Earlier this month I went to see the Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye at the Tate. Few other modern artists are better known and yet less understood than Norwegian painter. He is one of the most famous expressionists in art and in popular culture – I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t know The Scream. The exhibition looks beyond the clichés of Munch as an angst-ridden and brooding Nordic artist who painted scenes of isolation and trauma and focuses on the neglected aspects of his often radical work, particularly his use of film and photography.
The exhibition features several rooms highlighting several periods of his artistic life. My favourite was Optical Space which explored Munch’s signature style featuring exaggerated perspectival effects and off kilter compositions – which I learnt was from his observation of cinematic techniques and observing moving perspectives of crowds on screen which in that day would have seemed novel and strange.
His work admittedly contained many notions of sickness, isolation and physical decline which followed a period of nervous breakdown. The images are beautiful and haunting painted in Munch’s lyrical colour palette.
The room I found the most surprising was the one that held artworks produced followed a heamorrage in his right eye. Fascinated by the subjective nature of vision – he began to document what he could see through his damaged eye – vibrant pulsating circles of colour created by exposing his eye to sunlight . His notes suggested that he understood the damage to his eye allowed him to experience new visual sensations that would otherwise not be available to him.