DOROTHEA TANNING | London, Tate Modern

This expansive exhibition surveys the 70-year career of artistic powerhouse Dorothea Tanning, whose work “always asks us to look beyond the obvious”. Her long and extraordinary career produced an incredible wealth of material, and this show is a fascinating insight into the genius of a woman who refused to let her artistic practice grow stale.

The show begins with Tanning’s forays into the surreal and symbolic – her early paintings were inspired by her love of the gothic, as she explains: “…the mood of longing for a displacement of another time, another place.” Attempting to decode these paintings is fascinating, and the contrast between these and her later, more abstract, ‘prismatic’ paintings is dramatic.

Seeing her work then extend to incorporate designs for ballet sets and costumes, the written word, and eventually soft sculptures, dioramas and installations is truly breath-taking.

A highlight of the exhibition is the film near the end, which shows Tanning in the studio working on her paintings and her soft sculptures on her sewing machine, and playfully engaging with them. At one point, she arranges the soft sculptures and we see them fall down a flight of stairs, before a pair of her dogs leap excitedly between them. The film serves to make real the fact that a single person had such an incredible and varied output across their lifetime.

Tanning’s willingness to explore, experiment and her irreverence when it comes to her own work is both inspiring and refreshing. This is the first large-scale exhibition of the artistic powerhouse’s work for 25 years, and it’s a must-see.

Dive into the surrealism at Tate Modern until 9 June 2019.

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