Archive for September, 2010

Blackpaint 200

September 27, 2010

Gerhard Hoehme

Fantastic painting, ” the Wild Blue Picture”,  in “Action Painting – Jackson Pollock” (Hatje Cantz).  Also a number of grey and/or cream collages involving pins and wires or threads wound round them, sometimes multi-coloured.  Have a look – more interesting than I’ve made them sound.  Hoehme, like Sam Francis and  Joseph Beuys, was a flier in WWII – he died in 1989.

Huang Yong Ping

Wrote about Huang’s work in last blog, but knew nothing about him (didn’t stop me writing, of course).  He left China in 1989 and has since lived in Paris.  I should havr included him in my list of artists who use strange materials (see Blackpaint 162) – he has used live snakes and scorpions and stuffed bats.  Had a show in UK at Curve in 2009; it commented on Anglo-Chinese history, mainly Palmerston and the Opium Wars.

Next example of artists whose work can be linked in a totally dubious way – (although I think this comparison is actually quite fair)

 Cecily Brown and Elizabeth Neel.  Have a look at their work on Google.  I think Neel’s is actually more abstract;  Brown tends to conceal bodies – often naked and engaged in sex – in a mass of foliage or swarming brush strokes.  They have a link through Bacon; neither resemble Bacon in style, but they both have used his scenarios and motifs. 


Since there is a “blockbuster” exhibition about to start, I thought I would get in early by mentioning “The Vision after the Sermon (Jacob and the Angel)” 1888.  It’s at the NG of Scotland in Edinburgh and I’ve probably written about it in an earlier blog.  That red against the white of the women’s caps… The women are watching the fight, but in their imaginations, of course.  To my eyes, its a totally atypical Gauguin and I would never have recognised it as such, without being told.


Whilst I’m in Edinburgh, mentally that is, I should refer to Seurat’s “la  Luzerne, Saint Denis”; recently, I realised that I had used the phrase “positively seethes” twice in quick succession, when referring to surfaces.  If I were still using the phrase, I would use it here.  Seurat’s field of alfalfa and poppies appears to be alive with worms of colour, red, yellow, green and blue.

Japan and China

Two works to mention, just because they are staggeringly beautiful and very old.  The first is Japanese, “The Tale of Genji”, sea(?) green and light brown on paper with a pattern of heads like abstract black clocks, by an unknown artist from 1130.  The Chinese one is by the Emperor Song Huizong, from 1112; it is entitled “Auspicious Cranes”.  Again, ink and colour, this time on silk, light brown mist(?) rises around the palace gateway and against the grey-blue sky, 2o cranes, black and white, circle or perch.  Both of these works are in the Phaidon “30,ooo years of art”.

No Name as yet – Blackpaint





Blackpaint 199

September 26, 2010

Giotto again

“The Renunciation of Possessions”, one of the St.Francis frescos in San Francesco, Assisi – Francis with a dubious looking bishop holding up a towel(?) around Francis’ midriff.  Francis’ father, like an assistant in a clothes shop, trousers over his arm, looks on.  God’s hand poking down through the sky; quaint angles of columns, steps and canopies on the buildings – or bits of buildings – nearby.

“Judas’ Betrayal” – Judas receiving his bag of gold, with a bearded, completely black devil peering over his shoulder.  Two bystanders discuss Judas, one pointing over his shoulder at Judas, as if to say, “Who is his mate?”

Vasari’s “perfect circle” story; Giotto proves his artistic prowess to the pope’s representative by drawing a perfect circle in one movement, but moving only his wrist, not the whole arm; quoted in the Penguin Book of Art.  I think Giotto was certainly in the genius zone, but for his use of colour and for his compositions and emotional power.  The idea of him as some sort of master of drawing technique, or “magic hand” may be true, but is misleading.  that’s more Michelangelo, somehow.

Sam Francis

been looking at his stuff from the late 50s, 56 and 58 – usually called “Untitled” irritatingly – so like some of Joan Mitchell’s stuff (again, who first, Joan or Sam?) – the flaring colour lozenges, the dribbling paint lines, the spatters… except that Francis uses those vivid blues and orangy reds.  Hold on – back to Giotto again! Actually, not really, Francis’  blue is more like a Klein blue than Giotto’s greenish one.

Huang Yong Ping

“The History of Chinese Art …. after two Minutes in the Washing Machine”.  done in 1987, this is a pile of pulped paper in a trunk, with sheets of glass and Chinese writing on the lid.  The pulp is the remainder of two books, “The History of Chinese Art” and “A Concise History of Modern Art”.  Dada of course, but impressive in the context of China in 1987.  Needless to say, his work is censored in galleries and shows at home.  Wonder how he is doing – must look him up on Wiki.

Nicolas de Stael

No apologies for writing yet again about this great painter.  “Countryside” – yellows, oranges, reds, brown, cream, in scraped ingots with roughened and sometimes blackened borders.  Beautiful, abstract work.

Second to Last Judgement (WIP) by Blackpaint


Blackpaint 198

September 24, 2010


I’m looking at the Anne Mueller von der Haegen book on G. in the “Masters of Italian Art” series – those reds and blues are just beautiful.  The blue has a touch of green showing through and the reds are actually more dark orange, shading down to raw sienna almost.  The Last Judgement fresco in the Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua strikes me as the best today – tomorrow it’ll be a different one.  On the right,  a fat blue devil stuffs the damned into his mouth as they cascade down to him as if washed there by rivers of blood and fire.  Here and there, men and women dangle naked from gallows in various recesses of hell, two upside-down and facing each other, as if having a conversation.  Another is horizontal on a turning spit.

Opposite, beneath an assembly of saints and martyrs, little, squat, bewildered people are rising naked from the ground or their tombs, as if from trunks.  they turn reverently, arms raised in supplication.

way up, on either side of the window, armoured angels clutch the edges of a red scroll, very much like giant sticks of rock.  Staggering, beautiful, weird; I will certainly be returning to these pictures again and again.


By way of contrast, I visited the church at Chaldon (1086), near Coulsdon in Surrey, to see that mural again (see Blackpaint 44).  Dark red/purple background, white figures that I suppose may once have been painted, and those strange, huge, big -eyed, three – toed demons that Eric Von Daniken would certainly have selected for his “Was God a Spaceman?” books, back in the 70’s, 80’s or whenever it was.

Tate Britain rehangs

That fantastic St. Ives room at the above – with the red and black Hilton, the black and white sand Blow, the Lanyons – green and blue water pulsing through them – the black Scott and the penis salt pots, the exploding black octopus Alan Davies, the lime green yellow Heron with the ingots showing through – all great, but they’ve been there over a year (except for the Bryan Wynter that was changed so that “Riverbed” could go to St.Ives). 

Why don’t they change a couple of the paintings every 2 or 3 weeks?  They must have several by each artist, maybe dozens.  Surely it can’t be too much work to change a few paintings regularly – where do they keep them; down below in the cellar?  Come on, more paintings by the same people, give the collections a proper workout and let the people see them.  Same goes for Tate Modern, and for all I know, for National Gallery too.  If there are problems with this, I would love to hear them.

Well done by the way; great paintings, free of charge – but let’s see more!

Basquiat (see Blackpaint 46 and 70)

I think Robert Hughes really screwed up badly by misjudging this artist as a lightweight, who only made it because he was black and in the right place, etc.  Lovely sense of colour and design, great drama, the words, the structures and textures; they are colour bombs, remind me of Miro Spain posters and Appel, a bit.  Not as “good” (rich, complex, sustaining) as either, but way up there nevertheless.

Hereward again – Blackpaint



Blackpaint 197

September 21, 2010

Michelangelo and the Sistine Ceiling

The more I read about this, the more incredible M’s achievement seems to me.  I saw Tim Marlow on TV the other day asserting that he had assistants and to have completed the task without help in four years does seem a tall order (cliche – what’s that from?).  Ross King, who has written a book on this, “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling”, asserts he had up to a dozen helpers, doing painting as well as plastering and labouring and that signs of their brushwork can be discerned throughout.  I haven’t read the book yet, so I don’t know what evidence he offers.

He does say, however, that after the first section (Noah and the Flood, presumably), he increasingly tended to do the work himself .  Other works, the Taschen by Gilles Neret for example, say that helpers did no more than plastering and fetching and carrying, and that he did all the painting himself.  What makes the job even more staggering is that he knew nothing about fresco painting when he started, thinking of himself as a sculptor rather than a painter.

The Flood

Some strange things going on in the Flood, which are not in Genesis: a woman in a boatful of survivors is about to clobber a man with a stump of wood.  It looks as if he has just hauled himself aboard, still having one foot in the water, maybe overloading the boat – or another mouth to feed.  A bit of artistic licence, presumably, bit of violence to sex things up; but similar things going on on the Ark too.  A young man, one of Noah’s sons, is about to hack at a man with an axe; the victim is being assisted onto the boat by another son, as the attack looms.  Elsewhere on the Ark, another son helps another survivor.  I don’t remember any survivors, other than Noah’s family – maybe they died, or were chucked back overboard.

Alphabetical Juxtapositions (see Blackpaint 190)

Again, from the Phaidon Art Book, Richard Hamilton and Hammershoi.  On the left page, Hamilton’s famous “Just What is it that Makes Today’s Homes so Different, so Appealing?”  Its yellows and reds, patterns and clutter of artefacts contrast beautifully with Hammershoi’s “Interior with Girl at Clavier” on the opposite page; cool, spare, still greys, whites and browns, echoing the black and white figure of the past in the wall photograph in Hamilton’s work.

Then there is the Hepworth and the Heron.  Barbara Hepworth’s polished form in guaraca wood, like a head with huge eyes, echoed in Heron’s coloured shapes in “Fourteen Discs”.  Not a surprise, I suppose, given their period and place; but I’d never noticed the similarity before.


Tried to keep politics out so as not to offend any readers, but I am unable not to comment on the insufferable little prick of a Lib Dem MP on TV last night, who kept referring to “Grown Up Politics”, as if anyone not backing the “coalition” (that is, Tory government) is being childish.  Come on, Martin Rowson – time to stop doing clever, dark, ambiguous cartoons of sinister fairgrounds; I want Lib Dem tongues up Tory arses.  Might as well be childish, if we’re not “grown up”.

Spider’s song, take 2



Blackpaint 196

September 21, 2010

Pushed fortime today, but I’ve been in the Tate Modern again, to see the “Chromatic Constructs” or whatever they are called.  Thought it was new, but realised when I got there it was Mary Martin etc., seen it before.  So.. to visit Jorn, Pollock and friends again.

Judit Riegl

“Guano”.  Canvas placed on floor underneath other paintings in progress – creating ripples on surface, which she painted over to create a slate-like consistency.  looks like a lithograph.  Took her 7 years.


Looks dirty and dull close up, but clean and vivid from across room, cf. Appel at St.Ives and so many others.


Jazz dance?  Seemed dead and trite, like 50’s wallpaper.  I think it’s those dodgy, Disney style black dancers, disguised as loops along the canvas.


Always powerful.  I don’t what he called it or said what it was, or was not – it’s always a bridge to me, black iron over misty white marshes.

Joan Mitchell 

The one on show in the Tate is quite an early one, relatively restrained, but its beautifully constructed and complex, even if her fantastic colour sense is reined in.

Viera de Silva

Not a good one; too tame and tricksy, not enough wild surface.

Some new books – new to me, anyway.  A beautiful Cecily Brown, weighing in at £40.00; full of de Kooning -like colours and brushwork, barely concealing obscene goings -on – and many with no concealment at all.

There is a Fiona Rae, £28.00 I believe, in which her palette appears to have become much brighter, rather like Ofili.

Finally, a Hans Hoffman with a whole lot of rather unpleasant green pictures, from around 1960 – it just shows that even a painter of his brilliance can turn out some dull stuff. 


I’ve started to mix a bit of white spirit in with the oil now and then, so that I can get areas of relatively uniform staining onto the canvas; now, not everything has to be slabbed on in thick oil slicks and then dragged into smooth, shiny tiles of paint, usually with white glimmering through in patches – still like that effect, though now there is some textural contrast.  I realise that all this is elementary, but it’s still new to me.

And so, it begins..

David Mitchell, as Cyrano de Bergerac, said this to camera in a Mitchell and Webb sketch the other week and it popped up last night in “The Year of Living Dangerously”; is this its original source?


Spider’s song by Blackpaint

Listening to “North to Alaska”, Dwight Yoakam out of Johnnie Horton;

“Where the river is winding, big nuggets they’re finding,

North! To Alaska,

We’re going north, the rush is on!”


Blackpaint 195

September 18, 2010

Rachel Whiteread

At the Tate Britain, only a fiver.  These are mainly drawings and were described as “unnerving” in one of the weekend broadsheets, the Telegraph I think; who do they get to write this stuff?  A hooded figure coming towards you in an alley with a knife is unnerving – a picture of a light green door on slightly darker graph paper is not.

Many of the drawings are on graph paper (see Blackpaint 194); sometimes Whiteread has used the grids to plot the drawings, sometimes she’s ignored them and drawn freehand.  The first section shows tables and chairs; executed in caramel coloured varnish which has run at the edges.  According to the leaflet, “thick drops of condensed varnish recall bodily fluids and emanate a visceral materiality”.  If the writer were discussing the beds and mattresses section, fair enough; in fact, there is a stain on the biscuit-shaped mattress which definitely recalls bodily fluids – but tables?


She broadens the media used – pencil, oil crayon, correction fluid, ink  and varnish.  Interlocking parquet floors, a bit monochrome Sean Scully, uneven, wobbly, one in black with tippex, a couple of white ones.  The black one looks like a snakeskin.

Beds and Mattresses

The drawing described by Laura Cumming as like a Tuc biscuit, this is the one with the stain.  Could be tea, I suppose, rather than “bodily fluid”.

Baths and Slabs

I have a note, mysteriously titled “Lib and Hole”(??) which says “ink on card – a proper drawing!  coffin shaped.”  By “proper drawing”, I mean one with shading to indicate depth and volume – not being dismissive, it’s just that the others have none.  I think this must be in this section, because the leaflet refers to the cast of a mortuary slab.

House, Room, Stairs

Photographs of the site of Whiteread’s “ghost house”, with the house blocked in in white.  A drawing in Tippex on black paper of a flight of steps, endlessly ascending and descending.

Doors, Windows, Switches

The door, which does not look like an exclamation mark (see 194), and “Twenty four Switches Both on and off”, in silver leaf and ink.  The switches are only really visible from the sides, when the light catches them.

There are various drawings of and from Whiteread’s other sculptural projects, the Holocaust memorial (some bright, sharp reds and yellows here surprisingly), the Water Tower and Plinth; the section Torso and Heads, which are picked out in circles of raised white on white paper, like long, embossed worms. 

That’s about it, apart from a vitrine containing her collection of stimulus articles, spoons, shoes, wooden feet (lasts, presumably) bone- like bits of wood or wood-like bits of bone, skulls, a toy taxi.. cuddly toy..

Unlike Cumming, I think that her brilliant sculptures are her real contribution and this material is arid on its own.  It’s the sort of stuff that you would get to back up an exhibition of sculpture which, because of  the nature of the work she does, would be impossible to mount.  Laura Cumming, the booklet, and whoever called this work “unnerving” are massively overstating the case.


Upstairs in the Romantics exhibition, looked into that room with all his airy, foggy, shimmering, light suffused canvases done in the 1830’s and 40’s, contrasting with the immense, ornate set pieces he did in more formal mode – I pictured the Academicians in their top  hats and waistcoats and wondered just what they made of them back then.  They may even have been genuinely unnerving – although I imagine incomprehension would be more likely. There were people looking at them yesterday and shaking their heads in bafflement, before fleeing to the reassuring history paintings like the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Beanfield by Blackpaint



Blackpaint 194

September 15, 2010

Art of World War 2

Just seen this programme on BBC2 and very apposite to the Deller exhibit it was.  In the discussion of the work of Graham Sutherland, known before the war as a landscape artist, was the observation that, in Sutherland’s pictures of the blitzed East End streets, the twisted machinery of bombed factories,  lift shafts etc., the tortured machinery stood in for the dead bodies, wounded and homeless that Sutherland couldn’t bring himself to sketch, while they were there before him.  Isn’t this exactly what Deller’s car is doing – standing in for the dead, dismembered and dying?  Sutherland’s work is unquestionably art, though; you can make artistic critical comments about it, whereas you can’t really about the Deller car.  If the Deller car is art, so are other exhibits in other places that are also historical evidence representing murdered individuals; no need to be specific in a trivial conjecture about the nature of art.

Leonard Rosoman

Whilst at the War Museum, had to go up and see the paintings and was struck once again by the beauty of two paintings,  both by the above.  I think I’ve mentioned them before – one is of a radar installation, the other of an aeroplane with wings folded, in the early morning sun.  They both have a great stillness, like a Sutherland, and the most beautiful rose colour, with orange touches I seem to recall (may be wrong on this).  Rosoman was a fireman in the Blitz and did that famous painting of the wall collapsing on the two firemen.

In fact, several of the painters look like Sutherland at that time, although very different later; I’m thinking of Keith Vaughan, John Piper and perhaps, Robert Colquhoun.  A really strong Bomberg, called “Bomb store”, in his usual rich, smouldering bronzes, reds and browns, resembles Sutherland’s Welsh landscape with skull in the Tate Britain – but then, it looks more like his own landscapes!  I’d be interested to know who was “being influenced” by whom.

Some great John Pipers, showing bunkers and air control rooms; these were featured on the BBC2 prog as well.  I have to say that Piper had one of the most striking faces I’ve ever seen – almost an inverted triangle, thin, almost skull-like, and with a fierce gaze.

Elizabeth Neel again

All this stuff about the Deller car and war art has made me feel a little bit guilty about being an abstract artist and doing paintings about paint – especially, as someone on a comedy show on TV last night said about the Abstract Expressionists, “letting the paint do all the work”.  Looking at Neel’s stuff again reminded me that I don’t have the slightest need to know what a painting is based on, what it’s “about”, to derive a real, sharp pleasure from it. 

I can only compare the experience of seeing a great abstract painting to  hearing THAT music for  the first time;  in my case, Little Richard singing (screaming!) “The Girl Can’t Help it” and then  later on, the Beatles doing “Please Please Me”,  Big Joe Williams doing “Baby Please Don’t Go”.  It’s raw, viscerally exciting, makes you want to get up and jump around the room, doesn’t matter what the words are,  it’s the sound (just had a deja vu – have I written all this before?  Oh well…)

That feeling compares  to seeing de Kooning’s Palisades or Joan  Mitchell’s stuff or Hans Hoffman’s – too old and self-conscious to jump around the room, but the feeling is there.  This is the real stuff, the guts of art – the rest, political commitment, symbolism, ideas, all that,  is just froth on the daydream.  For me, of course – might be different for you.

Usher’s Well by Blackpaint



Blackpaint 193

September 14, 2010

Jeremy Deller

Article on above’s new work  by Jonathan Jones in today’s Guardian.  It consists of the hulk of a private vehicle, blown up in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad in 2007.  Deller acquired it and it is now on display at the Imperial War Museum.  Jones approving article compares it favourably with Mark Wallinger’s display of Brian Haw’s anti-war stuff in the Tate Britain a while ago; Wallinger’s exhibit, says Jones, was home-grown, concerned with domestic attitudes to the Iraq war, civil liberties here – Deller’s work brings the war directly to us, it’s “not rhetoric, but reportage”, it’s up to the punter to interpret. 

There’s something unsaid here,  surely.  The sense in which Deller is being an artist here is the same sense in which he is a reporter; he chooses.  He could have chosen some other example of destruction, a damaged British or American armoured vehicle or articles of bloodied uniform or equipment (no doubt, there are practical reasons that might have prevented that, but I make the point for the sake of the argument); that would have sent a different message.  Reportage can sometimes do the job of rhetoric, but it claims to be The Truth. 

Jones is, clearly, perfectly aware of this and says, “Anyone is entitled to interpret what it means”;  he’s not primarily concerned with possibilities of bias, but with the nature of “war art” – its immediacy or otherwise. 

My main point is to question whether this is art.  I have no problem with the concept of ready -mades, but by displaying the vehicle in the Imperial War Museum, he gives it the status of a historical document, not a work of art (unless it was up in the gallery bit, with the Orpens and Nashes – but Jones says it’s in the main hall).   Down on the ground floor, with the Tiger tanks and T34’s and mini – subs, it’s another interesting historical document.  Indeed, that is how Jones describes it – “A historical document, dragged from hell..”.  You could argue it’s different,  because the rest of the stuff is in pristine condition, showing little or no sign of violence – it’s still documentary, though.

Take Fiona Banner’s warplanes in Tate Britain.  She has decorated them and chosen how to display them, but had she not, they would still be works of art, to be judged as such, by virtue of being displayed in an art gallery.  Context is everything.

Then again,  it can be given context, separated  from the “historical documents”, by a plaque with a title, “Baghdad, 5th March 2007” and Deller’s name, as artist.  That would make it a work of art, because it would tell the public that’s what it is, or what is intended.  I’m going up to the museum today, to see if that’s what’s been done.

I’ve visited the museum; the exhibit is right at the front of the hall.  There is a folder of photographs from Baghdad, centreing on the bombing that smashed the car, but with no pictures of bodies, blood or body parts, or injured people in distress.  There is some background history to the Iraq war and of the booksellers’ district where the bombing happened. It’s described as a display, I think, although that might refer to a number of videos under Deller’s name, relating to the war, which I didn’t see.  The exhibit is at no time referred to as art.  It’s clearly NOT art: it’s reportage, as Jones says, with some interesting contextual background.  There IS an interesting contrast with the brightly painted and polished guns and tanks around it.

I referred to the car as being “smashed”; actually, it is more crushed as in a compacter – except that it is a uniform rusty orange/brown and looks as if it may crumble to the touch, like a brick of burnt paper.  I didn’t experience the visceral, horrified reaction that  Jones describes – I think photographs might have done more to convey the horror.


14th September 2010


Blackpaint 192

September 13, 2010

Rachel Cooke on Ed Ruscha

Rachel Cooke seems to be pioneering a new form (or rediscovering an old form) of art criticism.  Some time ago, she referred to the artist Conrad Shawcross as “adorable”;  in the Observer yesterday, she writes about Ruscha in the following terms: “at 72, Ruscha .. is a devastatingly attractive man …. He has a gravelly voice – the kind that invites you both to move your head closer to his and to keep your eyes firmly on his lips ….  The luxuriant grey hair, the flinty eyes, the soft blue shirt… sitting with him is like sitting with an old-school American movie star…” 

 Actually, to be fair, it’s billed as an interview – but  I can’t help thinking a male reporter on the Observer wouldn’t get away with this stuff any more, if he was interviewing a woman artist.  Or maybe he would if she was 72 – is that it?  You can drool on about their physical attractions as long as they’re old; they’ll probably be pleased, rather than annoyed at being patronised.

Later in the article, she makes some reference to his art and his “trademark” use of words: “Ruscha used words as linguistic readymades; he painted them not because he liked what they meant, but because he liked the way they looked..”  This is an intriguing idea, but I think it can only work fully if the words are in a foreign language, better still a foreign alphabet.  I’m thinking of Malevich, Goncharova, was it, Rodchenko, who put Russian words or letters in their paintings sometimes, which work purely visually for non – Russian speakers.  when Ruscha paints “Standard” or “Boss”, you can’t  – or its really difficult to – look at it just as shapes or colours.  Interesting idea, though and I suppose it doesn’t matter if you can’t carry it through completely.

Rachel Whiteread drawings

This is reviewed in the Observer as well, by Laura Cumming.  It’s not an interview, so we don’t find out how attractive Whiteread is, or what she is wearing, but we do get a pretty good idea of what the drawings look like and what Cumming thinks of them (good, better than the sculptures, which labour the “one big idea”).  And she’s right; the “Untitled (Double Mattress Yellow)” does look “like a stale yellow cracker flat on its back, its buttons forming Tuc biscuit holes”. 

I wonder what the attraction is with graph paper?  I was writing about Eva Hesse at Tate St. Ives last week and now here are several more drawings on graph paper in a major exhibition.  Ready- made background, handy for straight lines, cheap, giving an air of spontaneity… Cumming says “the images mutiny” against it, stand out  better – a door “looks as abrupt as the exclamation mark it strangely resembles”.  Doesn’t to me, but I’m going by the photograph in the paper; maybe it does from across the room.  Find out when I go.

Elizabeth Neel

I’ve been looking again at “New Abstraction”, the Phaidon book by Bob Nickas  (it’s orange with a big white circle on the front – buy it).   This artist’s stuff is highly uplifting.  She does paintings that look like AbExes, but teeter on the edge, really; they’re full of thick, mud colours, scrawls and swirls, scratches and squirts and dribbles, blood smears, hanging flesh, glimpses of human forms.  She looks for photographs and images on the Net, of  “accidents, violence, decay” (sounds like Bacon).  Fantastic paintings – google her and you’ll see.  She’s Alice Neel’s granddaughter.

Skinningrove by Blackpaint


Blackpaint 191

September 11, 2010


You know that feeling you get when you take a clean towel into the shower and when you step out dripping and bury your face in it, you find it smells of onions because you put it on the line when next door was cooking?  That’s how I feel when I finish a painting at night, think it’s OK and then look at it in the dull light of day.

I’m a bit worried about the lack of theory in my painting; it seems to be purely instinctive, a sort of physical process in which colours and marks are chosen by reference to what’s happening on the canvas, not some overall plan.  It could be that I’m an overgrown child, wallowing around in a paintbox, making a mess.  Its all meaningless decoration, maybe, but some (all?) paintings draw your eye to them by their physical properties, marks, texture, shapes on canvas – that’s meaning enough in itself, perhaps.

All abstract painters are overgrown children, I think; some of them sling the paint around, slap it on wildly, others control their crayons carefully, not going over the lines, tongue poked  out in concentration.  Sort of Joan Mitchell v. Agnes  Martin.

Raphael at the V&A

Wrote about this a couple of blogs ago; I thought you had to pay because a booking number was included in the review, but it’s free – booking advised, expected pressure of numbers.  Everything else I said stands.

Basil Beattie

I remember going to his exhibition at the Tate Britain a few years ago and being bemused by a small number of huge canvases with crudely painted doorways and lozenges on them.  Now, I think he’s great – just looked at his stuff online and it reminds me of Prunella Clough magnified a dozen times; and the older stuff, maybe John Hoyland.  The Tate website reckons he’s a bit like Philip Guston, but I can’t see it. 

These lozenge shapes, like  inverted cakes, they appear over and over in his work – I wonder if he means to put them in, or if he does a canvas and then thinks; “Something missing, here – it needs a bold shape in black, something like this…Oh no, I’ve done that shape again!”  Probably not, because some of his paintings show them piled on top of each other to make “Ziggurats”.  Proper painters probably paint what they mean to paint.

“Positively seethes”

Looking back through blog, I find I have used this twice, or three times, in relation to surfaces of paintings by Gillian Ayres and Leon Kossoff.  One day, I’m going to go through the blog with a fine toothcomb and eliminate  all such cliches.

WIP Blackpaint – smell of onions