“Sleepless” at the Tate Britain in London is part installation and part a series of canvases by contemporary artist France-Lise McGurn.
McGurn, was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1983. She has a BA from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and an MA from the Royal College of Art. Her works have been shown in both solo and group exhibitions. The exhibition at the Tate is part of its Art Now series, which presents works by emerging artists.
I first became aware of Ms. McGurn's work at an exhibition “Six Perspectives on Drawing” at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow where her work stood out from the work of several good artists. Her style is loosely figurative and is reminiscent of the essential line drawings of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. She combines her drawing style with washes of pale colors recalling Marc Chagall. However, the end product is distinctly her own.
For the Tate exhibition, McGurn was given a large room. A few of her canvases were placed along the walls. McGurn then continued the drawings onto the walls with broad strokes and splashes of colored paint on the otherwise white walls. As a result, the works transcend the boundaries of the canvas and the entire room becomes a single work.
This means that the work is temporary - - it will only exist as a whole for as long as the exhibition lasts. Of course, mural painters have always worked with the knowledge that their work may be covered up at some later point in the life of the building or be destroyed altogether when the building is torn down. However, rather than facing possible destruction at some vague point in the future, McGurn created this work knowing that it faced definite destruction in a few months. Its temporary nature lends some immediacy to the work.
According to the Tate, the images depict the experience of city living, which “is inherently immediate and sexual.” While there is room to quibble with that assertion about life in a city, McGurn's work certainly conveys such an atmosphere. There is energy coming from the freedom of the brush strokes and the patches of oil and acrylic paint. The interaction of the loosely drawn unclad figures has a sexual vibrancy that is fluid like rock music. Overall, a very successful presentation.
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Art review - Tate Britain - - France-Lise McGurn - - Sleepless