The Pleasure Principle

Yesterday I visited Tate Liverpool to see the much publicised René Magritte exhibition – ‘The Pleasure Principle’. Very pleasurable it was too. The show focuses on the less explored aspects of Magritte’s life and artistic practice, and on themes including the artist’s use of pattern and artifice, ideas and revelation, and visual fracture and eroticism. The exhibition also investigates the relationship between Magritte’s painterly work and commercial design, and the inspiration he drew from mass market literature and popular culture.

René Magritte died the year I was born and I’ve been a fan since I was an art student in the 1980s. The works on show, whilst perhaps dating a little in subject matter, remain as visually potent as they must have been at the time. If they have lost any ‘edge’ in terms of shock value, they still look wonderful and are as whimsical and refreshing to me now as they were when I first studied them all those years ago.

I love that he has a recurring visual lexicon of images, as do most artists and designers. It’s these things that make art so identifiable. I like that I know it’s a Magritte because of the appearance of familiar elements. To me it’s no different to liking a particular band or musical artist, one connects with what they do for any number of reasons. Magritte’s clouds and eyes and hats and bells are as reassuring and appealing to me as Keith Haring’s babies, Michael Nyman’s staccato string arrangements, Pet Shop Boys packaging or Apple’s considered computer designs. I connect with these things, they say something to me through design, whether it be sound, industrial or artistic.

This show is worth seeing, the way the paintings are grouped makes sense and there’s even some works that are curtained off for being too shocking! Catch it if you can at Tate Liverpool until 16th October 2011

Tate Liverpool show information

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