I must confess to having had a rather limited experience of the work of Roy Lichtenstein before now. To me it was comic book; kitsch at best. Then came the posters for the Tate Modern retrospective of the artist – that familier pop art angsty female-on-the-phone. OK, you have my attention. And then the online trailer – it completely blew me away. For some reason watching snippets of the artist at work and commentaries from contemporaries and his wife Dorothy moved me, and showed me a completely new way of looking at his work. I was hooked.
Yesterday, I finally got the chance to visit Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at Tate Modern. Straight away the strong primary colours and heavy black lines on the canvasses gave the works an almost frightening immediacy. In flesh, the paintings are so intense; so beautiful.
And whilst his use of block colour is what makes Lichtenstein so recognisable, I enjoyed the black and white works in Room 3 – the white space gave us time to appreciate the incredible detail and control exercised by the artist.
"I want my painting to look as if it has been programmed. I want to hide the record of my hand."
It was, of course, great to meet the famous War and Romance paintings face-to-face. The large canvasses have such energy and a sense of movement; as my eyes followed the thick black lines, I felt as though I was moving with them. Kinetic energy and momentum were palpable in that room.
My favourite part of the exhibition was discovering the beautiful landscapes and seascapes – the boldness has a certain delicacy, and the use of the spots is wonderfully sophisticated in these – and I fell in love with the exquisite studies of Chinese art.
"The things that I have apparently parodied I actually admire."
Lichtenstein's paintings hit you. They come out at you with such force, and whilst they are 2D, they nevertheless enter a space far beyond the flat canvas.
I would recommend this exhibition with all my being! Seriously Lichtenstein was extremely intelligent, diligent and subtle in his work and this exhibition really shows that.
|Whaam!, 1963 | oil on canvas|
|Look Mickey, 1961 | oil on canvas|
|Golf Ball, 1962 | oil on canvas|
|Alka Seltzer, 1966 | graphite on paper|
|We Rose Up Slowly, 1964 | oil and magna on canvas|
|Still Life With Goldfish, 1972 | oil and magna on canvas|
|Artist's Studio 'The Dance', 1974 | oil and magna on canvas|
|Nudes With Beach Ball, 1994 | oil and magna on canvas|
|Laocoön, 1988 | oil and magna on canvas|
|Sunrise, 1965 | oil and magna on canvas|
|Seascape, 1965 | oil and magna on canvas|
|Landscape In Fog, 1996 | oil and magna on canvas|
|landscape With Boat, 1996 | oil and magna on canvas|
Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is showing at Tate Modern until 27th May. Book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.