Culture Writer Rani Jadfa reviews ‘Expressionists- The Tate Modern Exhibit’, finding it to be a vibrant experience of learning about The Expressionist Movement

Written by Rani

London’s Tate Modern has curated a captivating new exhibit in collaboration with Lenbachhaus, an art gallery in Munich – Expressionists: Kandinsky, Münter and the Blue Rider.

The Expressionist movement began around 1912 and focused on subjective perspectives of the world but illustrated them through emotion and passion. Tate Modern has brought together a wide range of artists worldwide, including many members of The Blue Rider. This group in the early nineteen-hundreds formed a safe space for creation with no boundaries that could hold people back or hide them away. They were a key moment in modernist art as they believed that ‘the whole work, called art, knows no borders or nations, only humanity’ (1).

Tate was very conscious of the aim of this period surrounding its diversity and inclusivity, with factors like gender, race and culture being at the forefront of certain pieces, celebrating differences rather than diminishing them. For instance, around half of the works are by female artists, something the two female curators – Natalia Sidlina and Genevieve Barton – were conscious of as they wanted to bring together artists celebrated in their time and those overlooked.

Furthermore, there was a variance in styles from oil painting portraits, like Elisabeth Epstein’s Self Portrait from 1911, to collections of photography, like the work of Gabriele Münter, which opened the exhibition. A particular aspect I was captured by was the inclusion of numerous sketchbooks that displayed how certain pieces developed from original, even casual drawings to the finished product. The diversity in artists and styles is what makes this exhibit as impressive as it is.

The diversity in artists and styles is what makes this exhibit as impressive as it is

The Expressionist movement incorporated themes of sexuality and performance through all of their art, be it paintings, poetry or photography, and Tate captures these notions like lightning in a bottle as you flow through the rooms. Wladamir Burliuk illustrates movement in his painting, Dancer, through striking colours and flowing lines to convey a sense of freedom and fluidity. Personally, my favourite artist was Franz Marc: a trio of his larger pieces take [RJ1] over an entire grey wall in a sector called The Inner Necessity of Art. TigerIn the Rain, and Doe in the Monastery Garden extravagantly experiment with colours and form. The strong composition, sharp lines and striking contrasts of colour bring the pieces to life. All three incorporate Marc’s exploration of the animal kingdom but the latter two in particular incorporate the idea of performance by hiding the animals within the painting.

The themes of gender and sexuality are most prominent in a room called Performing Gender: this space gives incredible insights into the experimentation and freedom of The Blue Riders in the early 1900s. The whole room generates an androgynous persona as the artists construct their self-identity. Also, three rooms functioned as experiential spaces of sound, colour, and light. Another one of Franz Marc’s animal pieces (Deer in the Snow II) has achromatic prisms set up for viewers to use, bringing unseen faces out of the painting. Another room uses monochromatic lighting to change the depth perception of a piece.

These artists held the spiritual belief that creativity could lead to discovery and Tate Modern have done a brilliant job of capturing the essence of the Expressionist movement. The exhibit will be open to the public from 25th April to 20th October.


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