Cut-out graphics for cut-out show

Visitors to Tate Modern can’t fail to miss the subject of the gallery’s latest blockbuster thanks to some supergraphics created by Cartlidge Levene. A timelapse film shows how the studio’s largest signage to date was applied to the gallery for the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition – while Ian Cartlidge explains how they did it

Visitors to Tate Modern can’t fail to miss the subject of the gallery’s latest blockbuster thanks to some supergraphics created by Cartlidge Levene. A timelapse film shows how the studio’s largest signage to date was applied to the gallery for the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition – while Ian Cartlidge explains how they made it…

Henri Matisse’s ‘cut-outs’, created during the last years of his life, have been brought together in London for the first time in fifty years. Cut from coloured and painted-over paper, the work has a playful, child-like quality but was derived from a process Matisse created due to his failing health. His assistants helped him orientate the large sheets and, having cut out the shapes he wanted, they would then pin them to the walls of his studio at his direction.

In addition to the huge wall pieces in Tate Modern’s new show, which include designs made for stained glass, a stand-out exhibit is the full series of pages Matisse created for his 1947 book of prints entitled Jazz; an entire edition of which is laid out, complete with hand-painted text by the artist.

And while Matisse used scissors to cut shapes out of huge, unweildy sheets of paper, Cartlidge Levene had an even larger task on their hands in manoeuvering several oversized pieces of vinyl into position both outside and inside the gallery.

A particularly nice touch is that the vinyl itself is specially made to stick to brickwork – even up close it resembles paintwork.

“The brief was to design ‘on-site presence’ graphics that leave visitors in no doubt that Matisse Cut-Outs is a show not to be missed!,” says Ian Cartlidge.

“This provided a rare opportunity to use the brick elevation as a giant canvas. Normally the artists’ names are contained in the lightboxes above the entrances – we wanted it to appear as if Matisse Cut-Outs had exploded out of the lightbox and invaded the elevation above.”

But with a project of this scale, how does everything get worked out prior to installation? “We initially designed the graphic onto photos, then we transferred these to scale drawings of the elevations,” says Cartlidge. “Then came the setting-out. We would normally provide a setting-out document plus a briefing on-site.

“The ‘setting-out’ document was straightforward but the on-site briefing was a little more challenging – we couldn’t exactly mark out the data on the walls as we couldn’t even reach the lowest part of the graphic. The key was determining the start point for each graphic element – tricky as everything is on angles.

“As we couldn’t get up to measure, we used the reliable measuring increment of the brick grid. We translated our dimensions to ‘numbers of bricks’ and gave these instructions to the installation crew high up on the cherry picker – it worked out well!”

While on-site Cartlidge Levene also made a timelapse film of the installation of the graphics which appear over the west entrance to Tate Modern. In the clip below, once the vinyl is applied one of the workmen can be seen ‘pushing’ it onto the bricks which provides the ‘painted on’ effect.

Following the film are a few more images of the work close up. The three supergraphics were created by Cartlidge Levene, while all the Matisse exhibition graphics are by Tate.

Matisse: Cut-Outs is at Tate Modern until September 7. See tate.org.uk.

The main riverside entrance to Tate Modern

Inside the Turbine Hall

Above the west entrance to the gallery

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