The Tate's Matisse Cutouts exhibition has been hotly anticipated. What's not to like? It's bold, it's colourful, it's French. So everyone flocked including me. But by the end of the show, which focuesed on his final phase of art, as an old man creating cutouts with much help from his assistant, I couldn't help feeling unsure how much purpose and depth there was to the work. As a graphic designer myself I am interested to hear Matisse described as one of the founding fathers of the way we design now. Particularly in developing a flat asthetic and the cut and paste approach of moving elements around freely to reach a final composition. You can see how this technique developed with designers like Saul Bass in the 1960s through to how Abode Creative suite works today. But I am also a big fan of Matisse as a painter, for his spontaneity and irreverent brush strokes.
The short film at the end of this exhibition was a little cringey - Matisse now in his 80s watching his young female assistant climbing a ladder to paste up his colourful cut-out shapes. (We now know that his wife Amelie was incredibly hurt by the open afair that developed with this muse, Lydia). Nonetheless with no Matisse, what would be the nature of graphic design today? So thank you Matisse for cutting art down simplifying down to it's elements - colour, shape, texture. You give us all pause for thought.
2017 Update - I very much enjoyed the recent Matisse exhibition at the Royal Academy, confirming my preference for his earlier work. New Post coming soon!