Exhibition: Giacometti at Tate Modern June 2017

I have long been intrigued by Giacometti’s tall thin sculptures and was excited to see that his work was being celebrated at the Tate.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones’, in his review, talks of Giacometti’s exploration of a common humanity, and says post WWII the surrealists’ art looked like it was for another time, whereas Giacometti took up the the challenge of looking at our world through a post war lens; “The human form, starved, bereft, but somehow standing tall”. He goes on to say, “Only Giacometti rose to the moment with stark, severe sculptures of people who seem to have lost everything – and yet who keep walking, pointing, speaking.” (2017)

One of the things that I admire most about Giacometti is his sense of compassion for others, and a realistic pragmatism concerning his art, which is reflected in a comment quoted on Tate’s website, “I am very interested in art but I am instinctively more interested in truth […] The more I work, the more I see differently” (2017) I understood this sentiment from having listened to him talk about who he works with most often and why, in a film which is shown as part of the exhibit. He wants to work with people he knows and loves over and over again because he can never really get to the nub of them.

He refuses to trust his senses and tests them repeatedly, “the longer he looked, the more his different impressions proliferated […] Depending on his relative position to an observed figure,its size, shape and appearance all changed, raising questions about the veracity of what he was seeing” (Giacometti, Fritsch and Morris, 2017;p80)) This lack of certainty in what we see is echoed in an article about photography and our perception of reality titled Ask No Questions  – The Camera Can Lie. “In the future, it seems almost certain, photographs will appear less like facts and more like factoids – as a kind of unsettled and unsettling hybrid imagery based not so much on observable reality and actual events as on the imagination. This shift, which to a large extent has already occurred within the rarefied precincts of the art world*, will fundamentally alter not only conventional ideas about the nature of photography but also many cherished conceptions about reality itself.” (Grundberg, 1990) It is well to remember that despite being an obvious medium for doing so, photography is not the only space exploring our changing reality and a growing lack of belief in absolute truths, nor is it particular to now.

As a photographer I am always intrigued by how someone can look completely different from frame to frame. And Giacometti, we are told in the the Tate book, “refused to rely on what is known by his subject. Rather his portraits record his ever changing sensations of a living presence”. ((Giacometti, Fritsch and Morris, 2017;p80)

I was so enamoured by the exhibition I plan to return again very soon and may write further afterwards.

*There are plenty of popular TV programmes exploring the nebulous lines between fiction and truth. Of course, most obviously reality TV, but also series’ such as Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s food sitcom/travelogue.


Tate. (2017). Giacometti. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/giacometti [Accessed 22 Jul. 2017].

Jones, J. (2017). Giacometti review – a spectacular hymn to human survival. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/may/08/giacometti-tate-modern-london-review?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=225097&subid=11118875&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2 [Accessed 22 Jul. 2017].

GRUNDBERG, A. (1990). PHOTOGRAPHY VIEW; Ask It No Questions: The Camera Can Lie. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1990/08/12/arts/photography-view-ask-it-no-questions-the-camera-can-lie.html?pagewanted=all [Accessed 22 Jul. 2017].

Giacometti, A., Fritsch, L. and Morris, F. (2017). Giacometti. 1st ed. London: Tate, p.p80.


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