Tate of the art – By @tomcurranj

By Tommy Curran Jones


Tate of the art


I really like the Tate Modern. Actually, I really like the Bankside Power Station which the Tate Modern lives within (Is the Tate Modern the building or the collection inside it or a non-physical concept? Hmm.).

I like its roominess and all the space for activities. I love that kids like rolling down the slope in the Turbine Hall. Their giggles are more emotive than any work I’ve seen in there. I love the view from the top and the sharp angles of everything inside.

I’ve never had much of an opinion on the work. My relationship to modern art has always been fractious. My first response to most art is a pretty simplistic question of whether I like how it looks. Klein and Rothko’s simple rectangles are pleasing enough but some troglodytic part of my brain always niggles me with the worst of all responses, “I could have done that.”

Of course I couldn’t. This childish reaction is just a result of ignorance. I don’t understand how the artist got to this finished product and museums are spectacularly terrible at explaining. But I think I’m still missing the point. Mark Rothko’s works have been described as the most wept over in the world. Pure emotional responses. That a large mono- or duochromatic canvas can bring people to tears stuns me but it does seem a better response than, “That looks easy.”

So maybe modern art is about emotion. Or communication of emotion. That seems pretty relevant to a student at a school of communication arts.

But stare as I like at a large square of red, I’m not weeping. Maybe it’s because I’m colour-blind.

As I was walking down the stairs from the Tate’s members room I got a view into a dance workshop taking place on a mezzanine level. The class was a mix of teenagers who seemed to be moving however they liked. A warm up or some form of interpretative dance, I don’t know. But I was transfixed.

One girl in particular moved like I had never seen a person move. Her stance was wide and she was squatting slightly. Her arms spread wide and locked with her wrists hanging loose. Her head rolled from side to side. And then out of this rigidity movement flowed. First from her arms. A wave rocking her body, rag-dollesque. Each movement was deliberate yet fluid, her body striking definite poses but almost instantly morphing into something else, something other, something not quite human.

In 30 seconds my conception of human movement was completely changed. My reaction was raw emotion.

Do I finally understand modern art?

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