Archive for September, 2010

Blackpaint 190

September 9, 2010

Michelangelo’s Method

Should have checked out Wikipedia before I wrote yesterday’s blog; I was quite wrong, as usual.  He didn’t use cartoons and pricking – he did paint directly onto the wet plaster, with no previously prepared markers.  Sometimes he worked from a small drawing divided into a grid.  Incredible, isn’t it? 

Corneille

His obituary in the Guardian today.  When CoBrA exhibited in Amsterdam in 1948, there were fist fights at poetry readings during the exhibition.  That’s what art should provoke; punters should want to punch the artist for having the effrontery to show such offensive rubbish;  these days, the only reactions are from religious fanatics.. oh, and those who didn’t like the Myra Hindley hands portrait and those who thought photos of unclothed children encouraged paedophiles.. so, yes, people are still prepared  to be provoked – but by the content, rather than the style.

I would welcome a riot at my next private view; pity I can’t afford to pay people to be offended by my paintings.  I bet some artists have done that in the past…

Alphabetical Art Books

I love the way you sometimes get great juxtapositions in these books, purely by alphabetical arrangement.  I’m looking at the Phaidon Art Book now, and I have Leon Kossoff on one page with “Christchurch No.1”, and on the facing page, Peter Kroyer’s  “Summer Evening on the Southern Beach”.  The Kossoff, from 1991, is distorted, crudely painted in his usual dull and dirty palette – “a sort of churned-up, mud-like morass”.  It “deliberately avoids the picturesque”.  It positively seethes with movement.

The Kroyer, from nearly 100 years earlier, is a blue-grey beach stretching into a misty distance towards a headland, with two women in beautiful white dresses progressing slowly along the sea’s edge.  It exudes tranquility,  perhaps melancholy; it positively doesn’t seethe with movement.  What a fantastic contrast of scene, technique, purpose, mood, conception, just about everything – and that fortuitous 100 year gap.  Could make a good art history lesson…

A few pages earlier, Klimt’s “Kiss” faces off Kline and the Kline black square and bar echo the black rectangles in the cloak of Klimt’s man beautifully.  You could go on forever – Turner’s whirling sea “Snowstorm” against Twombly’s “Bolsena”, for example.  Maybe the editors pick the paintings to go with each other.  Anyway, trivial I know, but one can’t concentrate on important things ALL the time.

RIP Corneille – and Anton Geesink, the judo giant who was the first European to take a judo world championship title from the Japanese, in 1964.

Walcheren by Blackpaint

Blackpaint 189

September 8, 2010

Michelangelo

Vasari points out that the figure of Jonah on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is actually leaning backwards, against the direction of the vault on which it is painted, giving the trompe l’oeil effect by means of foreshortening.  Amazing, when you consider the difficulty of painting quickly, onto wet plaster, big drop below from the rickety scaffolding, looking upwards, one hand stretched and working above his head, paint dripping back into his face and eyes.  This is how he sketched himself at work, not lying on his back as in the film.  How could he have done it, without checking it from a distance to make sure the proportions were right?  (imagine, do a leg, down the ladders to check, shit, too short – up again to change it quick before it dries – shit, too late). 

Presumably, he’d sketched it out on paper or linen (?) and pricked it, held against the curve of the vault – couldn’t have done it without pre-prepared sketches, surely.

The St.Ives Artists by Michael Bird, Lund Humphries 2008

Didn’t credit this great book properly the other day, when I repeated the Terry Frost pissing story (Barbara Hepworth rang a little bell when she wanted her labourers to make themselves scarce).  It’s full of other stories about this remarkable wild bunch – Lanyon punching other artists out, trying – allegedly –  to run down Sven Berlin in his car – but is also great on the movement, if it could be so called, in general and its links to the US Ab Exes and European Abstractionists and Tachistes.  My advice is to buy it immediately.  No, I am not Michael Bird, nor do I know him.

Fiona Rae and Ernst Wilhelm Nay 

Latest in “slightly like” series: actually, think I’ve compared FR to someone else before – anyway, check out her “Untitled (yellow with circles I)”; very like many Nays, in her use of sweeps and circles.  Hers look like 45 rpm singles, his are usually painted discs.  Superficial, and hardly worth a mention – but take a look at both on Google, if only to see how wrong I am; that will be worth it.

Black Prints by Blackpaint

Listening to The Welfare Line, by the Highwaymen;

“So pass around the bottle, boys, let’s talk about old times,

Night’s closing in, it’s cold as sin,

Here on the welfare line”.

Blackpaint 188

September 7, 2010

Tate St.Ives – Final word

Went back for a second visit and nothing to add on minimal stuff  or the Lily van der Stokker, but –

Frink

The “Harbinger Bird” is made of plaster – I had assumed wood, light coloured and unsmoothed.

Hoffman

Looking for the famous “push-pull” effect.  Couldn’t get it at all – some bits are obviously on top of others but that’s because you can see the boundary lines or brush marks, not because of some inherent property of the colours.  Not to say it’s not a great painting; especially that  blue colour, which reminds me of powder paints at primary school – some years ago, now.

Sandra Blow

Her “Vivace”, in her own words, was “an attempt to make a gestural work that was not tried and retried…, that happened “immediately””.  Looking through a booklet on her by Mel Gooding, however, I saw she had done another one, almost the same, this time in blue.  Some people can only do so much spontaneity.  Not a criticism, I love her stuff.

Lanyon

Is that a shark approaching from the right?

Tunnard

On second viewing, what struck me was the “technical drawing” aspect – the shapes were a bit like one of those old geometry sets you used to get in flat tin boxes.  Precision has its place, of course, and there are those who admire it for the workmanship, the care, the expertise…  Fuck all that,  I say, get some paint on your brush (or knife, or whatever) and whack it on, give it some stick, roll about on it naked – sorry, back in control again.

Raphael Cartoons

A couple of weeks ago – after Tillmans at Serpentine – went to V&A and looked for the Cartoons; couldn’t  find them.  Now I know why; they form the basis of a special exhibition with four tapestries, I think based on the Cartoons, from the Sistine Chapel, lent by the Vatican “to mark the pope’s visit” (Jonathan Jones in  the Guardian).  So, for the last few years, the punter has been able to see the cartoons for free.  Now, I presume you have to pay (Jones gives a box office number) for the privilege of seeing the eight, was it? plus the four from the Vatican.

I’ve found this quite often with exhibitions in museums and galleries; you pay your money and find that most of the stuff has been on display in the permanent collection for ages.  It disappears and turns up again, with a few extras chucked in.  Shouldn’t moan really; museums and galleries ARE free – probably won’t  be by next week – and you can’t blame them for exploiting a bit of earning potential.  Well, you can of  course and I do. 

I hate that “to mark the pope’s visit”, as well.  A pox on all religions and non-democratic political systems and cultural PR of this sort – remember the Turkish exhibition at the Royal Academy a few years back, that coincided with the discussions about Turkey joining the EU?  Art is politics – and so is religion.  Jones says as much in his last sentence.

And he’s  right about the best of the cartoons, too; The Miraculous Draught of Fishes.

Not a Raphael cartoon, but an old Blackpaint job.

Blackpaint

07.09.10

Blackpaint 187

September 5, 2010

Tate St.Ives, “Grid”

The last part of this exhibition (see Blackpaint 185/6) is the minimalist bit; an area of stillness after the surfacy excitement of “Gesture” (going for Pseud’s Corner here; never know your luck).

De Stael

“Marathon”.  A surprise to find him here; I think his pictures usually fit more with the stuff next door.  Anyway, not a good one, boring for such a giant.  Blacks and greys and beige, a sort of spray of linear marks from the centre – looked like a collage on black felt.

Carl Andre

The zinc and steel plain squares, like a deficient chess board – 36, I think – which you step on accidentally and jump back, then realise you are allowed.

Naum Gabo 

A typical Gabo structure, maybe 2 ft by 2ft, delicate white thread shrouds around a central rectangle.

Mary Martin

A wall plaque with shiny metal pointed shapes studding it or stuck on.  Usually to be seen at Tate Modern.

Donald Judd

One of his signature “ladders” of flat, square, metallic platforms going up the wall.

Ryman

A completely white rectangle; this one had narrow white tape around its perimeter, securing it to the aluminium frame. 

Ben Nicolson

A small, interlocking collection of blocks, all white.

Eva Hesse

A piece of graph paper, with a central rectangle made by Hesse drawing a circle within each square and filling in the outside edges.  Since this could not be done “perfectly” – there would always be a touch of human inexactitude – this created a wobbly effect, setting up a tension with the perfection of the grid squares; or so the label said.

I was unaware of this minimalist aspect of Hesse’s work, knowing only the Riopolle-like pictures reproduced in the “Gestural Painting” book and the haunting suspended blocks clothed in linen.  Not keen on this.

Moholy – Nagy

A beautiful white and grey painting with black and red squares and lines, very Nicolsonish, that was in the Van Doesburg exhibition, I think.  No wrong, just checked  the catalogue.  Must have been in the fantastic MN/Albers exhibition at TM a couple of years ago.

Mondrian

Now, I’m sure this was in the Van Doesburg; the squares painting with grey instead of the more characteristic white.  From 1920, if I’m right.

Morellet

Never before heard of this artist.  Interlocking shapes like crosses and T shapes on the side with a line at both ends, on white.  Creates a wobbly effect, a bit like Oiticica.

There was also an Albers and a Sol LeWitt, but took no notes on them – sorry, chaps. And a “Black painting” by …….

Safe to say, I preferred the gesturals next door; but who knows, maybe I’ll suddenly get it and be converted.

Barbara Hepworth’s House

I wrote about this in last blog.  I hadn’t remembered that she died in a fire in her studio.  Some of her stuff is so like Moore’s – who copied whom, I wonder – and Gabo, the holes and strings.  I was reminded too of the great story in John Bird’s book about the St. Ives lot, where Terry Frost or maybe Dennis Mitchell, doing some menial labouring for Hepworth, were locked in a conservatory by her while she showed  round some bigwigs.  Frost, or Mitchell, was taken short and had to piss in a pot which leaked out under the door and between the feet of Hepworth and her party; They all pretended not to notice.

Listening to White Lightning, Waylon Jennings.

“A city slicker came and he said “I’m tough;

“Guess I’d like to try some of that mountain stuff”,

He took him a sip and then he drunk it right down,

And I heard him say before he hit the ground,

“Mighty, mighty pleasin’, your Daddy’s corn squeezin’s”,

Ooooorgh – White Lightnin’!” 

An old one.

Blackpaint

05.09.10

Blackpaint 186

September 3, 2010

Tate St. Ives “Object, Gesture, Grid” (cont.)

The “Gesture” room presumably refers to Abstract Expressionism and its St.Ives co-abstractionists (but see previous blogs on whether Lanyon, for example,  can truly be called an abstract painter; its a convenience term).

Appel

First, a great Appel called “Amorous Dance”, the movement vaguely recalling that long jazzy Pollock in the Tate Modern.  Pollocky looping lines on basic grey, but close up the usual swirl of multi-coloured ropes of paint, so thick they look like waves and hummocks.  The painting’s under glass, maybe to hold the paint in.  It looks dingy close up, but clean and beautiful from 8 feet away.

Feiler

Paul Feiler, the only living artist here, I think – that must be an odd feeling – white, grey, black and brown, scraped surface, disc, recalling the Mellis next door.  The Feiler is great but has spawned a host (argh! cliche!) of imitations in little art galleries around the country.

Pollock

“Yellow Islands”, squares of yellow, peeping through swirls of white and black, on raw canvas(?).  At the edges, the black has blotted in to the canvas like a Frankenthaler.  A big blotch of black in the centre has run down.  Lose yourself in the layers, working out what he did first.

Rothko

One of those huge black and red arch things that he did for the Seagram, and that were on display in a sort of inner sanctum in the Tate Modern a while ago.  Out of that context, I think it’s empty.  Controversial, I know.

Bryan Wynter

“Riverbed”, cream, grey, red, interlocking key-like shapes, one of which, hugely enlarged, I’m sure I saw in Barbara Hepworth’s garden later.  Also from the Tate M.

Sandra Blow 

“Vivace”, huge white canvas with a pot of paint apparently flung at it to make a big “V” shape, recalling a simplified bird in flight.  This splosh has been allowed to run down in thin trickles and then the canvas has been turned on its side.  Blow has then attached collaged strips of different colours to the right hand side.

Patrick Heron

A very Joan Mitchell- like painting – in her later, Monet-ish manner.  Dabs of bright colour, some allowed to trickle, all over canvas; then partly obscured by white, snow-like blobs.

Hans Hoffman

“Nulli Secundus” – deep red on black “floor”, cream/green toothpaste sweeps downwards.  Blocks of fizzing powder blue at the top.  how does this all work? It shouldn’t but it does.

Twombly 

A sculpture!  It’s small, like all the others; a foot or 18″ tall.  It’s bronze, and like a cannon, or the juggernaut – never would have guessed Twombly.

Lanyon

“Wreck”.  It’s like Noah’s Ark, resting on top of the soundhole of a guitar – you can see the strings.  Sea greens and lemon yellow – shouldn’t  work, but it does (that should be the title of this exhibition).

David Smith

Nearly forgot David Smith – fantastic sculpture, like a dream farm implement… What do I do with this?

de Kooning

“The Visit” – always save the best to last.  A pink woman, with her legs wide open, sweeping, gestural brushstrokes at the top, those pastel greens and yellows and red splatters…. he’s just the boss, surely.

Can’t stomach writing about minimalism tonight.  Back tomorrow, keep reading.

Listening to What Made Milwaukee Famous, Jerry Lee Lewis:

“It’s late, and she is waiting,

And I know I should go home;

But every time I start to leave, they play another song;

Then someone buys another round, and wherever drinks are free,

What made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of me …”

Old shit one, but I like it.

Blackpaint

03.08.10

Blackpaint 185

September 2, 2010

Tate St.Ives

Just returned from Cornwall after two visits to the above in two days – to see the same shows, in case I missed anything.  Such is my level of dedication.

Lily van der Stokker – “No Big Deal Thing”

Pastel colours, child-like, or more accurately, 70’s hippy- type, childish drawings, brightly coloured sofas, ordinary, everyday things, celebrating the normal.  Some huge murals, many drawings on A4 paper.  I heard a gallery guide explaining why this was a feminist approach (ordinary women’s world, child- friendly, claiming and celebrating the territory, etc.)  The booklet says she “challenges and engages with the legacies of Feminism, exploring ideas often thought of as forbidden to contemporary art – the decorative, the sentimental and the “nice”” .  I failed to detect any note of irony in the work, so why the inverted commas for “nice”?  I was reminded of Post it notes on fridges, children’s crayon drawings, people who dot “i’s” with smiley faces.

I wondered what, say, Joan Mitchell or Marlene Dumas would have made of it.  She has a point really – art can’t all be about dramatic stuff like sex, death, despair, the sublime and so on; that’s mostly for the boys  – it should also be about a nice ice cream, or a trip to the petting farm with your daughters.

Object: Gesture: Grid – St.Ives and the International Avant – garde 

This is the other exhibition on at the moment and there is some great stuff in it.  A ludicrous understatement really; must be about 50 million quids-worth if it ever came on the market.

There are three rooms, the first of which is “Object” – works influenced by Cubism and Surrealism.  There’s a Braque, a Picasso, Giacometti, Hepworth and Ernst – but I have to say, although I registered the presence of these, I have no memory of them except the Ernst, which had one of those corrugated, brown, hairy surface areas like a doormat, that he does.

Tunnard

The painting that strikes you first – I watched other punters, most went straight over to it – was by John Tunnard, called “Tol Pedn”.  this is a place name, so I suppose it makes this work something like a Lanyon, in that it may be an exploded landscape.  it looks nothing like a Lanyon, however; more like a Paul Nash surreal effort.  It has sharply defined, red/pink arch things, grey areas, carefully drawn lines – striking.

Mellis

The Margaret Mellis is a blue wooden disc on drift- and scrapwood backing, like a flattened toy handcart; a beachcomber’s “glut”.

William Scott

The Scott is an unadorned and only slightly simpified mackerel, arching across a dish against a black background.  Unusually naturalistic for Scott, must be early. 

Paolozzi

Lovely, iron oblong ring sculpture, upper “arm” garlanded with odd objects, VERY much like a David Smith.

Elizabeth Frink

With the Tunnard, the most memorable thing in this room; I think its called “Harbinger Bird”.  About 2 ft tall, leaning forward on long legs, an indistinct but sinister sort of head.. I think I’ve seen it on a Penguin book, maybe Ted Hughes?

Alfred Wallis

A fine little ship on a creamy sea, otherwise all greys and greens; I liked this much more than I expected, it was very clear, correct and strong.

That’s the first room; “Gesture” tomorrow – don’t miss it, as it includes Pollock, Hoffman, Appel, Rothko…..

10th May 1941 (WIP)

Blackpaint