Is Art “Too Human” ?

Until the 27th of August, Tate Britain is holding a massive exhibition presenting a century of paintings where Bacon, Freud, Souza and many more meets. All too Human, as it’s name says, brings us to reflect on humanity and feelings as the core essence of all the art works presented.

How could we not start to talk about this exhibition without referring to the philosophical inquiry of Existentialism. In a context Post World War II, views on our world changed, and beliefs in determinism and theology collapsed.

By it’s accurate curation, All Too Human takes our hand and guides us in the discovery of the work of Freud and Bacon contemporaries, but also to their legacy. It is not without saying that some of the work there presented were and are still subjected to debates and provocations. By defying the Art status quo of there time, the exhibition brilliantly shows how the act of provocation of these paintings relies in the emotions and feelings of the subjects. We are contemplating exposed emotions, where beyond it’s material reality, art comes to life and gets a soul.

Looking more closely at Francis Bacon, it is undeniable that the aesthetic aspect of it’s painting is miles away from the common beauty cannon. But beyond the ugliness, relies the beauty of life where irregularities, traumas and passions blends into one. In his different studies, the focus on the emotion blend brings together multifaceted personalities and highlight the animality that relies into us.

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Dog, 1952 and Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1966 – Francis Bacon

Expecting at first sight this exhibition to be focused around Bacon’s and Freud’s painting only, the wide panel of other artists showcased significantly adds nuances and new pieces to how the existentialism concept have been incorporated in art untill today. To that extend, I discovered the work of Paula Rego, were the animality and troubled personality became the core essence of her Familly portrait. Beyond the smiles and colourful scene, we discover the illness of a man about to abuse of one of the child. The painting is structured like a classical paint with hidden codes such as the closed rose and jar as symbol of virginity, but the signification of this art work i the pure result of how the existentialism concept have influenced our perception of life : we shape our life trough our actions.

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The Family, Paula Rego – 1988

We could conclude that Tate Britain sets a brilliant exhibition were paintings are almost “too human” which could be troubling. By focusing on what makes us human (our emotions, our actions,…) we are contemplating what appears to be our inner selves revealed to the public. How inconfortable would it be to be exposed as such ? Would you be ready to become the main subject ?


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