Sunday, 23 August 2009

Colour Chart @ Tate Liverpool

When I started writing this blog, I thought I was in Manchester to stay. Less than a year later, an unexpected but pretty awesome, sequence of events has led me to relocate to Liverpool.

While I was flat hunting I went to have a nose around Tate Liverpool and it's very appealing sounding Colour Chart exhibition - a welcome break from viewing dishwater dull execu-flats.

The whole setting of Albert Docks is pretty unfortunate, a snarled tangle of pedestrianised bits and one way streets, which equalled cyclist hell. Why do traffic calming measures always bring out the worst in motorists?

Anyway, Albert Docks feels like a pretty odd place to put this gallery. The other Tates stand with architectural arrogance that reflects the institutional prowess and self confidence. Tate Liverpool is bunged into a colonnade with nasty tourist shops selling overpriced gewgaws and leather sofa packed chain wine bars.

Inside it feels more like a Tate, and with not a lot of time on my hands I went straight to the top floor to see Colour Chart. I'm saving the rest of Tate Liverpool for another day... like a kid hiding sweeties from themselves.

It's a wonderful exhibition. At the best moments the profusion of colour creates an ambience I last experienced in the Rothko room at Tate Modern. At the worst it feels a little stark and dehumanised. But in some ways this scintillation between states is exactly what you need and expect from an exhibition based upon such an utterly abstracted art concept. It's hard to find the right critical phrases to apply to such a beautiful monster of an exhibition, apart from that is is both marvellous and enthralling, stepping between the simply delightful and the sublime.

Perhaps the unusual downplaying of figurative images allows the viewer to experience things in a new manner? Although we are used to seeing non-figurative art, it is not often in such a focused presentation.

Beyond what is a marvellous and enthralling exhibition, the commercialisation of the show is a little annoying. There are so many things to purchase from the shop, so centrally displayed on the website, that it feel a little too much like a shopping opportunity. We do love colour, but the endless merchandising is just a little too much for me. When did shopping become such an integral part of a visit to a art gallery?