Blackpaint 194


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

15.09.10

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