Tate Britain | Ends 13th March 2016 | £16.00
'Britain's greatest living painter' - some accolade & one that is frequently lavished upon Frank Auerbach when being discussed. The man, the painter is as dedicated as they come when it comes to his craft. His Studio his home, his home his studio. Perfecting his craft 364 days of the year. Auerbach's inspiration to his art comes from limited sources, a small collection of weekly sitters who have served as his muse for between 25 - 57 years, his hometown city of Camden, London & the confines of his Studio have provided the matter to his practice since 1954. Focusing on recurring themes enables Auerbach to develop an intense relationship with them.
Despite these restrictive scenes Auerbach has found notoriety in his art & particularly his technique. Most artists work on a picture bit by bit, building on composition and detail in each session. Auerbach makes preparatory drawings but paints the entire canvas in a single sitting. ‘I try to paint the whole picture all the time. Even a beautifully painted section is not of the slightest use to me unless everything is interdependent and lives within the same flow’. The flow to his work is evident creating a combination of abstraction & figuration injecting a movement & intensity that is present in the urban inner city life that surrounds him.
Auerbach paints an image and then scrapes it off the canvas at the end of each day, repeating this process time and again. This leads him to discarding of much of his work re-starting the painting process on a daily basis continuing anew for months, or years until a single painting is realised in a single session.
This is the first major retrospective of the artist's work since the Royal Academy show in 2001. The Tate divides Auerbach's work by decade with each room dedicated to a specific period of work. Works from the 1950s right through to the present day are shown with the most recent painting featured completed earlier this year. It is Auerbach himself who has suggested the works for display typifying the artist's drive for excellence & further personalising a show, which shares 70 of his works.
The first room reveals a self-portrait from 1958 cast from charcoal & chalk on parchments, which have been bound together in Auerbach's distinctive rugged style. His drawings share the same rough gesturing as the painted portraits of long-time serving sitters Stella West & Leon Kossoff. We are also introduced to 1950s Cityscape with Building Site, Earl’s Court Road, Winter, 1953.
As the show advances we discover Auerbach as the skilled colourist of his time. Portraits are reduced to a mass of thickly laid oils thrust onto the canvas before being sharply reconfigured to present their subject in ever increasing rawness. The sheer amount of paint used in his work is astounding & forces you to question the weight of each piece. Avoiding the laws of gravity a new found respect is established for the heavyweight titans who helped with hanging the show.
This is about much more than Auerbach's portraits though. His landscape paintings capture the frenetic energy of inner city life & certainly add significant value to the overall production. A master at work., It's just a shame that Auerbach himself is unable to enjoy the show.... He's too busy painting...!
Please check out Lindsay & Lane's Conversation on the Artist & the Show below.
Head of William Feaver, 2003 by Frank Auerbach
Self-Portrait, 1958 by Frank Auerbach
<< Catherine Lampret II, 1985 by Frank Auerbach JYM II, 1984 by Frank Auerbach >>
<< In the Studio, 2013-14 by Frank Auerbach Julia sleeping, 1978 by Frank Auerbach >>