Blackpaint 159

Chelsea Degree Show (cont.)

A couple of items I missed yesterday that have floated back into my mind – again, all from memory, so apologies for any errors:

  • A whole wall filled with samples of knitting work, showing variations in style of ..well, knitting stitches (is that right term?)
  • A number of line drawings based, I think, on “The Joy of Sex”, that instruction book from the 70’s by Alex Comfort.  They were executed on paintings and photographs of paintings.
  • Curved blocks of wood, highly coloured – bright blue, I think – shaped like big cheese wheels and fitted around steps.

Depicting the Dead

Following on from Sally Mann’s photographs of corpses, more on the depiction of death, occasioned by the BP Portrait Prize being awarded to Daphne Todd for Last Portrait of Mother.  Todd’s mother is lying dead, aged 100, mouth gaping, against a big, lush, white bolster pillow and sheets.

I think it must have been done at home, since it’s executed in a Spencer/Freud style, which would have taken some time.  I can’ t imagine a hospital suspending the routines for a painting to be done – maybe a hospice?  Maybe she did it from sketches and memory or photos, or perhaps it was done at the deathbed; if so, how long did it take?

A couple of other things occurred to me; I wondered how the judges felt.  How do you compare someone who has entered a picture of their dead mother with someone who has entered their postman?  On pure merit, I suppose; it looks (in the Guardian photograph) to be a very good picture.

I also wondered whether it’s easier to paint the face of a corpse than that of a living person, in the sense that the emotions have gone; there’s no sparkle in the eye, as it were.

Finally, there is the fact that paint tends to “glamorise” ; paint, oil paint in particular, has sensuous qualities that are pleasing in themselves and can’t help but add that attractiveness to the least glamorous material.

Damien Hirst

The other death picture I saw this week was at Tate Britain; that photograph of a young Damien crouching and mugging next to the bloated features of a decapitated man’s face (presumably taken in a mortuary somewhere).

I used to find this picture ugly, callous and grotesque; I still do, but I think maybe Hirst is justified.  He is showing a fitting mindset for an artist – unsentimental, irreverent, objective.  you can’t avoid thinking, “Grin on, mate, that’ll be you some day with your head in a basket and some prat making fun of you”.  It won’t be, probably, as Hirst is rich enough to avoid dissection – but all the same,   “As you are now, so once were we”, as Christy says.

So it’s still disgusting, but it is art.



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