THE BLOG
30/05/2014 11:53 BST | Updated 30/07/2014 06:59 BST

A Mixture of Modesty and Ambition

Anyone who reads this blog will know how much I love colour, be it hanging as a piece of art from the Barlow Shed Roof at St Pancras International or in my wardrobe. This love of colour led me to be invited last week to the preview of Turner Contemporary's latest exhibitions - Mondrian and Colour and Spencer Finch: The Skies can't keep their secret.

The shows form part of Margate's 'A Summer of Colour' festival which celebrates the beauty of bright and vibrant colours.

It was only as I left London to see these colourful pieces that I had time to reflect on the vast array of colour around me like the latest Terrace Wires installation at St Pancras International, Chromolocomotion by David Batchelor. During the installation process David had told me about his admiration for Mondrian and pointed out some of the parallels between his piece and Mondrian's later abstract works.

Ninety minutes later I arrived in Margate excited for what I was about to see. The first view that struck me was the striking Chipperfield designed gallery visible from the station forecourt. Once at the gallery, I was taken aback by the bright light that flooded through the huge windows giving way to the beautiful Kent seashore. It felt like the exterior of the gallery had become very much part of the art inside the building itself.

On entering the gallery on the left is the American artist Spencer Finch's show: The Skies can't keep their secret which is his first public gallery exhibition in the UK for five years. Finch introduced the collection himself and explained that it has been curated to reflect the changing coastal light of Margate.

Finch's piece 'Back to Kansas' (2013) caught my eye straight away. It comprises of 70 coloured blocks in a grid pattern. As the light in the gallery fades the colour darkens reminding me of David Batchelor's comments in his recent book, The Luminous and the Grey (2014), about the black and white to colour experience of the 1939 film, Wizard of Oz, which showcased how colour can be used to represent realities and emotions.

The Mondrian exhibition is housed on the opposite side of the gallery. Mondrian and Colour focuses on his artistic journey from classic Dutch landscapes in the early 20th century through to his focus on colour and the use of the strong lines in the later abstract works.

Walking round I was struck by the strong colours even in Mondrian's early works including the rich mud red of the 'Barn doors of a Brabant Farm Building' (1904), the 'Riverscape with Row of Trees on the left, Sky with pinks and yellow and green bands' (1907-8) and the 'Row of 11 Poplars in Red' (1908). I was left wondering if his influence spread further and wider than I had originally thought -- was Graham Sutherland inspired by 'Geinrust Farm in the mist' (1906-07) for example.

If I had to describe my visit to the Turner Contemporary in three words, I'd say that it was colourful, bright and inspiring. The 100, five metre high coloured windmills planted across Margate showcased these themes at the weekend and really did bring the summer of colour to life. They were inspired by, rather fittingly, Mondrian's 'The Red Mill on blue background' (1911), a clear step on his route to simplification and abstraction. Finch said that Turner's watercolours inspired him because they are modest yet ambitious. That summed up these shows for me absolutely and wonderful they are for it.