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Posted 24 August 2016 by Kat

Who is he?

Paul Nash is one of the most important British artists of the early twentieth century. Let’s meet him!

Black and white negative, Paul sketching [Whiteleaf?] date not known, Tate Archive, © reserved

Photographer unknown, Black and white negative, Paul sketching [Whiteleaf?] date not known, Tate Archive, © reserved,

What is he most famous for?

Born in London in 1889, he is most famous for his landscape paintings, which look mysterious and sometimes slightly spooky.

Paul Nash, Pillar and Moon 1932–42, c. Tate

Paul Nash, Pillar and Moon 1932–42, c. Tate

The features in his landscapes often seem to be more than just a tree or a hill. They have characteristics that make them look like animals, people, or other strange creatures. When he was young Paul Nash was fascinated by a group of tall elm trees that grew at the end of his garden. These trees were very old and he thought they looked as if they were ‘hurrying along stooping and undulating like a queue of urgent females with fantastic hats’.
Do you ever look at things in the landscape like gnarled tree trunks or clouds (like below) and think they look like animals, people or monsters?

Paul Nash, Flight of the Magnolia, 1944, c. Tate

Paul Nash, Flight of the Magnolia, 1944, c. Tate

Look at the picture below. It looks like a beach inhabited by a very weird bunch of sunbathers! How do you think he made it?

Paul Nash, Swanage c.1936, c. Tate

Paul Nash, Swanage, c.1936, c. Tate

That’s right – he used collage. He collaged photographs of sticks and other bits of nature. (You could have a go at making your own eerie Paul Nash inspired landscape by sticking photos of twigs, leaves and other natural objects with funny shapes to a drawing or photograph of a landscape).

Where did his ideas and style come from?

There were two big things that influenced Paul Nash: abstract art and surrealism.

Abstract art is art that doesn’t try to show accurately how something looks. Artists change how things look to create a particular feeling or emotion. Sometimes they do this by using unexpected colours, shapes or messy brush marks or by changing the perspective and adding objects that look odd.

Do you think this picture looks like a real scene? What words would you use to describe it? How has Paul Nash made the landscape look a bit strange?

Paul Nash, Landscape at Iden, 1929, c. Tate

Paul Nash, Landscape at Iden, 1929, c. Tate

The ideas of the surrealists also influenced Paul Nash’s style. The surrealists were a group of artists who, in the 1920s began to make art and creative writing inspired by thoughts that are hidden deep in our brains – that we might not even know we have!

They were interested in the ideas of a famous psychologist called Sigmund Freud. A psychologist is someone who investigates people’s minds and tries to understand how they think. Freud called these hidden thoughts ‘the subconscious’. Sometimes these hidden thoughts appear in our dreams.

Anything else we need to know?

During both the First and Second World Wars Paul Nash was an official war artist. A war artist is someone paid by the government to paint or draw events that were happening in the war.

Paul Nash’s paintings didn’t just document the war in a straightforward way. In this painting, the huge red watery sunset adds a powerful feeling of sadness to this scene of a crashed plane.

Paul Nash, Bomber in the Corn, 1940,.

Paul Nash, Bomber in the Corn, 1940, c. Tate

Would you like to see a pile of dead monsters?

Paul Nash, Totes Meer (Dead Sea), 1940–1 c. Tate

Paul Nash, Totes Meer (Dead Sea), 1940–1 c. Tate

This is one of the most famous paintings Paul Nash painted during the Second World War. It looks a bit like the sea with spiky silvery waves doesn’t it? He called the painting Totes Meer (which is German for Dead Sea). Can you work out what is piled up in this graveyard?

Paul Nash called them ‘enchanting monsters’…

Look closely, can you see wings and wheels? The ‘waves’ are in fact lots of crashed and broken aeroplanes. Look even more closely and you might see a ghostly white bird flying in the sky…

So, Paul Nash liked dreams, landscapes, magic and the surreal! Let us know what you think about Nash in the comments. Make your own imaginary landscape using materials at home or on the My Imaginary City game.

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Posted 22 July 2016 by Kat

Why do we take photographs? Sometimes to capture something amazing – fireworks or a beautiful crazy sunset; or perhaps to remember something – like a fantastic day out with friends.

Now look at these photographs taken by German artist Hilla Becher and her husband Bernd. What do you think about them?

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, Pitheads, 1974, © Estate of Bernd Becher & Hilla Becher

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, Pitheads, 1974, © Estate of Bernd Becher & Hilla Becher

I bet you’re thinking: ‘How can such matter-of-fact photographs of boring buildings be art?’

Don’t worry this is what lots of people thought when they first saw these photographs. But when you find out about Hilla Becher they make much more sense!

Who was she?

Hilla was born in 1931 in Siegen, Germany. From a young age she was interested in photography so her mum (who was a photographer) bought her a really nice camera. Her first job was working as an assistant to a very old-fashioned photographer. He used ancient cameras and nineteenth century techniques. But rather than thinking ‘Uh-oh get me out of here!’, Hilla realised that she could learn a lot of useful skills from him. Which she did! She learnt how to take amazing, detailed photographs.

Hilla met Bernd Becher in 1959. He was a painting student fascinated by industrial buildings. But he didn’t feel that paint could properly capture these fantastic structures. Luckily Hilla was on hand to help! She showed him how to take perfect photographs that captured every detail. From then on they collaborated: travelling around the world for the next 40 years and photographing over 200 industrial buildings including coal bunkers, winding towers, pitheads and factories.

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, Water Towers, 1972–2009, © Estate of Bernd Becher & Hilla Becher

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, Water Towers, 1972–2009, © Estate of Bernd Becher & Hilla Becher

Why industrial buildings?

Hilla and Bernd loved the design of these buildings – as everything about them was functional. An exhibition of their photographs in 1969 was called Anonymous Sculptures. This tells us something about how they saw these structures. They saw them as huge sculptures with strong impressive shapes. The structures have been compared to minimalist sculptures such as those by Donald Judd. In fact people often refer to the Bechers’s photographs as sculptures!

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1972, © Donald Judd Foundation/VAGA, New York and DACS, London 2016

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1972, © Donald Judd Foundation/VAGA, New York and DACS, London 2016

But as well as showing us their hidden beauty, the Bechers wanted to make sure that the buildings are remembered. As, unlike sculpture, these structures are knocked down when they are no longer needed. In fact many of them have already disappeared.

How did Hilla and Bernd create their photographs?

Hilla and Bernd photographed each building in exactly the same way: always on cloudy days (so there were no shadows); always from the same angles; and always in black and white (and never with any people)! They then made groups of photographs that showed the same type of structure. By doing this they created a pattern of shapes and forms.

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, Blast Furnaces, 1969–95, © Estate of Bernd Becher & Hilla Becher

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, Blast Furnaces, 1969–95, © Estate of Bernd Becher & Hilla Becher

They loved the rhythm created by these groups, as Hilla said:

‘By placing several cooling towers side by side something happened, something like tonal music; you don’t see what makes the objects different until you bring them together, so subtle are their differences.’

The point of photography is to ‘take a long look’ at something. And this is exactly what the Bechers’ photographs let us do. They don’t use arty effects or filters or unexpected angles. They just let the structures do the talking.

What did people think about their work?

At first other photographers and curators didn’t get the Bechers’ work and didn’t understand why it was art. But some of the greatest art can’t always be explained…and people soon recognised that these photographs were extraordinarily beautiful. In fact Hilla and Bernd’s matter-of-fact ‘show it how it is’ style has inspired lots of contemporary photographers including Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth.

Thomas Struth Shinju-ku (Skyscrapers), Tokyo 1986 1986, © Thomas Struth

Thomas Struth, Shinju-ku (Skyscrapers), Tokyo 1986 1986, © Thomas Struth

What do you think now?

You could say that Hilla and Bernd were doing exactly what we do when we take a photograph. She was using photography to capture something amazing and awe-inspiring – and also recording and remembering.

Next time you see a huge old industrial building, take a long look. Is there anything beautiful or amazing about it…(Its shapes, its sheer size or perhaps a detail)? Photograph it…as it may not be there next time you’re passing!

You can see Hilla’s work in the flesh at Tate Modern now! Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Posted 8 June 2016 by Kat

The new Tate Modern is opening next week. It’s your space to explore, play and see some great art.

What if the whole of Tate Modern was a playground?

Come and whiz through some of our playgrounds and re-think what a playground can be!

1. Fly away

Wolfgang Suschitzky, Hampstead Heath Fair 1949, later print, © Wolfgang Suschitzky

Wolfgang Suschitzky, Hampstead Heath Fair 1949, later print, © Wolfgang Suschitzky

We love this photograph of people having fun on a ride. It was taken by Wolfgang Suschitzky, who was born in Austria but moved to London in the 1930s. He took lots of photographs documenting the lives of ordinary people living in London. But although this photograph is of ordinary people, it’s an extraordinary picture. By carefully choosing where to stand to take the photograph he captures the dynamic flying-through-the-air movement of the ride and the exhilaration of the people enjoying it.

2. A DIY playground

But not all playgrounds have to be spectacular (or involve big scary rides). This painting is of a very different kind of playground…a DIY one.

William Roberts Playground (The Gutter) 1934-5, c. Tate

William Roberts, Playground (The Gutter) 1934-5, c. Tate

These children are using the street as their playground and seem to be having just as much fun. All sorts of activities are happening. Cricket, piggyback riding, music-making…and what seems to be a mass skipping game. Could you make a similar scene with your friends in the school playground?

3. Shake, rattle and roll

This playground is not where you might expect a playground to be…can you guess where it is? If I tell you it’s an artwork, this might give you a clue. Yes that’s right…it’s in an art gallery.

Installation view of the Robert Morris retrospective, Tate Gallery, 1971 Tate © Robert Morris

Installation view of the Robert Morris retrospective, Tate Gallery, 1971 Tate © Robert Morris

In 1971 artist Robert Morris was invited to create an artwork for Tate. The work he made, (and you may have to take a deep breath before reading the title!), was called Bodyspacemotionthings. It was the first work of art shown at Tate that you could play on. You’re usually not supposed to touch artworks in galleries (as they are too fragile) but people were encouraged to climb, balance, crawl and roll on the huge ramps, tunnels, platforms and beams made by the artist for the installation.

You missed Robert Morris’s original playground…but don’t worry, Tate recreated Bodyspacemotionthings at Tate Modern in 2009 and recorded the whole thing! Watch this video and discover just what a fantastic playground it was.

4. Art slides

Image of Carsten Höller’s Test Site, part of the Unilever Series at Tate Modern. Carsten Höller, Test Site, © Tate Photography.

Image of Carsten Höller’s Test Site, part of the Unilever Series at Tate Modern. Carsten Höller, Test Site, © Tate Photography.

Here’s another playground artwork. It was an installation by artist Carsten Holler at Tate Modern. Every year an artist is invited by Tate to make an installation for the huge Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. (The Turbine Hall is the massive room at the heart of the building where all the machinery was when the building was a power station – before it became Tate Modern!). Lots of artists make art for specific spaces (this is called site-specific art), but it’s quite tricky to think of an artwork that can fill such a huge space. What would you make?

Rather than seeing the space as a problem Carsten Holler used its massiveness, creating mega-slides that went between the different floors. People could go on the slides and whiz down right through the Turbine Hall.

5. What fun feels like

Our final playground isn’t exactly a picture OF a playground…instead it captures the fun and excitement of how whizzing down a slide and flying sky-high on a swing makes us feel.

Wassily Kandinsky Swinging 1925 c. Tate

Wassily Kandinsky, Swinging, 1925 c. Tate

The artist Wassily Kandinsky believed that colours, lines and shapes affect our feelings and emotions in the same way that music can. You know how a slow sad song makes you feel down and a pop song with a happy, fast beat makes you want to dance? Well Kandinsky believed that creating a painting is like composing music.

In 1911 he wrote: ‘colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul’.

What does playing in a playground make you feel like? Have a go at using bright colours, dynamic shapes and lines shooting into the air to express your whizzing, climbing, running, dizzying playground experiences!

We would love to see you perfect art playgrounds. Paint, draw and make it, then share on My Gallery.

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Kids to be first visitors in new Tate Modern

Posted 26 May 2016 by Kat

Tate Kids are super excited as in a few weeks’ time the new Tate Modern is opening!

There will be a massive new building which will hold loads more art, exhibitions and events for you to come and experience.

What’s even better is that the first visitors into the new gallery will be kids!

The day is called A.S.S.E.M.B.L.Y. and is the special opening of the new Tate Modern for schools. There will be 3000 primary and secondary school children in the gallery and it’s set to be a really exciting and special day.

Students on an Artist-in-Residence Workshop, 2015 © Adam James

Students on an Artist-in-Residence Workshop, 2015 © Adam James

Tate Kids got the chance to interview a class that are attending the day – year 5 and 6 pupils from Ysgol Tudno in Llandudno, Wales, to get their thoughts on art, the new Tate Modern and the opening day.

Tate Kids: What do you expect to find at Tate Modern?

Mark: Splat paintings, a graffiti-ed wall and pieces of rubbish turned into something brilliant and creative and beautiful.

Dominik: I expect lots of unusual objects hung from the ceiling.

What’s the best bit about art at school?

Aurelia: The best bit about art in school is that that you can be free and be creative and do art in any style you want.

Lucia: We get to go to the art gallery, be creative and let our mind go wild.

Do you think art is important?

Libby: I think art is important because there are some things that you can’t put into words.

Demi-Lee: Art can change the world, art sends us on an adventure.

Maddison: It can represent people, lives and nature. It makes people let their emotions out.

If you imagined a gallery in the future, what do you think it would look like?

Celia: It would have holographic art and art that children have made.

Maddison: Lots of technology, maybe animals and people as art.

Describe what art means to you in 3 words:

Kacie: Creative, imaginative, inspiring.

Josh: Expression, exciting, confident.

Thanks guys! Year 5 and 6 pupils from Ysgol Tudno in Llandudno, Wales c. Tate

Thanks guys! Year 5 and 6 pupils from Ysgol Tudno in Llandudno, Wales c. Tate

Ysgol Tudno was nominated to attend A.S.S.E.M.B.L.Y. by MOSTYN, a Plus Tate partner.

A.S.S.E.M.B.L.Y. takes place on Thursday 16th June at Tate Modern. From Friday 17th June, the new gallery is open to everyone – so make sure you come along and join in the celebrations!

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Posted 25 May 2016 by Kat

What do you think this is a painting of?

Georgia O’Keeffe Abstraction White Rose 1927 Oil on canvas 36 x 30 (91.4 x 76.2) Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation and Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation © Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Georgia O’Keeffe, Abstraction White Rose, 1927, Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 (91.4 x 76.2) Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation and Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Yes – It’s a flower, but it doesn’t look little and fragile as we usually expect flowers to look.

Why did Georgia O’Keeffe decide to paint it like this? This is what she said:

‘Nobody really sees a flower really – it is so small we haven’t time – and to see takes time… So I said to myself “I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it”’.

Who is she and what is she famous for?

Born in 1887, Georgia O’Keeffe was an American artist known for her emotional responses to nature. She is most known for her paintings of flowers and desert landscapes. She played an important part in the development of modern art in America, becoming the first female painter to gain respect in New York’s art world in the 1920s. Her unique and new way of painting nature, simplifying its shapes and forms meant that she was called a pioneer. The artwork below is a landscape. Do you see how she has simplified the clouds, sun and mountains?

Georgia O'Keeffe, Red and Orange Streak, 1919, Bequest of Georgia O'Keeffe for the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1987

Georgia O’Keeffe, Red and Orange Streak, 1919, Bequest of Georgia O’Keeffe for the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1987

Interestingly, O’Keeffe was fascinated by the bones and skulls she found in the landscape. She said, “To me they are as beautiful as anything I know…The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the desert even tho’ it is vast and empty and untouchable.” Do you agree? Why do you think she painted them so large in front of the landscape?

Georgia O'Keeffe From the Faraway, Nearby 1937 Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA) © TBC on receipt of permission

Georgia O’Keeffe From the Faraway, Nearby 1937 Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA) © Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1959

How did she develop her style?

Georgia knew from the age of 12 that she wanted to be an artist. She went to art school but what she was taught there didn’t seem relevant to the way she wanted to paint. Then in 1912 she discovered the revolutionary ideas of an artist and designer called Arthur Wesley Dow. He emphasised the importance of composition – which means how you arrange shapes and colours. As O’Keeffe explained: ‘His idea was, to put it simply, fill a space in a beautiful way’. This was a light-bulb moment for her and from then on she began to experiment with shapes, colours and marks.

Georgia met other artists who, like her, were experimenting with abstract art. Art in the 1920s was exciting. Artists didn’t just want to show how something looked but were using colours, shapes and brush-marks in unexpected ways to express meanings, ideas and feelings. This encouraged Georgia to develop her own unique style – a combination of abstract and realistic.

What inspired her?


Georgia O’Keeffe, Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II 1930, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (Santa Fe, USA). Gift of The Burnett Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London

Look at this painting of hills. Although you can recognise what it is, it also has a strange and powerful atmosphere that a photograph of the landscape, or a more traditional, straightforward realistic painting, wouldn’t have.  What words would you use to describe this landscape?

It was painted in New Mexico, USA. Georgia first visited New Mexico in 1916 and fell in love with the dramatic desert landscape with its rugged mountains. This is what she said about the landscape:

‘As soon as I saw it, that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before but it fitted to me exactly. There’s something that’s in the air, its just different. The sky is different the stars are different, the wind is different’.

On the Road

Georgia wanted to stay as close as possible to the remote landscape places she loved, she travelled around the desert drawing and painting. She battled the heat and heavy wind and camped out under the stars. Luckily she had favourite mobile studio with her – her car – which she’d specially adapted as a place to work.

Have you ever visited a landscape that has taken your breath away? Next time try putting those feelings across using shapes and colours and try, (as Georgia says) to ‘fill the space in a beautiful way’.

You can see some of O’Keeffe’s beautiful artwork for yourself at an upcoming exhibition at Tate Modern. Remember you go free – as its free to go to all Tate exhibitions if you are Under 12. :)

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