Students at the OCA are taking to social networking in a big way and organising themselves into interest groups on Facebook and Flicker, sharing photographs of their work and getting together to visit exhibitions. Tate Modern was the venue chosen by the Sketchbook Group and they organised themselves to meet up last Saturday to see the current Paul Klee exhibition. This exhibition is generally regarded as a ‘must see’ and the Tate has surpassed itself in hosting this comprehensive selection of the artist’s work, which are grouped chronologically and with the small paintings and drawings well spaced out for ease of viewing.
Accompanied by OCA tutor Jim Cowan they met in the imposing Turbine Hall and after introductions and a brief description of the artists works and career the group entered the exhibition and made its way round the 16 rooms dedicated to Klee life’s work.
Paul Klee was a prolific and well organised artist who kept an ‘oeuvre catalogue’ where he recorded the year and number of each work completed, where it was exhibited, when sold, for how much and to whom. He also recorded on his paintings the title, year and number of the work. He would work on more than one painting at a time sometimes in series, often using different subject matter, style and technique and often completing over 300 paintings a year. This was not just an activity for the sake of it, but each is individually creative and varied, each a unique artwork. In 1938, as Europe drifted into disaster Klee had his most productive year: he painted 1254 works of art!
The techniques he employed were experimental: using spray paint, graduated colour sequences, abstract approaches, grids, oil transfer methods with infantile subject matter, stencils, water based paints and oil often together and on paper on card and on canvas … This great inventor of methods and processes is rightly considered as one of the fathers of Modernism.
The OCA students who had only ever met online before this visit, are a varied group of students studying on the Mixed Media, Textiles, Drawing and Painting courses but all had a shared interest in the work of Klee. Some had travelled considerable distances to see this show and to meet up with their fellow enthusiasts. Notes were taken, opinions shared and the results kept for later to be written up in logbooks.
As some students had previously visited the recent Bauhaus Exhibition at the Barbican, there was much interest in Klee’s activities as a teacher. In 1921 already an exhibiting artist, he took on the job at the Bauhaus to supplement his art sales. His work ethic was such that he would carefully prepare and rehearse each lesson, the results of which he later, published as the ‘Pedagogical Sketchbook’ in 1924. Evidence of his teaching strategies merging with his own work abound, with for example, his colour gradations pieces showing that he taught from personal experience. Eventually however, the conflicting activities of teaching and creating art became too much for him and he took a less demanding job at the Dusseldorf Academy. In 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany the atmosphere changed and as a modern ie ‘degenerate’ artist he was dismissed (along with his Jewish colleagues) from his position. He then moved with his family to the safety of Switzerland where soon after, he contracted Scleroderma a fatal disease he succumbed to in 1940.
After lunch, to complete the day, the students made their way to the nearby Bankside Gallery, which was hosting an exhibition of Watercolours and Prints by different contemporary artists. This was an opportunity for students on illustration and printmaking courses to gain knowledge of different techniques and ways of seeing and to gain insights into how artists get together to sell their work.
After a long and exhilarating day with much to take in, and as student prepared to depart for their respective destinations, thanks were given to Steve Cussons for all her efforts in organising the day and to the OCASA for supporting the event.
The Paul Klee exhibition continues until 9th March 2014.