19 February 2006
Henry Fuseli is at the centre of this Tate Britain exhibition featuring much tantalising sexual imagery, some of it, “pornographic” in an 18th Century kind of way, and also sometimes horrific, but frequently comically horrific. There is much bulging of eyes.
This exhibition deals with the contemporary fashionable Gothic sensibility and controversy, that Fuseli courted and successfully exploited.
The Gothic ideal has again became fashionable it seems because many twenty-somethings dressed in black, obscured our view of the paintings. The pre-publicity about the sexual imagery had apparently pulled in a crowd on this first Saturday of a three month run. A particular wall featuring some scurrilous views of ladies ankles, and a little more, was separated by a tantalising transparent veil.
The show is however recommended because it is certainly entertaining and informative. The Tate has gone all out for a somewhat tacky presentation featuring hanging scarlet drapes and elaborate bold wall dressings ironically spoilt perhaps by the down-to-business labelling; perhaps 100 words per label, alongside each painting, not that I counted or indeed read any of them, due to further wall of laughing girl Goths in black, between me and the paintings. and the labels.
Fuseli’s notable painting, The Nightmare, has been much parodied and Mrs Monk has joined in the fun, in the spirit of Cindy Sherman, she says. Clips from Ken Russell's film, “Gothic” are shown in the final room, and also the 1930s Frankenstein movie which provoked the warmest communal smile of the afternoon No one was “horrified” however.
The striking and weird caricatures of James Gillray are also featured, and also some important work by the mighty William Blake, though somewhat incongruously since his work is neither horrific nor pornographic nor comic.