Blackpaint 603 – RA Summer Show, Black Power, Dunkirk

August 14, 2017

Nathalie Du Pasquier, Pace Gallery

 

This finished a week ago, but I thought it was worth including.  She does these LEGO type paintings, with odd inconsistencies in perspective that remind me a little of Duccio and a little of Escher.  I like the colours too; they make good photos – but after a while, strike you as a bit superficial.  But then, so do many (most?)artists…

RA Summer Show

Didn’t get in again – next year, I’m going to adopt my friend Chris Grice’s strategy, and just burn a £50 note on the entry day, to avoid the hassle of filling in the form.  My pick of the paintings below:

 

Arthur Neal

 

Christine Stark

 

Dan Perfect

 

Sean Scully

Apart from these, the usual suspects in evidence: Barbara Rae, Gillian Ayres, Basil Beattie, Elaine Cooper (she put it together this year), Michael CraigMartin, doing their usual thing.

Soul of a Nation – Art in the Age of Black Power (Tate Modern)

On first viewing, I paid too much attention to the propaganda stuff – the Black Panther posters, the work inspired by “the struggle”… some of it’s good; “Fred Hampton’s Door”, for instance, or Noah Purifoy’s “Watts Riot” (see below) – but I was put off, rather, by the partisan information on the walls.  Whoever wrote this seems happy to describe the killing of Panthers by the police as “murder” (without the quotation marks).  As I recall, the Panthers were an armed revolutionary group – indeed, they made a fetish of their weaponry and pseudo-military organisation – and included a number of convicted violent criminals in their membership.  Maybe the Tate has used the term only where it’s been legally proven – or maybe, as with the “Queer” exhibition, they are going with the radicals…

Anyway, on second viewing, much worthwhile art, my pick below:

David LaRue Johnson, D9 Flat 5th

The one on the left, wee bit Barnett Newman, maybe…

 

Betye Saar

she does these little “shrine” pieces, rather like Cornell, maybe, or that chap in Barcelona, what was his name?

Noah Purifoy, Watts Riot

Found piece, obviously…

 

John Outerbridge, Tribal Piece

 

Raymond Saunders, Jack Johnson

Reminiscent of Nathan Oliviera’s figures.

Also good are Romare Bearden‘s distorted photographic collages and the apocalyptic “American People Series #20:Die”, by Faith Ringgold – it has the energy of “Guernica”.

Dunkirk (dir. Leslie Norman, 1958)

After seeing the Nolan film, I thought I’d check out the original Dunkirk; it stands up really well and several scenes seem to “pre – echo” Nolan’s.  This one puts the evacuation in a wider context, switching between France and England.  John Mills is great as the corporal, reluctant leader of his little band of left-behinds and Richard Attenborough does his usual sound job as the selfish civvie businessman, turned reluctant hero.  “Reluctance” could be the theme – if it weren’t for Bernard Lee, stiffening the spines in the saloon bar and down at Sheerness…

It’s praying that does for Bernard Lee – the Stuka attacks while they are on their knees.

Sorry, rather brief and jejune, this week.  A new painting though…  Next time, Matisse at the RA and “The Encounter” at the NPG.

 

Merrie England

Blackpaint

14/08/17

 

 

 

Blackpaint 602- Surreal Women, Spitfires and Sandymount Strand

August 1, 2017

Dreamers Awake, White Cube 

Fifty Surrealist women – or rather, their works – on display at the Bermondsey gallery.  Big names here; Lee Miller, Bourgeois, Carrington, Tanning, Agar, Fini et al.  The earliest dated work is Lee Miller’s ” Untitled (Severed breast from radical surgery in a place setting 1 & 2)”, from 1929. Lots of the usual surrealist stuff; nakedness, masks, flowers used as masks (Linder Sterling in particular, her very provocatively posed women wearing huge blooms over various parts), sculptures of anatomical bits (Helen Chadwick’s ribbed courgette pricks with fur collars, entitled “I Thee Wed”, a series of cloths printed with archival dyes by Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin, which resemble Marlene Dumas’ “porn” pictures – big human- shaped blots of colour with sexual appendages and forthright titles (When my cunt stopped living; A million ways to cum), conglomerations of white biomorphic shapes with limbs and, inevitably, penises emerging here and there.

All great stuff, of course, but two artists in particular I enjoyed:  firstly, Nevine Mahmoud, with this luscious split peach of a sculpture, which looks like alabaster, but is listed as calcite, marble and steel –

 

Miss Her (Peach), Nevine Mahmoud, 2017 – see also her “Bosom”, which is a breast in pink and ice alabaster –

and Shana Moulton, with this video display piece.  A wriggling woman trapped or framed in a sort of display cabinet, various anatomical bits, most notably a big hand with a talking face on the palm, to the right and on the floor.  The cabinet transforms into a bath and fills with water, the woman turning into a Bonnard nude with touches of Klimt in the surround.  Very funny; loved it.

My Life as an INFJ, Shana Moulton, 2015 – 2016

INFJ?  Any ideas?

 

Dunkirk, dir. Christopher Nolan (2017)

Very loud and “intense” (the word that everyone who has seen it uses); the explosions and bullet strikes as stunning as “Private Ryan”, but the horrors far more muted, for the 12 certificate, maybe – I was surprised to see two young children with their mother in front of me.  The performances were strangely stilted, in the case of the older characters, especially Branagh – as if delivering immortal words at all times.  The throttling-back seemed appropriate in the case of Mark Rylance – quiet and thoughtful, gentle heroism sort of thing.

Bit too much “nick-of-time”ism, maybe; the cockpit, the stuck wheels, the multiple escapes from sinking ships; I wondered if based on personal accounts, strung together.  The scene where the soldier wakes on the Mole and is hurried onto the last boat with the officers struck me as someone’s personal anecdote.

Although I love and revere it, I could have done without the chords from “Nimrod”, designed to tickle the tear ducts (unsuccessfully, I’m proud to say).  The beautiful, tiny Spitfires are the absolute stars of the film, despite the controversy about their numbers over the beaches; I hope they weren’t CGI…

On balance, good, but not as good, I think, as the portrayal of Dunkirk in “Atonement”- much as it pains me to praise anything to do with Ian McEwan, after his recent pronouncements.  Great to see a straight, patriotic British film at this time though; I wonder if it will escape criticism for “Anglocentrism” or some such…

Ulysses, dir. Joseph Strick (1967)

I’ve finally finished Finnegans Wake, so I thought I’d go back to the easy one.  I got up to the scene in the Ormond and  decided to check the film out again to see what a job Strick had made of it – the answer is, not half bad at all.  You won’t know what’s going on if you haven’t read the novel; there are great chunks missing (the library sequence, the cabman’s hut) but Night Town is good, especially Bella Cohen’s, and some of the casting is brilliant.  Milo O’Shea will always be Bloom for me; Barbara Jefford as Molly looks wrong at first but grows into it; Joe Lynch is just right as Blazes Boylan and Martin Dempsey as Simon Dedalus too.  TP McKenna’s Buck Mulligan is spot on and Maurice Roeves, again, like Jefford, looks wrong at first, but convinces you in the end.  And Sandymount Strand looks great (shot by the great Wolfgang Suschitsky) so keep your eyes open…

Bill Viola (again)

In the last blog, I did Viola at the Guggenheim, Bilbao; I knew this piece reminded me of something – it’s this Panther paperback cover from the early 60s.

 

Viola

Panther Paperback Cover

Haven’t done much big abstract stuff lately, so two old ones to finish with:

Water Engine 2

 

Eastertide

Blackpaint

1/08/17

Blackpaint 601 – Monkey, Mask, Milk, Water and Blood

July 19, 2017

Sorry about the break in transmission; I have been on my hols, including Guggenheim Bilbao as per usual.

Bilbao Guggenheim, Pierre Huyghe

Untitled (Human Mask)

Video art.  Film of the little girl above, living in isolation in a decaying house, dead moths stuck to the window panes, cockroaches exploring the floors – but hang on, she’s got furry arms and legs, long feet and claws.  It’s not a girl, but a monkey or lemur in a mask and a dress – although I find it’s almost impossible to think of it as anything but a little girl, the actions and bearing and responses being so apparently human.

It’s apparent that “she” is in the Far East, from the labels on the food tins and packets in the kitchen; outside, there is an indistinct female voice from a muffled loudspeaker – the word “nuclear” is just audible, and gives the game away.  When the camera ventures outside, we see that it’s an abandoned modern town, maybe Fukushima after the earthquake (and tsunami and nuclear disaster).

The caption on the wall mentioned the tradition of the mask in Noh plays, implying that Huyghe was referring to that, but the layers of meaning are no doubt multiple and I do not venture there, for fear of pretention creeping in.

Bilbao Guggenheim, Bill Viola

No such problems with Bill Viola (a whole floor at Gugg., for a retrospective); he deals with the big stuff, birth, death, resurrection, communication.  He likes slow motion, women and girls in long dresses, falling liquids, close-ups of newborn babies, hosts of silent people threading slowly between the trees of silent woods….

Inverted Birth

At first, it looked like Bruce Willis in some diehard sequence; first water, then milk (or blood, or mud – can’t remember the order) pouring down on him, then reversing and pouring up…

 

The Greeting

Women communicating deeply, touching, smiling – as women do…

 

Three Women

Women and girl; long dresses, water showering down.

OK, I must confess to being faintly irritated by the portentous atmosphere and especially by the film about ageing and death – “Looking for Immortality”, I think it’s called, , where the naked old man and the naked old woman intertwine and explore their limbs and lines with pencil torches – bit too close to home.

Tommy, dir. Ken Russell (1975)

Never seen this before, despite being an ardent Russell fan as readers will know.  I was surprised at how coherent the story was (not credible, but coherent; I had a vague impression that Pete Townsend had written a bunch of great songs and sort of strung a flimsy story around them, but no.  Highlights for me are Oliver Reed at his sweatiest and sleaziest as the Ted stepfather and of course, Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie (suggesting, faintly, Alfred E Neumann in the old “Mad” magazine).  And Ann-Margret in the bath of baked beans.

There’s a scene where Tommy is undergoing “treatment” involving his eyeballs being fixed open, while he is restrained in a chair – straight out of Clockwork Orange.

Portraits and Life Drawings

Haven’t done much abstract painting the last few weeks, so three lifeys to end with;

Monica

 

Susie on the bench

 

Long Lie

Blackpaint

19/07/17

 

 

 

Blackpaint 600 – “FOOD….AWLRIGHT?” Orange, Dogs and Prado

June 20, 2017

A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick (1971)

I was discussing High Rise (film of) recently with Paul Tickell and Phil Cairney, my director friends, and I compared it to Clockwork Orange.  No, they both said, check out the  theatricality of staging and acting in Orange, compared with High Rise (I paraphrase, of course; neither of them would say “check out”).  They were right, naturally.  The choreographed gut- kicking during the house invasion – “I’m SIINGING in the rain (thud)” – along with the cutting of Adrienne Corri’s cat suit, while Patrick Magee is forced to watch, and the attack on Dim to the Thieving Magpie music are theatre and opera, and I was going to say unique – then, of course, the attack by the nazis on the bouncer in  Cabaret, that’s to music, but not choreographed – and I suppose West Side Story…..  and  just about every Ken Russell music biopic has a sequence of classical music with violence, or sex, or sex and violence… so not unique then, or even rare.  But maybe uniquely malevolent and chilling.

For my money, the best line in the film is Magee’s; he is entertaining the hapless Alex and has come to realise that the youth he is sheltering was his main assailant:  “FOOD (bellowed suddenly)……. Awright? (strangled attempt to get voice under control).

Straw Dogs, Sam Peckinpah (1971) – now available on DVD

Invaluable for its accurate and touching portrait of Cornish country folk in the 70s – a giggling, knife-wielding ratcatcher, a teenage nymphomaniac, rustic rapists, a mentally challenged killer, a drunken malicious patriarch (Peter Vaughan, prefiguring Robert Shaw in Jaws).  Into the village to settle  come Dustin Hoffman, nerdy American maths genius and his wife, escaped local girl Amy (Susan George, in a tight white roll-necked sweater), who disports herself innocently before the depraved locals (with one of whom she has “history”).

The inevitable, in cinematic terms, happens; Hoffman’s character is enticed away and Amy’s old boyfriend turns up at the cottage; a double rape follows.  The furore about the film and its troubles with the censor arose from the fact that Amy appears to be enjoying and responding to the violent assault (the first one, by her old boyfriend, anyway).  Peckinpah has form in this elsewhere; see, for example, “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia”.

What I find interesting, watching it again after 45 years (!), is that Hoffman is apparently unaware of the attack on his wife (he must be both blind and stupid).  His defence of the cottage in the subsequent siege, his ruthless use of deadly violence, is motivated not by revenge, but by the territorial imperative.  “This is my house!” he asserts, as he chucks boiling water, bashes brains in and wields the huge mantrap.  Amy wants him to abandon the house and the mentally challenged killer (David Warner), who  he is ostensibly trying to protect.  She is VERY slow to blast the last assailant with a shotgun, when he attacks Hoffman from behind.  So, not a revenge movie; arguably, the Amy character could have been left out altogether and the story would have worked – although the atmospherics would have been less charged…  Unaccountably, Warner was uncredited in the cast, so I’ve made sure he gets a credit here.

More Prado

Impossible to go fully into the riches of the Prado (which I started last blog): so, two painters of whom I was aware, but only just, before seeing them here.  First, Joachim Patinir (Charon, St.Jerome, Temptation of Anthony Abbott) – blue, lowering skies, small, strange figures in a landscape, something of Georgione about him, maybe.

 

Patinir – Charon crossing the Styx

 

Patinir – St Jerome

Then, de Ribera – grey-white distorted bodies, sprawling across huge canvases. his Tityus lunging towards you across the gallery.  The obvious Caravaggio influence, coupled with a sort of dry abrasiveness of surface…

 

de Ribera – Tityus

 

de Ribera – Martyrdom of St Philip

Finally, Titian’s Andrians, having a fine old bacchanale, below; I like the little kid – is he/she about to urinate?   Hope not, for the “relaxed” lady’s sake.

Titian – Bacchanale of the Andrians

 

Lake District

Blackpaint

20.6.17

 

 

Blackpaint 599 – A Drink with Bacchus and a Sausage with Goebbels

June 13, 2017

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Vast hoard of treasures here, so can just give a few examples:  Las Meninas (the Maidservants, below) with its complicated geography – painter on the left, looking towards posing royal couple (reflected in the mirror).  Having read Derrida, I feel I can give my own reading of the painting, totally unsupported by the known facts:  for me, it’s one of those paintings where two or more time zones exist simultaneously – like those Crucifixions where the journey to Golgotha, the crucifixion and the deposition, and maybe Judas’ suicide, are all on show.   So in my reading, Velasquez, having completed the painting, turns in the doorway to glance back at his earlier self, still engaged in the work.  The guide book identifies the figure in the doorway to be Jose Nieto, the royal chamberlain – but I prefer my reading.

Las Meninas, Velasquez

 

The Feast of Bacchus, Velasquez

I don’t know why, but this painting reminds me of Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus.  It gives me the impression that Bacchus and the grinning man next to him are travelling, seated, towards us, despite the presence of the kneeling man, who would be ploughed under, were this the case.  There is something about that arm, too…

I don’t quite have a settled view on El Greco; sometimes I think that his elongated figures thrusting up like flames are fantastic and precursors of artists like Kirchner (yes, fanciful…) – other times, the crowdedness and somehow dry surfaces turn me off.

 

The Holy Trinity, El Greco

 

The Annunciation, El Greco

As for Goya, there are some wondrous canvases such as the 2nd and 3rd May 1808 paintings (the Mamelukes and the Executions), the Black Paintings of course, and the Royal portraits.  There are also some terrible paintings – a Flight into Egypt comes to mind.  I think religious themes didn’t inspire him.  A couple of portraits, then:

The Marchioness of Santa Cruz, Goya

 

The Countess of Chinchon, Goya

More on the Prado next time – I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Dance of the Seven Veils, Ken Russell Omnibus (1970) – see it on youtube

Another brilliant example of Russell’s restraint and good taste: Richard Strauss (Christopher Gable) as a Nazi fellow traveller, reaping the rewards under Hitler and pleading coercion after the Downfall.  It begins with Gable, dressed in animal skins, conducting Zarathustra and soon being ravished by crazed nuns.  Later, his wife is raped by crazed Tommies (fantasy sequence, I should point out, as is the nun bit) again, whilst Strauss conducts.  Above, Mrs. Strauss and Goebbels share a German foodstuff…

Ossessione, Visconti (1943)

Visconti’s version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”.  Gino the tramp shows up at Giovanna’s garage and roadhouse and sweeps her off her feet – although not onto the kitchen table, as in the Jack Nicholson/ Jessica Lange version directed by Bob Rafelson in 1981.  What to do about Giovanna’s fat, much older husband, however?  Lots of smouldering and some excellent dialogue: (Giovanna to Gino, who has removed his jacket) “Your shoulders – why, you’re built like a stallion!”

 

Rift Valley

Blackpaint

12/06/17

 

Blackpaint 598 – Madrid, Salamanca, Bermondsey

June 3, 2017

Thyssen -Bornemisza Museum, Madrid

Staggeringly beautiful medieval pieces, some below: it has to be said, however, that the Old Masters took some time to perfect the portrayal of a baby – I don’t mean the little adult Christs that sometimes perch on Mary’s knee, but the real babies – like those portrayed below.

 

Yes, it’s definitely a baby…

 

Simone Martini, St.Peter – looking guilty; maybe about the denial of Christ?

Now, a series of three very dodgy Christ babies…

Piero di Cosimo

 

Dodgy Jesus 2 – Jacob Jordaens

 

Dodgy Jesus 3 – Lucas Cranach the elder.  He’s enjoying the grapes, but she doesn’t look too happy…

Carpaccio – some interesting birdlife…

Great Bellini, with that characteristic model again, on the left – she’s usually the Madonna…

Henry Manguin, The Prints (1905).  He’s new to me – another great back for my collection.

 

Michael Andrews, Portrait of Tim Behrens

 

Willem de Kooning – could easily fit in the Last Judgement murals in Salamanca Cathedral (see below) – if it was a bit faded…

 

Salamanca Old Cathedral

Stuck onto the “new” one (started in 16th century); the old one is 12th – 14th century.  We found it by falling down the steps from the new cathedral.

St. Christopher, with Christ on his shoulder – but who are the others under his belt?  There’s another like this in the Prado, taken from a cathedral wall in Segovia, I think (how do they do that?  Taking a mural on stone and transferring it to canvas?); the one in the Prado has the belt people and also has fishes swimming round Christopher’s legs.  The wall paintings in the cathedral need no commentary, for the most part:

I love the sun and moon, looking down on Christ from left and right…

Just look at that half dome painting.

Salamanca is the most beautiful city; storks nesting on the church tower, peregrine falcons circling in the spotlights from the old Jesuit college roof, thousands of swifts screaming as they tear around in raiding parties above the streets, honey-coloured stone…

White Cube Gallery, Bermondsey

Jurgen Partenheimer, “Lichtschwarm” – until 18th June.

Great paintings, a couple of examples below.

 

Rather like Oiticica, maybe.

 

Memento Park

Blackpaint

02.06.17

 

 

Blackpaint 597 – Striders and Chariots and Modern Art in Madrid

May 22, 2017

Giacometti at Tate Modern

Well I know he’s great and the creator of unmistakeable, iconic figures that define stillness and movement and contain both humour and pathos – but he is a little repetitive.  You say that the repetition is a mark  of his obsessive drive to attain the unattainable,  a heroic, almost tragic striving for perfection…but he is a little same-y.  Maybe I’ve seen too much Giacometti (NPG a while back, Sainsbury Centre in Norwich more recently); but this is a big exhibition with lots of rooms.  Maybe it’s the breathless hero-worship he seems to inspire in the women art lovers of my generation, that I suspect has as much to do with the brooding, rugged, Italian peasant features as the art.

Anyway, the good things:

  • The dancing, or falling figure on the posters.

  • The Chariot figure on wheels.
  • The flint axe-head sculptures, cut off below the shoulders, several of which, to me, seem to resemble the Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty the Queen,  Princess Margaret and Charles de Gaulle.

  • The pictures on board or canvas that he has blackened so that they resemble sheets of lead, from which the even darker features of his sitters loom; a change from his usual ochre, orange, grey and black, with thin, ink-like lines.
  • The outsize figures, including the strider in the last room (a ringer for Prince Phillip, if he’d had his hands behind his back); a welcome change from the usual size.  It’s a good exhibition, essential probably, so don’t be put off by my jaded comments.

 

Reina Sofia Museum (of 20th Century Art), Madrid

I’ve just spent four days in Madrid, three of them in art museums, so pretty much enough for three blogs.  The first of these we entered at 4.00pm, “fresh” off the plane – and emerged at closing time, 9.00pm, hungry and dehydrated.  Not because we couldn’t find the exit, but because there was so much excellent art to see.  I’m just going to put up our photos with, here and there, my perceptive and witty comments to add to your visual enjoyment.

Schwitters

Behind glass, so my partner’s form can be made out in the centre, taking the photo and enhancing the quality of the artwork.

Ortiz

Lovely little cubist picture.

Oscar Dominguez

He of Decalcomania fame – lots of Dominguez in this museum.

 

Another Dominguez – The Thrower.

It’s rather hard to make out, but it’s a legless, headless and handless black torso, with a thick shard of glass chopping into it at the top.  Compare these two little assemblages as Surrealist images with the Dali painting below:

Dali, The Invisible Man

It seems to me that the Dominguez pieces express in each case a clear idea, or at most a couple of ideas, succinctly, rather as Magritte does.  They are surrealistic, that is to say contradictory or paradoxical (to be “properly” Surrealist, I think they should also be dreamlike – not sure they are); but they also have clarity.  That, I think, is not the case with the Dali, despite the facility of depiction and the multiple images detract from the painting.   Then again, I don’t like Dali – but then, I’m not that keen on Magritte either, so moving on –

Picasso – no comment necessary.

Picasso again – just to point out the roughness (or texture, or painterliness) of the grey, orange and red areas in the lower picture; unusual, I think, in Picasso’s work and  the better for it – not that the untextured stuff isn’t stupendous…

 

Angeles Santos, The Gathering (1929)

There were several paintings by Santos and another painter, whose name escapes me, f.rom the 20s and 30s, in this style – I include them because they remind me rather strongly of Paula Rego’s work (although I much prefer Rego’s execution).

And then, a roomful of CoBrA stuff, to my surprise:

 

Corneille – I like the yellow with the red line.

Appel, Figures

And then,  rooms of abstract expressionism, Tachisme and pop Art:

Yves Klein, his version of Nike

Tapies, Blue with four Red Bars.  Does what it says on the can.

 

Guerrero – It’s a (huge) matchbook with a few missing.

There’s a lot more to see (Bruce Connor, Bay Area and LA artist, and the making of “Guernica” – both special exhibitions, so NO PHOTO, por favor!) so you’ll need to go to Madrid forthwith.  Next time, the Prado.

Here are a couple of mine:

Seated Back, pastel blue

 

Seated Front, pastel green

Blackpaint

21/05/17

 

Blackpaint 596 – Bigfoot, Ginger Man and Newfoundland

May 9, 2017

Willow Creek (2013, dir. Bobcat Goldthwaite)

This is a film that must have cost next to nothing to make, being a found-footage horror film about a pair of seekers after Bigfoot, or the Sasquatch as it is known by cryptozoologists.  Actually, it’s not a pair of seekers – Jim is the obsessive, Kelly his girlfriend is along for the ride.

Very cheap and pretty much like a spoof, until they get deep in the woods.  There is then a sequence where they cower in their tent in the night, while something “vocalises”, hits sticks together and bashes against the tent.  It goes on for about 20 minutes and is riveting – well, terrifying.  Probably if I saw it again, it would be nothing, but first time round…

The real thing.. no, really

I’m avoiding cliches again, so I’ll just say one meets a sticky end and the other a fate worse than death.  Watch it if it shows up again (the film, not Bigfoot); I wouldn’t have persisted with it if I hadn’t seen two documentaries on the Discovery channel about the Dyatlov Pass Incident in the Urals in 1959, which led to the unexplained violent deaths of nine Russian students.  Anyway, good film, not to be watched before you go camping in the woods.

The Ginger Man, JP Donleavy

I’ve written about this quite shocking book before and have just finished it.  It ends with another burst of violence against a woman who has the gall to be defiant to the disgusting “hero”, Sebastian Dangerfield; he slaps her repeatedly, threatens to use his boots on her and she of course submits, agreeing to give up her career as an actress and become a willing sex-slave to this thug, who can’t countenance  a woman of “his” having any independence.  Every woman in the book submits willingly to him, despite his constant drunken state, violence and dirty, bizarre clothing and behaviour.  It’s written in a sub-Joycean style – rip-off, really, from the vernacular sections of Ulysses – that was, surprisingly, highly praised.

Really, what shocks me about it is that I read it back in the 60s, maybe 1968 – and I thought it was hilarious.  So did most others of my age who read it then, male and female.  Or at least, they don’t remember the violence.  I remembered the drunken parade in the kangaroo suit as if it was the main event; it lasts a few pages and results in an unconvincing pub brawl, with KOs and injuries.

So, it’s a book “of its time” – tells you a lot about our attitudes then; not only teenagers like me, but grown-up literary critics regarded it as a sort of bawdy, joyous, drunken “romp” and Dangerfield as an incorrigible, lovable rogue.  I think there are certain similarities in the eccentricities and makeshift nature of the surroundings to Joyce Carey’s hugely superior “The Horse’s Mouth”.

Two new pictures to end with; I’ve given up trying to pretend my abstracts don’t look like landscapes.  Haven’t done any exhibitions, having been stuck in a gallery for two weeks, staring at my own paintings…

The Banks of Newfoundland

 

Panamatic Isthmus

Blackpaint

09/05/17

Blackpaint 595 – It’s British – but is it all Queer?

April 24, 2017

Queer British Art 1861 – 1967

There is a fair bit of great painting in this show, some of it problematic in terms of its queerness.  When you see a Tom of Finland show, like that at the ICA a while back, or Mapplethorpe photos, as in Helsinki, there are no doubts – it’s full- on queerness.  Here, it’s not so clear.  The Hockney “Physique” picture apart, none of the paintings below are queer in the sense of openly celebrating queerness.  Hardly surprising, given the discriminatory laws in force in Britain between those dates – however, what makes the Singer Sargent portrait of Vernon Lee “queer art”?  Or the Laura Knight self-portrait, of her painting a female nude?  Or William Strang’s picture of the woman in the red hat?  The answers, presumably, are that Sargent and Vernon Lee were both queer, as was Vita Sackville-West (the sitter for the Strang portrait) and Knight’s self-portrait was a conscious protest against the art school ban on women artists painting nude women models.

Anyway, the riches on offer include:

  • Three beautiful Keith Vaughans in his characteristic blue, cream and brown hues, all figure studies I think, including the one below.  Best in show (Crufts again);
  • The Laura Knight self-portrait I mentioned;
  • A couple of terrific Patrick Proctors, quite like Hockney – but different;
  • Ethel Sands – shades of Harold Gilman, Sickert and Vuillard, I thought;
  • A Lord Leighton classical theme that looks like a Bright Young Things fancy dress ball;  fine-boned, handsome youths with lower lips seemingly a-tremble;
  • Duncan Grant swimmers and divers.
  • There are Cecil Beaton and Angus McBean photographs and posters for cross-dressing music hall acts Vesta Tilley et al.

 

Henry Scott Tuke

 

Vernon Lee (author of “The Virgin of the Seven Daggers”) by Singer Sargent

 

Hockney, of course

 

Keith Vaughan

In addition, there are some interesting oddities, such as Oscar Wilde’s cell door from Reading Gaol and Noel Coward’s dressing gown.  Go and see it; interesting history – not all the art is great, because the queerness is maybe more important here than the quality – but enough is great to make a visit worthwhile.  Still not totally comfortable with the idea of using “queer” out loud, though…

Cataracticus

Blackpaint

 

Still on for another week and several paintings still unsold!

Blackpaint

24/04/17

Blackpaint 594 – Reaping the Rye in Notting Hill

April 17, 2017

Out of Blixen, Riotous Company, Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate

Kathryn Hunter (below) in the play which consists of four Blixen/Dinesen stories, stitched together with a little biographical narrative from Hunter as Blixen.  In the photo below she is playing a 13 year old girl; elsewhere in the play, she imitates a fish – rather effectively, in both cases.  I remember seeing her as Richard III at the Globe some 15 years ago; she seems to have unlimited powers of transformation.

The staging is varied – few tricks missed,  Mia Theil Have, playing at various times a peregrine falcon, an exotic dancer and a (bogus) angel, loses no opportunity to climb up into the stage curtains and utilise them as ship’s rigging or heavenly wings; she is most striking, though, as a peasant woman reaping imaginary rye with an imaginary sickle, all around the auditorium – like an animated Russian propaganda poster.  There are also stilts, a mobile piano, some minimal audience involvement and earth, or possibly grain, falling onto the stage from the heights (to crunch underfoot, during Blixen’s piece).  It’s pretty much magic realism.  I see Blixen as a bit like Frida Kahlo – Kahlo shattered by her tram accident in youth, Blixen afflicted by syphilis inherited from her father, I believe.  She’s popular with feminists; Paul Tickell, the writer of this piece, says she draws “in particular on the feminism which began to emerge out of the 18th century Enlightenment”.  It’s on until 22nd April.

Selfie to Self-Expression,  Saatchi Gallery, Sloane Square

Well, is it art?  Some is, for sure.  Fantastic exhibition if you are a teacher in search of a good trip out for the kids (judging by the number of school groups there on the days I went).

There’s a room of illuminated photographic panels with famous self-portraits that could never be assembled if you wanted the originals:  three of the famous old age  Rembrandts, Courbet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Basquiat, Warhol, Freud, Spencer, Van Gogh, and Velasquez’ Las Meninas.

Then, a room of proper selfies: Russian daredevils atop skyscrapers, a swimmer kissing sharks – and another with a great white approaching fast behind him, Brad and Jolie, Cumberbatch photobombing U2, and so on.

Novelty tech as below; a creepy room where you appear in surveillance mode; a selection of creative self-portraits entered for an exhibition, containing some brilliant work. Highly recommended – I’ve been twice.

 

Who can this miserable old git be, with the glamorous, smoky-eyed woman?

 

The same pair, I think…

 

Russian jail tattoos, part of selfie exhibition.

 

Get Out (dir, Jordan Peele, 2017)

Starring Daniel Kaluuya, great in “Black Mirror”,  a warning to black American men to beware of white girlfriends with liberal parents.  Whatever you do, don’t go to visit for the weekend…

It’s full of references to other films: I got “The Prophet” (the deer scene), “Night of the Living Dead” (Romero’s original B&W), “Les Yeux sans Visage” (the surgery scene), “Under the Skin” (the Sunken Place) – not to mention “Stepford Wives”, which all reviews – well, mention.

When I saw it, at the Brixton Ritzy, there were only two black people in the cinema; a woman and her daughter, I think, sitting in front of me.  They were talking intermittently,  in a sort of Gogglebox way:  “Oh he’s not going in there, is he?  Get out now, you fool!” – that sort of thing.  Suddenly, a young woman’s voice, slight accent, French maybe – “Ladies; please can you stop talking?  Thank you”, from across the aisle.  Meanwhile, on screen, the black hero struggled to save himself from the Obama-loving white liberals.  The ironies abound.

Keith Tyson, Turn Back Now, at Jerwood Gallery (Hastings)

Keith Tyson

Tyson’s pictures are displayed as above, in a sort of 19th century Royal Academy Exhibition way. wall to wall.  They are so varied as to defy description, except to say that many have whimsical, surreal or ironic commentary.  I liked some, for instance, the rather Festival of Britain ones in the picture above.

The permanent collection at the Jerwood, although small, contains some beautiful pieces, by Michael Ayrton, David Jones, John Wells, Barnes-Graham and others – especially Eileen Agar, who has a room to herself:

Eileen Agar – rather like Colquhoun and MacBryde, I thought

 

Agar again

 

Christopher Wood

Next week, Queer British Art at Tate Britain.  Readers in London during the next two weeks may like to visit our annual exhibition at Sprout Gallery (see below):

Western Approaches (WIP)

Blackpaint

17/04/17