In this edition of THE CULTURE SHOW, presenter Alistair Sooke looks at Matisse's cut-outs, the subject of a major exhibition at Tate Britain. They were produced by the artist at the end of his life; while bed- ridden, he found it difficult to use a paint-brush, but found that he could create wonders with a pair of scissors and a few willing helpers to place the cut-outs on large canvases - so large, in fact, that some of them occupied an entire wall of his studio. Sooke's documentary suffers from the disease of the Omniscient Narrator; while the ostensible subject is Mattise, it's clear that Sooke wants to occupy our attention, guiding our responses to Matisse's works while talking direct to camera. This documentary includes some familiar visual clichés, such as the presenter being seen in a deserted library (of the Victoria and Albert Museum) thumbing through the pages of a rare work from the Fifties, comprised of Matisse's images. The main problem is that Sooke's judgments are needlessly reductive; he does not seem to allow for the fact that Matisse's images don't necessary have to "symbolize" anything, but can be interpreted in different ways by viewers. That's the power of Matisse's abstract work, that draws viewers towards it and challenges them to interpret what it "means" - if anything. We do not need the facile judgments of a nonspecialist to guide us; we can trust in our own viewing abilities.
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