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10th January, 2013

'Tracing the Century' at Tate Liverpool

Picasso - Dora Maar

I am standing in a room and it’s pitch black.  And I mean pitch black.  My eyes are trying to adjust to the light but there isn’t any.  Have you ever been in a pitch black room?  I mean one where there is no light at all?  It’s a bit spooky to say the least, and I’m not the type who is afraid of the dark.  To make matters worse, I think there is someone in the room with me.  Possibly two people.  At this point, I can’t really tell because I literally can’t see a thing.  It’s fair to say I’m beginning to feel a bit freaked out.

Before you begin to worry, I haven’t wandered into a surreal nightmare or the latest Saw film but into Tate Liverpool’s rather fantastic exhibition, Tracing the Century.  Oh, and by the way, the person in the room with me isn’t  Freddy Kruger but a lovely female attendant from the Tate, who couldn’t have been nicer in explaining to me the art installation I was about to experience.

Back in that dark room, on a wall to my left, words suddenly appear, projected by a dim beam of light: “Anthony McCall, NYC 1973 - Line describing a cone.”  Then, another tiny beam of projected light slowly traces the outline of a circle on the wall, while the light of the projector magically forms a huge cone shape that stretches right across the room.  I couldn’t tell you why exactly, but  this is hypnotic to watch and, even more strangely, deeply relaxing.

Anthony McCall’s installation is just a tiny part of the Tate’s incredible exhibition that quite literally, traces the many and varied types of drawing from the last century.  Pieces by artists like Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Paul Gauguin, Willem De Kooning and David Hockney compete for space on the walls - while more unorthodox pieces, such as the one I’ve just described by Anthony MCall, which uses projected light to draw - challenge your ideas of what drawing can be.

Space doesn’t permit me tell you how amazing this exhibition is, or why you should make every effort to see it before it closes on 20th February.  I could sit here and impress you with deeply intellectual descriptions of how I felt when I saw works by artists you may not have heard of, like Henry Moore, Fernando Bryce and Nancy Spero, but I’d rather tell you about the genuine awe I felt as I looked at one piece and thought, “Blimey, that’s by Pablo Picasso!  And look - you can even see where he’s written his name and the date ! (13/5/38)”  
Too often, we (or at least I) think of visiting art galleries as something  that’s good for us that we should do more often, like exercise or volunteering at your local charity shop.  Really, however, the real reason you should visit art galleries more often - and this one in particular - is because, well, where else do you get to rub shoulders with Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso?  And where else do you get to stand in a strange, pitch black room and feel not afraid, but amazed.     

Tracing the Century
16 November 2012 – 20 January 2013 £5
Concessions and family tickets available

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