honestly if you are looking for that, it is probably best to google it.
I am going to give you the view of a novice; the view of a girl who really does not know all that much about modern art.
Now of course I have heard of pop art before.
Indeed I had to create my own pop art piece at the tender age of 12 when my class spent a few weeks looking at movement. The primary colours, the dots (called, as I now know, Benday dots)…that was about all I could remember. Well that and the unnatural primary red of my art teacher’s hair at the time.
The exhibition includes iconic pieces that you will have seen before like ‘Oh, Jeff… I love you, Too…But…’ and ‘Look Mickey’.
Yet my favourite pieces were the ones that surprised me; Lichtenstein’s lesser known works. Room 13 holds the artist’s Chinese landscapes. These pieces, which were created during his later years, are a far cry from the dramatic scenes and bright colours dominating his earlier work.
I find the primary colours used in his earlier work almost too bright, too overwhelming; particularly when you have gone through several rooms holding pieces of this form. Lichtenstein’s take on the highly stylised paintings of the Song dynasty (960-1279AD) give a sense of peace and harmony to the viewer. The artist’s characteristic use of Benday dots remains but the lighter and more delicate colours used are gentler on the eye and convey the atmospheric quality and subtle gradations of original Chinese landscapes.
By the time the viewer reaches room 13, the tension created by all that colour, the defined black lines, the distinct Benday dots and melodramatic scenes, is allowed to settle. It seems it is the contrast of these more harmonious pieces to his earlier work that is most enchanting.
Can I refer to it as an example of intelligent curatorship? I wouldn’t know- I’m just a novice.