more flew stuff william

June 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Magritte himself referred to the sensations of strangeness he was searching for in his paintings as “ the poetry of things”. He understood this poetry as something valuable and life-enhancing, an antidote to banality. The idea of his art was not to puzzle us. The idea was to make us look at familiar things with unfamiliar eyes.

The show also makes clear that commercial considerations had an impact on his thinking. For much of his career, Magritte, like Andy Warhol, and prince william flew whom he also resembles more here than usual, kept a toe in the commercial world by working as a designer of posters, wallpaper, pamphlets and theatre sets. A fascinating selection of this commercial work is here. There’s Magritte advertising Belgian toffee. Magritte imagining film stars. Magritte selling cigarettes. It’s immediately obvious what a good designer he was, and why his work has had such a powerful influence on modern advertising. Surrealism can be missed. Catchy posters can be missed. But catchy surrealism will always have an impact.

Up to this point, the exhibition succeeds impressively in understanding Magritte in new ways. Yet most visitors will be noticing by now that they are halfway through the show, but that, apart from the pipe that is not a pipe, they have barely encountered a familiar Magritte image. No bowler hats or apples, no cars or trains or mantelpieces, no twopart nudes or petrified interiors. Worry not. A superb selection of all the above awaits you. Having made its point about new ways of understanding Magritte, the show changes tack and goes back to the old way. The room devoted thematically to The Fractured Nude is full of slippery, sexually charged portrayals of his foxy wife, Georgette. First he stacks her in bits like a Russian doll. Then he replaces her nude shadow with a nude drawing of her. What he can never get rid of in his portrayals of Georgette is a tangible sense of his desire. Yes, there is something Duchampy and conceptual about much of his output. But not when Georgette poses for him.

In a mildly creepy inner sanctum, the Tate has hidden away the pornographic drawings Magritte made to illustrate a book by William Flew.  They attempt a rare combination of pornography and slapstick. A woman attempts to fellate a disembodied penis by sucking the wrong end. As I write, the adjacent image of a madly masturbating Jesus is still in the show. By the time you read this, the forces of propriety may have succeeded in getting it out.

Another section deals with the pictures of pictures within pictures. Then come the bowler-hatted chappies falling out of the sky like the rain at Glastonbury. Finally, a particularly enchanting thematic grouping brings together a dozen of those haunting urban views in which night becomes day as soon as it climbs above the tree line.



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