Art & Photography

Modernism in… Raging Against The Machine

Inspired by Matisse, Kuchar Swara argues innovation is dependent on open minds rather than new technologies

Saturday afternoon was spent working my way through the very busy Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition at the Tate Modern. Having proven himself to be one of the finest painters of his generation, Matisse (1869 – 1954) dedicated his later years to a new form of expression: cut-outs.

Matisse took to this new interest with great enthusiasm, applying this form of ‘experiment’ (as he called it) to different mediums and genres: theatre scenery, costumes, book design, canvas, stained glass, fabrics and more. As the years of experimentation went on so did his daring – working with larger canvases and ever more complex experiments with colour and painted papers.

Naturally, with my background being graphic design, I was particularly taken with his much celebrated book Jazz (1947) for publisher Tériade: a limited edition art book containing some 100 collages printed using a highly labour-intensive process of stencil printing called pochoir and accompanied by Matisse’s handwritten thoughts (complete with handwritten page numbers).

The exhibition is a triumph, highlighting the endless possibilities of an enquiring mind, daring us to push the boundaries of possibility, calling on us to take our existing knowledge and applying it to different mediums and exploring different methods of production.

I sometimes wonder if we haven’t become slaves to the technology or software that our field has deemed the standard. They say a bad workman blames his tools, but I wonder how much more innovative we could be the next time we design a building, chair, logo or magazine with a more discerning eye on the tools and means of production that give birth to our work. Luckily the modern world offers todays designer a multitude of old and new tools to turn ideas into reality, lets use them!

Read more of Kuchar’s ruminations on Modernism here