Blackpaint 715 – Southern Black Artists and Hilda and Piet – and other white people…

May 29, 2023

Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers

Royal Academy until 18th June 23

Great show, Thought it would be the usual politically correct, humourless, preachy BS which our museum and gallery curators see fit to force down our throats these days; but no – plenty of humour, variety, abstraction, inventiveness and a low level of righteousness and preachiosity. That said, there is violence, oppression, discrimination and poverty on show.

So the politics is there but not in the form of sloganising, – the title is from the Langston Hughes poem “The negro speaks of rivers” (1920)and there are pieces that reference slavery and the Jim Crow system directly. I’m reading Adolph Reed’s book, “The South: Jim Crow and its afterlives” (Verso, 2022) which dovetails well with this exhibition. It’s a highly anecdotal book, which is both a strength and a weakness, of course, and is strongly orientated to New Orleans and Louisiana – but nevertheless, is good on the class politics within Jim Crow and the rigidities and flexibilities of segregation in the South. Also essential listening is Huddie Leadbetter’s “Bourgeois Blues”(1939) and Big Bill Broonzy’s scathing “Get Back” (1951).

To quote the guide, these pieces are the work of “Black artists born between 1887 and 1965 who spent their lives and forged their careers in the American South…..Their careers were rooted in local communities from South Carolina to the Mississippi River Delta…and from rural areas to urban centres including Atlanta, Memphis and Miami”.

Thornton Dial, The Coming Dawn, 2011

Mary T Smith (?)

Richard Burnside, The Faces, 1988

Echoes of aboriginal Australian art?

My friend Bernard modelling his khaki look in front of a work that I belive is Thornton Dial’s Stars of Everything, 2004

The “Stars” are splayed-out paint cans and the thing in the middle is not a miniature devil horse, as I had thought, but a dishevelled American eagle.

Charles Williams. Lamp, early 1980s

Bessie Harvey, Untitled, 1987

Sorry, didn’t get name of artist.


Eldren M Bailey, Dancers, 1960s

In the light of what I said in the introduction, I feel I need to quote the guide on Richard Dial’s Which Prayer ended Slavery? 1988: “This sculpture confronts us with horrifying scenes of degradation, torture and murder. In the lower section a white figure is whipping a kneeling Black figure; another Black figure is being hanged and a third is in chains. Above, a white and a Black figure are shown praying…” Obviously, I missed this one.

Throughout the guide for Friends, the authorship of which is not given, black people and artists are referred to as “Black” and white people as “white” (see quotation above). Is this now a convention in galleries and museums?

Hilda Ap Klint and Piet Mondrian

Forms of Life

Tate Modern until 3 Sept 2023

I’m really not sure of the thinking behind combining these two artists in one exhibition; it seems to me that the differences are as many as the similarities. That said, there are some strikingly large and colourful biomorphic and – what’s the appropriate word? – technomorphic?? images in Klint’s work. Some of it looks to me very similar to that of the Delaunays…. See if you can recognise which are K’s and which M’s….

Answers on blog reply please.

Finally, below is my shortlisted but ultimately rejected entry for this year’s RA Summer Show. This is actually a punishment, since shortlisted works have to be collected and carried home, in my case on Tube. Could be worse; at least I’m in London.

The theme this year was “Only Connect”, so my connection was to the slightly less “abstract” Michelangelo piece below. Mine’s a prequel, I guess. I call it “Head” (Adam and Eve in the Garden). Which image do readers think is better?

Blackpaint 714 – Women Abstract Expressionists at Whitechapel

April 24, 2023

“Action, Gesture, Paint” – Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940 – 70

Whitechapel Gallery until 7 May 2023

Helen Frankenthaler

OK I simply must post this today, as time is running out, Finishes 7th May and is compulsory viewing for anyone who loves abstract painting, The Hreats are here – Joan Mitchell, Frankenthaler, Krasner, Hartigan – but also what may be termed second line abexes: those who haven’t invented a vocabulary – style, if you like – for themselves, but produce brilliant original work, using a vocab established already by the likes of the above. Or by their male precursors and/or counterparts such as Kline, Pollock, Rothko and de Kooning.

So “second line” here does NOT mean second rate – think New Orleans funeral, rather than not as good as…

Another drawback is that, in my haste to photograph everything, I forgot to record the names and titles, so you’ve only got my memories. That makes me the unreliable narrstor of Literature Studies. Only one solution – go and see it for yourself.

Sandra Blow – maybe

Wook-kyung Choi

Gillian Ayres

I think that this is also Wook – kyung Choi – but not sure

Gillian Ayres

Helen Frankenthaler

Joan Mitchell

Mitchell again

Pat Passlof

OK that’s enough women AbExes for now – more next blog.

World Snooker Championship

This is a viewing pocket into which you sink and emerge from hours later. drained by the experience. It’s a metaphior for life, I think.

You manage to pot a red, feel good, cue up for a colour, sink that maybe, another red – you’re on a roll! – then you have to pot another colour in such a way that your cue ball is lined up for the next red – disaster – you couldn’t do both and you miss the pot trying. You’ve left an easy pot for your opponent.

You take your seat, looking unconcerned, and then sit frozen faced – or maybe holding back tears – while your opponent efficiently clears the table, going on to make a maximum break of 147.

Then you die,

Recent Sales

Brother Angels



Not yet a sale, but soon no doubt…..



Blackpaint 713 – Malle and Music, Women at Tate Britain

March 23, 2023

Louis Malle films (Box set)

Been rewatching these films, and noting Malle’s use of music in them:

Lift to the Scaffold (Maurice Ronet and Jeanne Moreau), with Miles Davis’ unmistakeable trumpet sound, especially when Jeanne Moreau tours the streets of Paris in the rain, looking for her lover.

The Lovers (Moreau again and the cold, forbidding Alain Cuny as her husband) – this time, a big, old house deep in the French countryside with a Brahms sextet to accompany the moonlit lovemaking in the boat and the grounds.

The Fire Within (Maurice Ronet again) – the suicide one, with Eric Satie’s introspective compositions tinkling away behind the central character’s dissolution.

Murmur of the Heart, the incest one and deeply autobiographical, Malle says (except for the actual incest); driven mostly by Charlie Parker’s full tilt pieces – I think one of them is “Confirmation” – but I may be wrong. The Parker music does NOT “drive” any of the pretty decorous sex scenes, of course – that could be fatal for the participants.

Lacombe Lucien (the Vichy collaborator one) – I’ve written about this before. It’s early on, the second scene really, Lucien riding his bike at speed along country roads, reckless, full tilt (love that phrase) and behind it Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France driving through “Minor Swing”! Those runs on the lead guitar, the insistence – pathetic, weak term for it – of the bass and rhythm guitars – best opening sequence, or nearly opening sequence ever. And the rest of the film is as good.

Women at Tate – Just wandering round the galleries at Tate Britain, I found a whole load of women painters, most of whom were unknown to me, so here’s a selection. I’ve chucked in a few men at the end for balance.

Joan Carlile – Portrait of an Unknown Lady 1650 – 5

She’s a bit stiff – but look at the fabric…

Marianne Stokes – A Fisher Girl’s Light (A Pilgrim of Volendam) 1899 – wonder if Singer Sargent saw it?

This is by Annie Swynnerton 1844 – 1933. There’s a whole roomful of Swynnertons. This picture is presumably OK because it’s by a woman, Don’t think it would make the cut in the present day if a man had painted it.

Oh, the rosy cheeks and red lips, Pass the sick bag. Sorry that’s rather uncalled for but it islLike having to look at photos of other people’s grandchildren….

But she CAN paint properly when you get her away from kids.

And I quite like this smug aristo loving himself on the patio (although the hands and feet – and legs as well – caused my friend some displeasure – he has high standards of draughtsmanship…)

Jessica Dismore – Abstract Composition C.1915 – This is more like it for me. Vorticist, presumably.

Nina Hamnett – Gentleman with a Top Hat, George Manuel Unwin, it says – I think he has the air of a minor Royal, caught in a corner in a brothel. 1921

Grace Pailthorpe – April 20 1940 – The Blazing Infant. Surgeon, Surrealist, painter of dreams. Giant pomegranate alarm clock with Humpty Dumpty I would have said – but I’d be wrong…

Ithell Colquhoun – Scylla (1939) – the other well-known artist Colquhoun, and no relation as far as I know. No obvious sexual association here.

Eileen Agar. I think this is called Embryo, I’ve written about Agarbefore, in relation to her exhibition at the Whitechapel a while ago – wasn’t it she who was sent by ship from South America to Britain with a cow supplied by her mother? Or perhaps that was one of my surreal dreams….

And a few chaps at Tate B,,,

William Stott of Oldham – Prince or Shepherd? 1880 – as in who will I marry? presumably

Duncan Grant – Head of Eve 1913

Matthew Smith – didn’t get the details of this, but it really grabs you when you see it through the arch from the next room

Mark Gertler – again no details – but its great, isn’t it?

And this, of course, is one of my smooth and highly finished compositions, entitled “Steve’s Back”.

Next time, more women, this time Abstract Expressionists at the Whitechapel.


March 22nd 2023

Blackpaint 712 – Spain at the RA, Bacon (not) in Moscow

February 26, 2023

Spain and the Hispanic World

Royal Academy until 10th April 2023

I found this exhibition to be a little underwhelming, but possibly this was due to the crowds of elderly punters like me with poor eyesight, standing right up close to see the detail and read the blurb – and block the view of others. There are a few Goyas – the Duchess of Alba is there – and some lovely small drawings; and a few by Velasquez, portraits again – but no Riberas, a big disappointment for me. I do love a huge stretched out figure being flogged or preferably flayed. Sorry, I mean for aesthetic reasons, of course, colour, depiction of musculature etc.

Probably best to see this as a historical exhibition with a few terrific art works studded about.

Never seen a rider in this position in a sculpture or piece of pottery before.

Something startling about these busts too – also pottery I think, and probably saints. I guess its the naturalism, the expressions and the fact that they are painted. They look like something out of a Samuel Beckett play – that one where they sit in dustbins, “End Game”….

El Greco of course. I can never decide whether I like the distortion and those livid colours. Sometimes I do, other times I find them – well, unlikeable. But they are always memorable, which is justification enough, as if they need me to approve of them. Well, yes, in this case I like the distortion and disparities, so that’s alright then,,,

Everybody in the gallery was jostling for a better look at these and photographing them so I felt I needed to as well. They are tiny by the way, maybe three or four inches tall.

Skipped a couple of centuries now: this is Sorella. Rather like Singer Sargent, I think, this one anyway.

Another Sorella – light on slippery wet skin. Sort of garish – see also “The Penitents”, two pics down.

Didn’t get the name of this artist, but he’s a contemporary of Sorella. That jewel-like palette and pattern reminds me a little bit of Gustave Moreau.

The Penitents (Sorolla)

This is a panel from a series of five (?) by Sorolla, depicting the essence of Spain. I found it to be rather stereotypical; hot, dusty, horses, donkeys and carts, nuns and tricorns.

Moore and Bacon together at Tate Britain

Some of Francis Bacon’s paintings have been hung in the gallery housing the Henry Moore sculptures; may have been there for weeks, I wouldn’t know – but I found it to be something of a revelation to me. I’d never really thought that the two were similar in any way, but they bounce off each other wonderfully to my mind.

Bacon hadn’t a great regard for Moore’s work, according to James Birch in his engrossing memoir “Bacon in Moscow” (Cheerio 2022) : “As the date of the exhibition approached, Francis was already looking beyond it and talking to me about the things he still wanted to do… Unusually for him, he talked about art and other artists: particularly about Henry Moore, LS Lowry and Carel Weight. He gave a “Nero’s thumbs down” to their work.” (p.145)

I highly recommend Birch’s book with its odd title – Bacon never got to go to Moscow, although his paintings did – it’s in that anecdotal, gossipy style of Bacon books by Michael Peppiatt and Daniel Farson that is probably most appropriate to the painter and his routine of well-oiled lunches, gambling and heroic drinking.

There are some shocks though. At the end of the book, Birch relates how he was a passenger in a car driven by a woman friend who had a “wonky headlight”. She was stopped by the traffic police and taken to their car: “Most traffic fines could be avoided with a bribe of roubles but watching from my seat I saw Leila’s head bobbing up and down and realised, to my horror, that the bribe on this occasion was oral sex. There was so much civic unrest, violence, rape and police brutality in every city as the Soviet Union broke up that perhaps it was not a surprise (that this happened). Leila and I never spoke about the incident.”(p.166).

Yiadom – Boakwe at Tate B

I reviewed this exhibition last blog and referred to the puzzling titles, which are wilfully obscure – but I gave no examples. So, here’s one; this picture is called “Tie the Temptress to the Trojan”

Also to be seen at Tate Modern

A few pieces that caught my eye in the regular galleries –

Jimmy Durham – I think a Native American artist, if that’s the correct or acceptable term this evening – and irrelevant , maybe – reminiscent of Rauschenburg and Ed Kienholz.

Love this assemblage but didn’t get the artist’s name. There’s a tea strainer in there somewhere.

And back to Tate Britain –

Matthew Smith

Francis Bacon (obviously)

Couple of mine to finish;

Phil in pen and ink

Phil in pen and ink 2

N -Scraper

That’s all for now, folks!

Blackpaint Feb 26 2023

Blackpaint 711 – The Donald, Gene, Fred, Ginger and Lynette

January 22, 2023

Singin in the Rain

Watched this in its entirety for the first time the other day and for a while, I was tempted to say to myself the ultimate blasphemy – “Its almost – better than Fred and Ginger!” Gene Kelly is an athlete with a staggering power and precision – while watching him, you think “Yes – Fred’s a bit sort of wavy; doesn’t quite snap it out so cleanly…” And then there’s Donald O’ Connor, who runs up scenery walls – three big paces followed by a backwards somersault twice and then through the last one which looked like asbestos…

That’s in “Make Em Laugh” in which O’Connor more or less throws himself to the floor repeatedly, wrestles with a headless, handless mannequin behind a sofa and manages to end all this apparently without injury. The ensemble dancing with Kelly is just as sharp and precise (“Moses Supposes”) and with Debbie Reynolds too (Good Mornin’).

There’s a gangster sequence with Cyd Charisse in Broadway Melody that’s very like the one Fred danced with Charisse in The Bandwagon – need to look up the dates and see which one came first. And of course, Singin in the Rain -everyone knows it, nothing new, except Kelly’s fine voice – better than Fred’s, but maybe lacking that touch of pathos that Fred could do.

Then I watched the “Never Gonna Dance” medley in “Swing time” and I swung back. I think it’s actually Ginger, that back, those shoulders, the way Fred spins her round, that staircase, her spin at the end…

O’Connor and Kelly airborne

Fred gazes at that wonderful back in Swing Time

Lynette Yiadom – Boakye

Tate Britain until 26th Feb

Her pictures are not portraits; that is, not of real people. They are portraits of fictional characters. The titles are mystifying, shedding no apparent light on the ” meaning ” of each work. They presumably have meaning for Yiadom – Boakye privately. I’ve no problem with this: for other commentators, the justification, if one were needed, is that the fictional people in the portraits bear no burden of historical representation, as is the case in many (most?) figures of black people in Western art. I think you might make a similar case for the people in Lubaina Himid’s recent exhibition at Tate Britain, although they tended to be groups of persons involved in unexplained situations, rather than naturalistic mock portraiits.

Southern Rock at the BBC

This brilliant compilation turns up periodically, usually on BBC4. I record it then forget to save it and it disappears. It popped up again last night and I was lucky enough to record it again. The highlights are as follows:

Lynrd Skynrd doing “Sweet Hone Alabama” with a huge Confederate battle flag backdrop on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

The gob -smacking Black Oak Arkansas with their singer “Jim Dandy” Mangrum poncing about bare chested in buckskins. He’s a dead ringer for the serial killer who attacks Sigourney Weaver in the toilet in “Copycat”. The song is “Hey y’all”…

Dickie Betts of the Allman Brothers, singing “Ramblin’ Man”, stunning guitar as in most of this stuff.

A demented Edgar Winter, with a band straight out of Spinal Tap, out-heavying brother Johnny, who puts in a comparatively sedate piece on the same subject later in the show.

The Atlanta Rhythm Section, a smooth rock ballad called “I am so into you”, distinguished by that guitar solo and the riff. It’s also from a Whistle Test session; another Confederate flag, and someone thought it was a good idea to hang “A.R.S” in big illuminated letters over the band.

Billy Joe White, doing Polk Salad Annie, with a sneering grin and a fag burning away, stuck on the end of a guitar string in the old style, despite the apparently posh venue;

Dobie Gray, the only black artist in the programme – “Gimme the beat boys and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock an’ roll and drift away…”;

Charlie Daniels and his band doing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – poor Charlie would have been shocked by the rebel flags and testosterone on show – or maybe not, judging by his song “What this world needs is a few more rednecks”…

And Elvin Bishop, in farmer’s dungarees, doing Travelling Shoes. Probably best not to listen too closely to the words.

Only one female singer, Cher, duetting with the Allman brother she was briefly wedded to, on “Move Me”…

One of mine to finish:

Susie Cropped


January 21st, 2023

Blackpaint 710 – Women Modernists at RA

December 29, 2022

The exhibition is actually called “The Making of Modernism”, a bit of a misnomer since it excludes the male German Expressionists and their non-German associates, Still, the men have had plenty of exposure, so fair enough to devote a show to the women exclusively, I suppose. Actually, I don’t know what happened during their working lifetimes, but the work of Munter, Modersohn-Becker, and Kathe Kollwitz is pretty well known surely, maybe Werefkin a little less so. The others I’d never heard of. The exhibition is on until 12th February 2023

Not sure who painted this one – Munter maybe; it has the characteristics of many of the land- and townscape paintings of the Expressionists – vivid (lurid?) colours, crowded, rather claustrophobic canvases, plunging perspectives.

Modersohn – Becker

The other notable feature of this exhibition is the foregrounding of children and parenting, something largely, maybe completely absent from the men’s work for guessable reasons. I may be wrong, but I don’t think the view of a child sucking vigorously on an exposed titty in close-up has been done that often in western art. Maybe Hogarth, a drunken crone with a child at breast (from the back), prior to dropping the baby down a flight of stone steps; or a Dutch pub interior from the previous century,,,

Ottilie Reylaender I believe; this painting was drawing a whole lot of attention when I attended some weeks ago. Based on overheard comments, there seemed to be three reasons for this. First, the quality of the portrait – it’s just great, isn’t it? Her expression – is she cold, shy, timid, or just pensive and withdrawn? Or a mixture of all these… She seems from her grip on the chair arms and her raised shoulders to be quite tense, ready to jump up and escape.

Secondly, there is the frontal gaze, facing directly out at the viewer; unusual.

Lastly, a contemporary issue; would the picture even be on show in a London gallery if it was the work of a male artist? That was the first thought that occurred to me and,it seemed, to most other viewers who commented to friends or partners while I was there.

A touch of Ensor here, maybe? And also of that one in the National Portrait Gallery (or is it now in the NG?) of the Elizabethan women holding the identical babies with different coloured eyes. May be the colours, may mbe the simplicity, but it brought Milton Avery to mind too,

Portrait of Kandinsky by Munter? Looks rather like a Shakespearean character to me, touch of Hamlet (too old) or Falstaff (far too thin)…

Three works by Kathe Kollwitz. I love her drawing, the muscular bodies, the strong contrasts – just the power really. But I find the constant agonizing, the mannerism, the high tragedy a bit too rich for my tastes – which are admittedly shallow and superficial and fickle.

Those bulging knees remind me rather of Jenny Savile. Her drawing I mean, of course,

Two of my latest to finish, as always:

Night Comer 1

Night Comer 2


December 29th 2022

Happy New Year to all readers for whom it is New Year

Blackpaint 709 – Roughly Precise: William Talks to Himself

December 2, 2022

At the Royal Academy Ends on December 11th so hurry.

I’ve seen this four times already and even yesterday, I found things in the animations that were new to me. I’ve been with three different sets of people and all of them thought it was great, some of us best we could remember. For me, he’s a bit like Sigmar Polke, in the sense that there’s so much different stuff it’s hard for a blogger to get a handle on it. Best maybe to put down my diary entry for 27th October, (!)which was the date of my first visit.

“Kentridge exhibition – huge, astounding in many ways; one of the best I’ve ever seen. First, his drawing – charcoal, pencil, ink on paper (often – usually – book pages) – superficially rough, graphic, cartoonish of course, because they end up as animations. Sometimes they blossom into Old Masterly precision when required (no, this is wrong – they are always precise even when they’re rough. They’re roughly precise.. Erasures, smears, patches of white (his shirts for instance, part of his uniform).

His repeated inmages – I suppose they’re memes – coffee pots (cf Roy Oxlade), the electrified cat, the compasses/tripods with the megaphone heads, the ancient typewriter the guns, the bent humans with bundle of sticks instead of a head; waterfalls, trees, cryptic slogans – and small and not so small perfect self -portraits of the portly Kentridge, thoughtfully pacing back and forth, for example in the pages of a book in Portuguese, hands in pockets – PERFECT.”

An early drawing – Beckmann, maybe, a wee bit?

Dada – ish sculptures

Pacing in the Portuguese book

The Falls

Soho Eckstein adresses the masses

Kentridge has his characters, maybe avatars, Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitelbaum, one a bullying entrepreneur the other an artist. Eckstein in his boxy suit with the picket fence stripes, the fat cigar, the fierce, hate-filled screaming. often through a megaphone at the African trade unionists, also suited, raw boned, screaming back at him through megaphones of their own, in his stunning, crudely perfect animations. Eckstein is often a lonely, pathetic, almost sympathetic presence – naked in the shower, or dreaming of his wife in one startlingly explicit erotic sequence.

It seems – I read somewhere – that some critics felt that there was an element of anti-semitism in Kentridge’s portrayal of Eckstein. Can’t see that myself; anti – bullying capitalist boor maybe. Kentridge is Jewish himself, but i’t’s more than that – Eckstein is bad but human, Kentridge is too complex and humane to simplify people into stereotypes.

Then there’s his “Notes towards an Opera”; portrayed on a series of giant screens, the music is mainly a slightly distorted singing of the Internationale, with black woman ballerina dressed as a freedom fighter, stick fighters, a suited man miming fighting against a gale, interspersed with photos of Commune dead, famine victims, riots and demos, May 68, Chinese victims of the Cultural Revolution, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and much more. I think the flag waver in this picture is a man by the way, despite the skirt.

Kentridge interviews himself. He bullies, misinterprets, contradicts and pours scorn upon his art and creative method. Very funny, I thought and quite uncanny how he manages to keep his shirt(s) immaculate whilst drawing with charcoal and spreading it about with an electric drill, before blowing off the surplus dust….

I’ve much more to say, but I want to publish, so will finish with one of my own and resume Kentridge next time, along with “Making Modernism”, also at the RA currently.

End of the Rainbow


December 2nd 2022

Blackpaint 708 – Cezanne at Tate Modern

November 28, 2022

Tate Modern until 12th March 2023

Briefly – loved the apples and all the other fruit; the rock formations; some of the Mont St.Victoires and the people with clothes on. However, I don’t think he’s all that good at renditions of the human body. A selection follows:

Great stuff – sketch I’m guessing (didn’t do proper research of course) but it’s all there, if a little pallid…

Really? Arm too long, legs too short, very dodgy right shoulder – but whose idea was it to put it in that frame?

That’s more like it! Rich colour – love that grey – great brooding feel; it’s strong enough to withstand the grip of that huge,suffocating frame.

You can see what I mean about the clothes; they hide the strangenesses of Cezanne’s bodies. I like the picket fence skirt. Others have pointed out the mask-like face..

I find this the picture that is least like Cezanne in the exhibition; the paint is thicker, glossier – the surface more varnished than normal. I imagine it’s early – none the worse for all that, however.

My pictures to finish as always:

Night Comer 1

Night Comer 2



Blackpaint 707 – Branch Line

October 15, 2022

Room 20 at Tate Britain contains an exhibition called “Sixty Years; An Unfinished Conversation”. At first, I assumed it was to do with Black History Month; the first few pictures, photos and films I looked at were the work of artists with an Afro – Caribbean heritage. Then I saw there were others with a South Asian background and then a huge and familiar painting by RB Kitaj (see below).

This puzzled me, so I looked for an explanation in the info on the walls – got no help there, probably looked in the wrong places. Did the usual, photographed the ones that struck me and evenyually looked it up online at home. It turns out that its to do with diasporas (diasporae?) and is related to the work done by Stuart Hall on this theme. it seeks to demonstrate that artists of given heritages interact and are not (or should not be) trapped, as it were, into fixed, “approved” frameworks. I’m thinking of Frank Bowling and Winston Branch, for example, bucking the notion that abstraction somehow is not “appropriate” for a black artist – that it avoids confrontation with injustice, does not contribute to “the struggle”. OK, I’m probably putting this really badly, so here are some pictures with superficial comments, much safer ground for me.

Claudette Johnson – Standing Figure with African Masks.

Love her sardonic expression. Obvious comment on Picasso and the European fetish for “Primitive Art” (masks etc.) What’s that thing like a black rubber dart the wrong way round, hanging from the single breast of the figure facing her?

Faisal Abdu’Allah – I Wanna Kill Sam Cause He Aint My Mother Fuckin’ Uncle

I was interested to know if these were real gang members posing as themselves or possibly models, posed by Abdu’Allah. The title implies they are American; I think all the others were created or photographed in the UK?

This great photo is by James Barnor. Mike Eghan at Picadilly Circus, London (1967).

It reminds me so much of the photos by William Caxton of American jazz musicians, reproduced in “Jazz Life”, one of those massive Taschen tomes, published some years ago. There’s another photo of Eghan, where he seems to be in a recording or broadcasting studio.

Sonia Boyce, Missionary Position 11 – Love the title…. Ghost of me taking photo on the glass, I’m afraid. Who is the missionary here? Red dress on the right, I guess…

Michael Armitage, Day of Judgement – There’s a riot going on. This picture is massive: I walked back into the wall behind, trying to get it all in.

RB Kitaj, The Wedding (1989 – 93) That’s Hockney, partially obscured by Kitaj, the figure wearing the yarmulka.

Winston Branch, Zachary 11 (1982) – I took my pathetic title from this painting, which is my particular favourite of the paintings in the show. In this month’s Tate Etc. magazine, Rianna Jade Parker says this about it: “…a painting which embodies a move in his practice from figuration towards “an abstraction inspired by nature” ” : I’d say he’d got there.

A free show and a good one, not to be missed.

Art Now: Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings: “Tulips” until January 2023

Also at Tate Britain is this show of six fresco paintings and a drawing. To quote the artists in Tate Etc., “Fresco is the practice of painting with pigment mixed with water onto freshly laid lime plaster…-as we do it – on wooden panels.” It’s “horribly difficult” because of the speed required and “hideously technical”.

The subject matter is the continual struggle over public space in British cities between the authoritarian forces of order (symbolised by tulips, orderly and upstanding in their traditional beds in public parks and gardens) and the unregimented ranks of Joe Public, in his more or less respectable forms.

Below, some examples: didn’t note the titles, I’m afraid.

That little timbered building looks a lot like the one in Soho Square. Probably not…

Some of mine to end with. They should be in an exhibition called “Light” in Sprout Gallery in November.

Blackpaint 706 – Emin, Locke and Avery and Me

September 20, 2022

A long, long time since last blog, during which time I’ve felt unable to write anything of interest. It may be that I’m right to feel that way, but I’m going to give it another go – what’s the harm? Consequently, the shows I mention have been on for some time, so you may well have seen them already. So – sorry! and thanks for reading, if you do.

RA Summer Show – it finished in August, sorry

I breezed through this weeks ago – it was so rammed with people I was unable to take much note of the pieces. My favourites among those I did notice were these two

Flowery People (didn’t get artist unfortunately)

Reminder of Jeff Koons’ giant flowery cat outside the Guggenheim Bilbao and perhaps more closely of those Thames Day events Ken Livingstone used to put on on the South Bank some years (decades?) ago. There was always a presence or two like this prancing around…..

Tracey Emin

Despite the scorn Tracey seems to engender in the life drawing customers at Putney School of Art and no doubt in other similar classes, I really like her ongoing series of blood drenched, crawling, writhing female figures, done in those broken, scrawly lines. Remind me a bit of Roy Oxlade, stylistically.

Hew Locke at Tate Britain

Locke’s dark carnival parade is a stupendous achievement, when you consider the range of skills required to put it all together; carpentry, tailoring, sculpture (notably cardboard) , costumery – couldn’t have done it all himself, surely. But even if he “just” conceived and designed it and had a bunch of assistants to do the specialised work – it’s still pretty good. I think there’s a video in the display which explains all. I didn’t watch it so I don’t know. Very bad for a blogger, I agree – go and see for yourselves, before 16th October, when it comes down.

Milton Avery – American Colourist, at the RA until 16th October 2022

The paper leaflet that accompanies the exhibition points to Avery’s friendship with Abstract Expressionists, notably Mark Rothko, Gottlieb and Barnett Newman. It says “Through his association with key exponents of Abstract Expressionism, Avery’s early paintings played an influential role in how the movement developed and unfolded.”

This seems to me to be a very large claim, for which there is little evidence in this exhibition. A couple of beach scenes, simplified into lines of colour vaguely suggest Rothko; the brownish (rather depressing) reds he sometimes uses find echoes in Barnett Newman’s Zips – but beyond that, I can’t see a connection.

The bright red hat on the maroon background and the way the figures are grouped vaguely suggest Sickert, a little – maybe?

Cartoon-y girl; love the way her foot’s tucked awkwardly underneath her – and her little head and brown face.

Surely that’s Max Beckmann at the head of the table – looks like him to me anyway…

Self portrait with red ears (obviously).


Oystercatcher – maybe American ones are slightly different.

I like this one – it reminds me very strongly of similar paintings by Malevich at a particular point in his work.

Another cartoonish one – the cone shaped figure, the black sea, red/brown sand – striking.

Cartoon from Private Eye some weeks ago

Sums it up – see the Hogarth exhibition reviewed a couple of blogs ago.

Figure Studies

To finish, some works I sold at my last exhibition “Figure Studies”, at the Sprout Gallery Furzedown , South London. I sold better than ever before – and, as always, felt sort of flat and empty afterwards.

Eco Worrier

Ghost of Autumn

The World Turned Upside Down 1

Red Recliner


20th September 2022