In the second of four films, Neal Tait, one of the artists featured in Tate Britain's Watercolour exhibition, talks to young people from Archbishop Tenison's School, London about his work.

The starting point for the films is Tate Britain’s Watercolour exhibition, which explores watercolour from the middle ages to now. These films give you a great insight into how watercolour is being used by contemporary artists and young people. The following films will feature the artists Nicola Durvasula and Sophie von Hellermann. This film is part of the Great British Art Debate.

Alison Smith is lead curator of Watercolour and Curator (Head of British Art to 1900), at Tate Britain. 



It was worth going to the exhibition just to see John Dunstall's "The Pollard Oak...." A timeless masterpiece.


and as for Tracey Emin and where she went after the 'femme couche' got up out of that bed, well she just got back into it really,well Oxford Street expensive department store window,plus ca change then. If she'd had the face of Kylie and the bottom of Ann Widdecombe (sorry Ann, nothing wrong with your posterior as you well know!) wonder what would have happened then.

Susan Mason

We visited the exhibition on Father's Day as a treat for my husband. He was delighted with the visit as we all were. The exhibition was extremely informative and enjoyable in a lovely relaxed atmosphere. We especially liked the way the exhibition was put together and gave you a real sense of history. We would thoroughly recommend it.

Clare Shepherd

The most amazing thing about watercolour is, if you understand it, that it reveals, in a whole new way, what you are looking at. In the hands of Neal Tait it's sketching medium; he's working rapidly, amalgamating his ideas, allowing the results to influence the next step and so on, but the deep, biting, profound, dramatic and wonderful thing about watercolour is expressed in one sentence - 'You cannot paint a light place'. As soon as you put watercolour to paper you have darkened the paper. Two layers of paint = even darker. No amount of painting 'yellow' will create a light place. For that reason, when using watercolour, one has to come up with strategies for 'revealing' light places, but before that even, one has to understand really deeply truly and fully what (shape) and where those light places are. Instead of looking for 'name-able' things, the artist is looking for those wonderful places which are 'lightest'. They may be on the subject, behind the subject; they may cross the boundaries of elements, they may be spaces between elements which, by their nature and existence on the 2D surface become the manifestation of the relationship between two or more elements. These newly seen light places are so mind blowingly enlightening as to what the world looks like in a whole new language that the excitement both for the artist responding to them and the viewer responding to the artist's result is surprising, rewarding, sometimes overwhelming in the revelation of a 'truth' however inconsequential; in fact, in the right hands, inconsequential truths become staggeringly beautiful and significant. Unlike oil or acrylic paint, instead of reflecting off the surface of the paint, the light travels through the paint, bounces off the paper beneath and comes back up to the eye of the beholder. That is why watercolour has that feel for light and glow. I teach watercolour, to the widest range of ability, from beginners to practising artists and there is never a time when I don't enjoy their utter amazement at what they can do with watercolour once they've taken on board the notions of 1. 'You can't paint a light place' and 2. 'Look for the lightest places and REVEAL them'. I'm sad that I haven't yet read or seen a review of the Tate Watercolour exhibition which makes reference to, or has an understanding of, these aspects of watercolour.