The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay

Actualizado: 31 de oct de 2018

20 June 2015, Tate Modern, London

I first began to research Sonia Delaunay-Terc's work for a project I worked on about "les livres d'artiste" in 2012. Using as one of my examples the work from 1913 by Blaise Cendrars, "La Prose du Transsiberien [et de la Petite Jehanne de France]", I looked into Delaunay's use of contrasts as a means of construction to illustrate the poem. I saw this work in person in Madrid at the Thyssen, and it was a great surprise to see it again today at the Tate.

For the project, I also looked into Delaunay's career as a designer for the production of Sergei Diaghilev's Russian ballet, Cleopatra, in London. The costumes are featured at the exhibition, along with the costume designs. She made them during her stay in my hometown, where she lived between between 1914 and 1921 and developed her career as an established fashion and interior designer.

Sonia Delaunay, Le Bal Bullier, 1912-3

All the works in the exhibition are delightful to look at. They fill the galleries with colour and brighten the atmosphere. Yet, as familiar as I was with her work, "Le Bal Bullier", from 1913, by far moved me the most. The brush strokes blend the paint beautifully with the movement of the dancers. There is not a single aspect about the work that remains static, not the figures in the painting, not the colours or shapes, and certainly not the perception of it with everything it has to show.

Sonia Delaunay, Electric Prisms, 1914

In this aspect it contrasts directly with the rest of the works from this series, known as the Electric Prisms. In "Electric Prisms", 1914, the work hung just on the opposite wall of "Le Bal Bullier", illustrates different shades boldly creating geometric portraits of light. The circular blocks of colour are more precisely painted and the colours seemed more fixed in place.

Sonia Delaunay, Flamenco Singers, 1915-6

I loved the exhibition because I saw so much of Delaunay's work that I had not seen before. But what I found most interesting was how she used the same intensity of colours to represent different expressions in the subjects. I also believe that the subject a dance enlightens the mood in the paintings compared to those in her portraits. "Yellow Nude", for instance, emphasizes the model's feeling of unease through colour contrasts of red and pink hues, representing hard features masked in shadows. Compared to works like "Flamenco singers (large Flamenco)", 1915-­6, the less abstract portraits seem to be saved for more serious expressions while the more geometrically shaped figures are happier and livelier.

Sonia Delaunay, Yellow Nude, 1907

All in all, the exhibition has a wonderful array of her full "oeuvre" and demonstrates how she was a person to admire; for the full extent of her artwork, her great mind for business, not to mention the language skills she had to develop to live in so many countries. And while Delaunay is a well known artist, much of her lesser known studies and surface design drawings remain in private collections. It is fortunate these unknown collectors lent the works; it is an amazing opportunity to see a Delaunay's work as a designer as a oppose to an artist in many years among a whole load of other beautiful works.

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