Last week I had the privilege of visiting the Jean Buffet retrospective at the Barbican.  With one or two exceptions, his work was new to me and I was unsure what to expect.  What I got was a masterclass in experimentation and materiality.  In the space of an hour I understood why the digital experience of viewing art of the past eighteen months has generally just not done it for me!

Dubuffet’s constantly experimented with materials – surfaces, pigments, liquids, collage, earth, plaster, varnish, biro – you name it he tried it.  He shape shifted from realism to abstract and back again, but all born from careful observation and then the making of work from his memory of that observation.  And the results are there on the topography, grain and pattern of his pictures and, occasionally, sculptures.

But looking at the photographs in the catalogue today, I realise that they do not capture the essence of his work.  The photographs flatten, tidy up, tame and mis-represent his work.  Nothing quite matches the real thing…

Lithograph of stressed figure with a telephone handset at each eat

Lithograph ‘Telephone Torment’ by Dubuffet; and who amongst us hasn’t been there?!