Shape of Light Exhibition at Tate Modern

This exhibition is described by the Tate as displaying “100 years of Photography and Abstract Art”. I enjoyed the whole exhibition, but for the purposes of this note I will concentrate on those images relevant to landscape.

The exhibition started with a photograph by Pierre Dubreuil called Interpretation Picasso: The Railway c1911. The gallery notes explained how the image was made at the same time as Braque and Picasso were experimenting with cubism. The photograph of a train is broken down into a complex picture of geometric designs. The image of the train can still be imagined but the viewer has to be actively involved in studying the photo rather than just seeing a representation of the locomotive. The photo was displayed next to a cubist painting, Mandora 1909-10 by Georges Braque.



This emphasised the intent of both artists to purposely represent reality in a different fashion. It was interesting to see the two images displayed together, but I think that the Dubreuil photograph suffered a little from being displayed alongside the Braque. To my mind this photograph doesn’t lend itself to exploring the simultaneous depiction of differing planes in the same way that can be achieved by painting. The image itself was interesting and of merit in its own right, but displaying it alongside the Braque perhaps most demonstrated the limitations of the technique.

It was very interesting to see images by photographers that I had studied in earlier exercises of this course. Several Lewis Balz photos were displayed in the setion on minimalism. It was good to be able to see original images rather than representations in books or on the internet.

A couple of things stood out to me in this part of the exhibition. Firstly the gallery note used exactly the same quote from Balz that had struck me when I was studying his work, and the Tate video, earlier in the course. He said that “photography is the only deductive art”, whereas as other art forms add meaning as the work progresses “photography begins with a world that’s perhaps over full and needs to sort out from that world what is meaningful”.

It was interesting to read on the gallery notes that Balz’s work was often displayed along with that of Carl Andre and that is how it was displayed in this exhibition.

I thought that this worked well – mainly because of the minimalist nature of the works, that the monochromatic effects and the geometric patterns complemented each other.

Seeing Balz’s work displayed in a gallery brought home the minimalist nature; for me his work was about pattern, isolating everything to display form or pattern.

The Tate website (Tate [s.d.]) describes minimalism as “an extreme form of abstract art developed in the USA in the 1960s and typified by artworks composed of simple geometric shapes based on the square and the rectangle“.

“Several important characteristics identify Minimalist Art. One of the most common is repetition, or creating multiple images of the same shape, especially simple geometric forms like lines and squares”. ( Minimalist Art [s.d.]).

This perfectly describes the work of Lewis Balz that was on display





Bibliography Minimalist Art (s.d.) At:  (Accessed on 24 June 2018)


Tate (s.d.) Minimalism – Art Term | Tate. At:  (Accessed on 24 June 2018)