It turns out that a little last minute planning can sometimes turn into a wonderful expedition. And so it was with our latest trip down south.
H wanted to see the Paul Klee exhibition at the Tate Modern, and as he really knows his stuff on 20th century artists, where I merely absorb and try to appear reasonably intelligent on the topic, I figured if he thought it was worth a look, I’d quite like to see it too. And where we go, so too do two small girls. That was pretty much the plan in a nutshell, kicked into reality by the realisation that the exhibition was ending in the not too distant future.
Of course once we got thinking about it we added a few bells and whistles, which in this case turned out to be ribbons and feather butterflies courtesy of a little pre-art appreciation trip for Kitty to VV Rouleaux for some decorations for her still-in-progress paper mache Easter bonnet, and a delicious smoked salmon and scrambled egg lunch to set us up for the rest of the day.
And by the time we arrived at the Tate, Elma was well on the way to her afternoon nap in the buggy so I’m not sure she can claim more than to have been in the same room as his works, she’s never actually set eyes on one! Kit on the other hand was very awake, and taking it very seriously. She carefully clutched her little booklet in one hand, and H in the other, and stood next to him as he looked at pigments and brush strokes, trying earnestly to figure out why we had come to see rooms full of little quite dark pictures.
For a three year old she’s pretty good at art galleries, partly I think because we’ve always taken her with us, and we try to make it interesting for her too. Once she became big enough to pay attention we’d ask her what she thought a picture should be called, what she could see, what made it special, and we’ve always had the sling handy (or Daddy’s shoulders) to haul her up to the right height to actually take a good look. After all I’d get bored and fidgety if all I saw was a forest of adult legs pointed at something way way way up on the wall.
What was so interesting about having Kit as my fellow art critic for the Klee exhibition was her ability to ‘see’ his paintings straight away, particularly the early ones that were rather cubist inspired. We were asking her what she thought they ought to be called and she marched up to one melange of green and brown; “this one is called “Plants” Daddy!”, and from the slight hint of foliage about it and the wall label claiming it to be “Leaves” I think she was on to something. “Houses” turned out to be “Town Landscape”, but I think my favourite re-christening was the curious “Battle scene from the comic opera”
(courtesy of WikiPaintings)
which with a little mischievous parental intervention, turned into “Iggle Piggle Gone Rogue”
Her highlight though was the moment that we turned into the final room and there on the wall was the very picture she’d just seen in her little booklet. She’s dropped her book and it had been stowed away somewhere but she was very insistent and wouldn’t stop wiggling until we’d found it again so she could show us that it was “just like the one in my book!!!” I don’t think until that point she’d made any connection between the pictures on the walls and the paper in her hand – we might have to work on that a bit sooner next time.
As for H and I, to tell the truth we weren’t blown away by the pictures. Part of it to my mind is that they didn’t suit the space they were in. I can see why you’d put an exhibition that size into the Tate Modern from a logistics point of view, but the rooms are vast and the paintings small, and the lighting harsh and the pigments dark. To my mind they would have sat better in a gentler gallery, such as the Courtauld Gallery, but then fewer people would have been able to see them – it’s all a question of balance.
Regardless of what you think of the art, it is interesting to see the progression of the artist’s style over the decades; Klee was constantly changing and evolving and seeing it all in a few rooms is like watching his painting life on fast forward. I think my favourites were always the ones that reminded me of quilts, carefully chosen squares of different colours all matched together. I’m sure there’s a project in there somewhere; pairing quilts to impressionist and cubist artists.
I’ve already told our stories of the South Bank, of little girls looking for crocodiles and the lure of a beautiful carousel, and it’s no surprise that this is one of our favourite parts of London. There’s the water for starters, and the boats buzzing up and down,
and then all sorts of quirky architecture from the wibbly wobbly bridge, to a few much sturdier looking railway bridges.
I love that final photo; it’s everything that’s special about London, that makes you forget the tube, the traffic, the air quality; all the things that get under your skin when you actually live and work there, and remember only that the city can be beautiful, and I’m glad we live near enough to visit occasionally.