Archive for January, 2011

Blackpaint 247

January 30, 2011

Gabriel Orozco at the Tate Modern

One of the main exhibits at this show is a stone(? actually plasticene, the booklet says) ball that Orozco rolled around Monterrey, and then New York – an act reminiscent of Francis Alys and his melting block of ice (Blackpaint 180).  Different point, of course; ball was to pick up impressions, not to disappear in a demonstration/celebration of futility.  Close though, trundling objects round the streets.  The connection goes further;  Mexico City is where Alys lived.  Who had the idea first, I wonder.

The booklet that goes with the exhibition, like the Alys, is great; pretty much everything listed with a brief explanation.  The trouble is, you end up having everything explained to you and you don’t think about what you see.  Martin Creed is right – you should go round, look at it all without reading anything (unless there are words on the art itself) and then, maybe, read the booklet and the wall plaques and labels.  Then again, see the stuff above about the plasticene ball; wouldn’t have known that, without the booklet. 

So, what’s in the exhibition?

Some lovely small oil works on paper – blotty, a bit Nogueira, bit Tillmans..

The squashed-in Citroen (actually middle chopped out and resealed).

Four bikes, screwed together in improbable ways to make a sculpture.

Lots of – too many – photos of two yellow motor bikes, like little friends, parked in different locations.

Inner tubes inflated to huge balls.

A whole room of shredded tyre fragments, laid out, alligned on the floor.  Kieferish.

“Lintels” – shreds like flags, strung on wires across the room, assembled from the fluff collected in industrial cleaning machines.  When this, according to the booklet, was first exhibited in NY in November 2001, “the ash-coloured lint took on a poignant significance”.  I thought of Beuys – a bit.

A billiard table with no pockets, and a red ball suspended and swinging in an arc across.  Children were playing , trying to get the red ball as it swung.

“Samurai tree” paintings, on wooden blocks; highly coloured spheres and half spheres, connected like some table construction game.

The chequered skull, of course.

Ripples in lines of print on long, Chinese scrolls that turn out to be tiny numbers assembled from phone books.  A huge amount of fiddly work – symptomatic, really.

I felt that, with some exceptions, the show consisted of knick-knacks; contrivances to make you smile wryly, or exclaim gently, like something in Covent Garden on a Sunday afternoon.  The skull is beautiful – skulls are – and so is the way the chessboard pattern is stretched in the eye sockets, for instance, like netting – but none of it really says much to me, unlike the Francis Alys.  I would compare it to Anish Kapoor’s show at the Guggenheim – high quality fun objects, to make you smile, but not laugh or frown.  I couldn’t see a dark side to it at all (the September 11th suggestion in the booklet didn’t persuade me).   

all that said, the small oils were beautiful and there were two intriguing photographs; “Plastic Bag with Water”, I think, Prunella Clough – type image, and “Simon’s Island” – I can’t make out if it is an egg in close-up or someone’s – presumably Simon’s – globular belly, rising from the bath water.

Varda Caivano

Argentinian abstract painter, looks more my sort of thing; at the Victoria Miro Gallery to 12th March.




Blackpaint 246

January 27, 2011

Gabriel Orozco and Damien Hirst

Orozco exhibiting at the Tate Modern, reviewed in the Guardian the other day, by Adrian Searle.  Referring to Orozco’s skull, drawn all over with a chessboard pattern, Searle says: “It is a thousand times better than that glittery, diamond-crusted skull of Damien Hirst’s.”

He doesn’t say why, though.  Maybe he thinks there is something repugnant about the conspicuous money (waste) involved, the spurious “value” of the Hirst piece – that’s one of the points that Hirst’s skull makes, surely.  The art market has to do with vulgarity, conspicuous consumption, bad bad taste and sensation.  Also, it reminds you that you can’t take it with you, however much you’ve got – and you’ve got to go.  True, these are well-worn observations and he’s made £50 million – or was it $? – by re-stating them; but he can’t take it with him and he’s got to go…

I suppose his exhibit in Modern British Sculptors (Blackpaint 245) says more or less the same thing; lovely juicy steaks, nice bottle of wine, summer al fresco dining, all rotting away with a smelly, disgusting carpet of dead flies;  says it better, probably.

What about the Orozco?  Searle says it is to do with “mapping the cranium, like a mind meeting its container”; that sounds plausible to me and it certainly looks great and is apparently beautifully executed.  Perhaps that’s enough – it’s enough for me, anyway.  Others  may feel the need to “read” the work…


Reading the teacher’s notes to the Royal Academy exhibition, I was intrigued to find that Epstein began his massively proportioned “Adam” by sculpting the genitalia.  So, you visit his studio  a few days or maybe a week in, and he says, “I haven’t done much so far, just this – what do you think?”


A  simple, obvious thing, again from the notes, was that with Caro’s sculpture, the plinth was abandoned and it became normal for sculptures to rest on the floor – when not hanging or occupying a vitrine, of course…

Charles Sargeant Jagger

How closely his reliefs for the war memorials resemble the Assyrian sieges and lion hunts; not only because they are also reliefs, but in the angularity, the musculature, the sharpness of the relief.

Carl Andre

Final point from notes on Andre’s famous bricks, or “Equivalent VIII”, to give proper name.  The notes quote the Daily Mirror’s headline from 1976, commenting on the Tate purchase of the bricks in 1972: “What a Load of Rubbish!” and later: “the gallery didn’t even get  the original pile of bricks.”  So it would have been OK if they’d got the originals, then…


I don’t know why, but I haven’t paid enough attention to this painter before -many of  his later pictures  are just staggering and I have a feeling that he should be the most important and  influential English painter ever; I’m not sure why he’s not.  Maybe he was too far ahead of his time to influence others and they just turned away  from him and carried on doing the more acceptable stuff.  “The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16th 1834” (the one in Cleveland, Ohio); doesn’t need a title, looks just as good on  its side, judging by the Phaidon book.  Or the Petworth interiors; look like Roman murals at Pompeii.  Or “The Ship on Fire” watercolour – level of abstraction comparable to Melville’s “Moulin Rouge” (see Blackpaint 139 and 146).  

These paintings are still too much for some people (Blackpaint 195). 

Listening to Blind Lemon Jefferson, Matchbox Blues:

“Now when the sun goes down, she crochets all the time;

Sun  goes down, crochets all the time;

Babe, if you don’t quit crocheting,

You gonna lose your mind.”




Blackpaint 245

January 23, 2011

Royal Academy, Modern British Sculpture

First room, anteroom really, Lutyens Cenotaph and photographs of Epstein’s figures from the British Medical Association, naked, genitaled figures holding babies and items of medical significance.

First room: sculptures of the – when? 30s to 50s? in polished woods and marbles, echoing the ancient artefacts from Egypt, Assyria, Mexico that inspired or informed them.  Skeaping, Gordine, Moore of course, Hepworth – an extraordinary phallic torso – Eric Kennington, an Indian style relief entitled “Earth Child”; which surprises when you go behind it to see it is cupped by a giant hand, Eric Gill – another relief of a nude girl with strong echoes (for me) of the Shobdon Tympanum – and Underwood, an “Embryo” and a “Nucleus”.  Laura Cumming in Observer says they suffer in comparison with the “old originals” – and she’s right, for the most part; the exceptions being the Moores and the Hepworths.

Next room, Epstein’s massively thighed and buttocked – well, massive all round really – carved albaster figure of Adam.  Giant penis flattened against thigh as if in a wind tunnel, or glued above the copious scrotal sac.  The penis looks as if it ‘s attached to a plate below Adam’s stomach.  The other exhibit in this room is a small, knotted, phallic snake in Aztec/Mayan style, by Henry Moore.

Next door is a bronze Adam by Charles Wheeler, standing alert, with conventional musculature and tiny genitalia, which won’t do, so close to the Epstein gargantua.  Nearby is Philip King’s “Genghis Khan”, a black cape with bats’ wings and an enthroned Victoria from 1892, by Alfred Gilbert.  It looks like one of those Indian figures encrusted with decorative flourishes.  There’s a gold crown and crusts of gilded decoration all over the throne.

When I was at school, I remember posters showing Peoples of the World, wearing national dress and doing national things; Eskimos fishing through holes in ice, Kenyan women with long necks stretched by brass rings, Swiss in leather shorts, blowing Alpine horns, Canadian lumberjacks, Texan cowboys… Everyone else had a culture, but we English were normal, lived in redbrick terraced houses, didn’t dress up; the others were exotic.  This statue of Victoria looked as strange to me as, for example, the saints’ effigies that are brought out from Spanish churches on saints’ days.

Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton next; a walk-through assemblage of hanging, coloured plexiglass (?) rectangular panels, making corridors and rooms by slicing the air into shapes.  Caro’s “Early One Morning”, the long, red metal structure like a plough with end plates attached; also cuts the air, but into different shapes.

Next room, Carl Andre’s 60 bricks, Richard Long’s “Chalk Line”, Keith Arnatt’s photos of “Self Burial” – going, going….  Tony Cragg’s “Stack” like a 10 or 12 decker wooden sandwich, stuffed with breeze blocks, blankets, rags, a red plastic bucket like a pickle.  Boyle Family (Irish folk singers?) *Olaf Street Project”, photo of a bit of road, tilted vertical, littered with rocks and a milk bottle.

Sarah Lucas, “Portable Smoking Area”,  chair with a large box on tripod tilted over it to be lowered over smoker’s head; Damien Hirst’s “Let’s Eat Outdoors”, a table set with plates of food and wine, white plastic chairs – and a thick carpet of juicy dead flies over all.  Fly executor over table, but we didn’t see any fatalities in the two or three minutes we watched.  A faint, urine-y, formaldehyde smell near glass – presumably flies rotting.

John Latham; his burnt books, smeared in blue paint and stuffed in a giant white, bursting eyeball.  Also three books set as if driven into a large, thick fragment of broken glass, hung on a frame.  On closer inspection, the books were a Qu’ran, a Torah, I think,and a Christian Bible.  Can’t imagine him getting away with that today, which is interesting.

In the last room, a boxed exhibit by Stuart Brisley, called “Null Comma Null”; in a container -like box, rendered virtually impossible to see by a blinding spotlight.  Catalogue says “It deliberately hides its contents, thereby creating an air of mystery..” ; certainly creates strong irritation.

So, some great exhibits (Epstein, Moore, Hepworth, Gill, Cragg, Hirst, Latham, Arnatt) but as Cumming says, no obvious logic in who was included and who left out.  A sample of British Modern Sculpture, not a survey.



Blackpaint 244

January 21, 2011

RB Kitaj

Got the Tate DVD on the above, inspired by the life drawing at the British Museum.  I was surprised to find that the first five or six paintings discussed were either brothel or baseball scenes.  He was a steward in the US merchant navy in the late 40’s and spent most of his (meagre) wages on visiting brothels in Cuba, Vera Cruz etc.  Baseball scenes were just because he liked the sport.  Some of the players stretching or running, legs elongated like Stubbs horses.

The later paintings, “Cecil Court”  for example, or “If not, not”, carry more political freight – the latter is dominated by the Auschwitz-Birkenau railway arch and watchtower and the former shows a number of refugees lying down in the alley; one is a young woman who has given birth or aborted a child, which lies attached by the umbilical cord, in a pool of blood.  It’s hard to think of anyone who paints like him; some resemble Beckmann a little, sometimes a touch of Matisse, sometimes Chagall.

I was staggered when I first saw his life drawings, which are so different from the stylised, sketchy, sometimes cartoonish figures in the ensemble paintings; it’s easy to see his regard for Degas in them.  Go to see the one at the BM, if possible.

The exhibition he mounted at the Royal Academy in 1994 forms the background to the DVD.  His paintings were attacked vigorously by the critics and Kitaj blamed the reviewers for the death of his wife, from an aneurism, soon after.  He returned to the States, in disgust.  In 2007, he committed suicide and some obituarists seemed to think it was delayed reaction to the events of 1994 – I’d like to see some of the reviews; they must have been really bad.

Van Gogh

Still in the early stages of the Letters and I’m glad to see Vincent has emerged somewhat from his religious mania – to become obsessed with his recently widowed cousin, Kee Vos.  When he declares himself, she replies “Never, no, never” – and he takes this as encouragement, invading her parents’ home at meal-time, demanding to see her.  Rebuffed, he goes to a prostitute for consolation.  This Vincent is much more fun than the religious obsessive.

Tarkovsky’s “Mirror”

This director can be infuriatingly obscure and slow – I remember watching his “Solaris” at the ICA decades ago; the cleaners came in and started work mid-film under the impression that it had finished, so stately was the pace and long the gaps in dialogue.  His images, however, are remarkable, beautiful and lasting.  you just have to accept, let them wash over you without worrying too much about what they mean.  Tarkovsky shows you something which your mind can’t help but try to connect with what has just happened – this is a problem, because it might relate to what happens next – if you’re lucky – or to something “further down the road”, or several scenes back.  In this respect, it reminds me of Patrick White’s books.  Again, like White, sometimes we are in “reality”, sometimes in metaphor – and sometimes its hard to tell which.

Some vivid images: shed burning in the night; woman with streaming wet, long hair rising in slow motion from sink; balloon altitude attempt; Russian army crossing river in Crimea (these last two newsreel footage); Bruegel-like snow scenes with young boy; winds springing up suddenly across grassland and through branches; and mirrors, of course – at one point, we go through one.


Now watching “La Dolce Vita”; fantastic opening shot of helicopter with statue of Christ or saint dangling below it as it passes by the ruins of the Colisseum.  Later, the hilarious mass night club dance to “Ready Teddy”, with the satyr-like bearded actor capering about in a “Beatnik” fashion.



Blackpaint 243

January 18, 2011

Tate Britain

Half the place a building site, as Fiona Banner’s planes are dismantled – wings were going out the door as I arrived.  No new paintings, but some things I missed last time:

Vanessa Bell, “Studland Beach” – two large hatted women watch another at a shoreline changing tent, like a worshipper at a white monolith.  Simple “plates” of deep blue, cream and ochre, very effective from a distance.

Lucien Freud – a portrait of his first wife (who died the other day) with those huge, intense eyes.  Looks as if she’s strangling the cat she is holding up to the viewer.

The collection of little sculptures -Meadows, Chadwick, Armitage – remind me of those lines in Prufrock: “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas” – or again, Rex Warner’s “Light and Air”: ” even the pale of pearl, nip, clip of dawn/ on cold coasts curling over the grey waves..”.

Keith Vaughan, “Theseus and the Minotaur” – a naked woman, presumably Ariadne, seated, a naked man stretched out asleep on a bed – Theseus? – and a humanoid form, I assume the Minotaur, standing over him.  This is obviously a version of the story with which I am unfamiliar.

Auerbach, “Building Site on Oxford Street” – today, it looks like a thick, liquid mass of mud or faeces; cream, red-brown, grey and yellow, with straight lines ploughed trough the morass with fingers or brush.  Last time, I thought it looked “bejeweled”.

Blake, “The Good and Evil Angels” – the label next to the painting points out that the bad angel has a heavy build and dark skin (reflecting “non-European stereotypes” of the time); but it also looks to me as if he is blind – his eyes have no pupils.  No reference to this on the legend.  A look at the Tate website, however, provides a clue; for Blake the bad angel represents energy, the good, reason. This would make sense; energy is blind without the direction of reason.  Possibly.

Marc Vaux (b.1932)

This artist has a whole room, containing seven large works.  They are smooth textured, uniformly layered colours, mint green, brown, cream, red, blue, grey and black.  Two have bolt-on metal or perspex appendages, in one case, like a frame imposed on the picture a little short of the edges and a little away from the canvas.  Half circles, bent stripes, wedge shapes.

Tarkovsky’s “Mirror “

Watched this again today and was interested to see the scene where the woman washes her hair and rises in slow motion from the sink, her hair covering her face and dripping, while water runs down the charred walls of the wooden house behind her.  That’s where the little girl in “The Ring” came from, surely.



Blackpaint 242

January 16, 2011

Tate Modern

Dropped in the other day for a quick look; at first, same old pictures – although Jorn’s “Letters to my son” gone, and Dubuffet’s scraped pink picture there instead.  But there are a few new ones:

Shiramoto – “Holes”.  A grey and white abstract surface with holes bashed through – Shiramoto a member of Gutai, a movement that liked the tension and contrast of “delicacy and violence”, “destruction and creation” – very Japanese, that, chrysanthemums and samurai swords; it’s the delicacy bit.  Loads of others, The Austrians like Nitsch for instance, did the violence; not the delicacy, though.

Carol Schneeman – Video installation, bikini-clad girls slipping and sliding in a treacly substance – paint? Hard to tell, it’s black and white.  Engaging.

Francis Bacon – A big triptych; Dyer on the left panel, indistinct sexual wrestling in the centre, Francis on the right.  Dyer’s left leg is elided to a point, Bacon’s melting into a sheet of pink ectoplasm, echoing the disappearing lines of the Sarmantos in the adjoining room.

Beuys – His herd of sledges, loaded with felt and fat, escaping from the Volkswagen van – have escaped, and so has the van.  In their place, three or four new pieces: a photo of Beuys in his hat and long, heavy coat; “Campaign Bed”, institutional grey blankets with batteries(?) rolled underneath; “Accumulator”, a cell with wires attached to two clay balls, the source of power; and “Monument to a stag”, metal antlers, or rather some horn-like metal pipes and appendages.  The squad of red-brown turds by the girder are still there, though.

Lee Krasner – “Gothic Landscape”, dominated by crude black lanceolate blades, driving diagonally across canvas has little patches and touches of white, mint green and pink can be detected in the interstices.  Never noticed them before, which is why I’m mentioning this painting – it’s not a new, or newly-hung one.


Two strange paintings:

Pontormo – “The Supper at Emmaus”.  Floating above Christ’s head is a glowing pyramid, with an open eye in the centre of the outfacing plane.  The commentary says it is the symbol of the Trinity and was added later, but I think it is a Freemasonry symbol.  Presumably the Freemasons adopted it. On the floor, a skull-like dog face peers out, chewing in a bone and a couple of cats lurk amongst the human and table legs.

Rosso Fiorentino – “Madonna dello Spedalingo”.  The eyes of the Christ child and, to a lesser extent, those of all the surrounding figures, are large and sooty black – the effect, in reproduction, is as if someone had taken scissors to them.  The saint on the right looks like Death, from a Death and the Maiden.

Leonardo – The Fiorentino has to be the creepiest Christ child in Renaissance art – but the boy in “Madonna of the Carnation” must be the fleshiest (although Leonardo’s babies are always on the heavy side; see “Madonna Benois” or “The Virgin if the Rocks”).


A couple of Cezannes that you would never recognise as C’s if you didn’t know.  “The Orgy”, informed by Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana” – fleshy, writhing bodies round a white, tilted table against a cold, darkening blue sky; and “Temptation of St. Anthony”, more fleshy buttocks and bellies, poor St. Anthony accosted by a naked. writhing woman – the whole thing against a black background.

Listening to “Carrickfergus”, Van Morrison:

“I’m drunk today and I’m rarely sober;

A handsome rover from town to town,

Ah, but I am sick and my days are numbered,

So come all you young men and lay me down”.



Blackpaint 241

January 10, 2011

Van Gogh

Interesting to read in the Taschen VG the symbolism of his painting of April 1885 of the Bible and Zola’s “Joie de Vivre”, which he called “Still Life with Bible”.  The bible represents his father (solidity, authority, religion) and the dead candle signifies his recent demise.  The Zola volume is VG himself.  Zola’s story asserts the value of life and the life force in the face of sufferings, whilst the bible is open at Isaiah 53, which exalts those who suffer.  This sort of reading is more familiar to those who have read the Hagens’ interpretations of Renaissance paintings, which abound with symbolism, but it can still be used with more modern artists. I don’t have Van Gogh’s complete Letters, but my selected Letters doesn’t include such an analysis by VG himself – I imagine that it is the (plausible) effort of the authors, Walther and Metzger.


In the Uffizi guide, the Santa Lucia dei Magnoli Altarpiece.  That green and rose pink background remind me of Fra Angelico (Man of Sorrows) and maybe Duccio.  The really memorable aspect, however, is the rough, vigorous peasant face of John the Baptist, staring out at the viewer.  Nobody in the picture – two other saints and the Virgin and Child – is looking at anybody else; it’s like a room full of statues (the flesh tones on the V and C are pretty stone-coloured too).  Oddly, it seems to increase the picture’s power, in the same way that della Francesca’s figures sometimes do.


Still perusing the Uffizi guide and Altdorfer’s “the Martyrdom of St. Florian” strikes me.  Florian, with a massive white millstone chained to his neck, kneeling on the rough logs of a pier or bridge with a great throng of people behind him.  Several of them look surprisingly solicitous, taking his cloak, gesturing towards the water, as if assuring him that its not too cold.  Florian looks unpersuaded.  Things are not looking good for him.


His early painting (c.1480) of St. Hieronymus contains the first really credible picture of a lion that I have seen in the early Renaissance.  Durer’s efforts, for instance, seem to me to flounder when it comes to the eyes; his lions have human eyes, if somewhat large.  The Hieronymus lion, although unfinished, has the unmistakable profile of a genuine African male.


In the Sickert picture “Ennui”, what is the old boy at the table doing?

Listening to Martin Carthy, “Newlyn Town”:

“I robbed Lord Golding, I do declare,

And Lady Mansfield in Grosvenor Square;

I shut the shutters and bid them goodnight,

And home I took my loot,

And home I took my loot to my heart’s delight…”



Blackpaint 240

January 7, 2011

Bruegel the Younger

The Procession to Calvary is staying at Nostell Priory in Yorkshire, after £2.7 million was raised in a “Save it for the nation” appeal.  Its a beautiful, busy picture, browns more drained than those of the Elder, a threatening, cindery sky over Calvary in the top right.  As Maev Kennedy says in the Guardian, ” it shows a landscpe teeming with figures getting on with their lives…, too busy to notice Christ and his captors making their way to a bleak hilltop…”.  In this respect, of course, it echoes the elder Bruegel’s “Fall of Icarus”, the subject of Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts”.

Van Gogh

Reading his Letters and only up to 1880.  It’s noticeable that a different tone has been struck in the letter of 24th September 1880, which ends the longish gap in his correspondence with Theo.  In previous letters, the religious fervour and insufferable piety with which they were loaded has all but dispersed.  A letter or two before, Vincent recounted an entire sermon he had preached in Isleworth, much of which had to do with Pilgrim’s Progress.  Then, there was one in July 1880, full of anguish (and preachiness), in which Vincent tried to portray himself as a superior kind of “ne’er do well” – his words – not the kind that is lazy or immoral but a noble sort of “ne’er do well”, who just hasn’t found the right outlet for his talents.

Now, he has decided that painting is the thing and is obsessively training himself and developing fervent opinions on the subject.  God is still very much hovering about, but mercifully, in the background.

It seems clear to me that Van Gogh’s obsession with religion transferred to art wholesale; I was interested to see this in the letters, as there is currently a sort of revisionism going on with Van Gogh.  He is being presented as the “consummate professional” (see Blackpaint 230), a controlled, dedicated and focused seeker of artistic truth, whose mental problems were separate from his painting, in the sense that they had no influence over the technical process.  He did not paint in a frenzy, as was once popularly thought.

I’m sure this is correct, but I don’t think you can entirely separate the mental problems from the paintings.  I was quite surprised to read the letters and discover just how disturbed he appears to be.  He was surely an obsessive personality and suffered from depression; then again, a lot of artists do, and a lot are obsessive in their practice – Frank Auerbach comes to mind.  And times change; the tone of the letters may have seemed less strange in the 19th century.

Cass Art

I said in Blackpaint 226 that the staff at Cass in Charing Cross Road seemed to have changed and hoped there hadn’t been a mass purge; happy to report I was wrong – must have just picked a different shift to visit last time.

No pictures today  – I’m using my son’s Mac and don’t know how to load them.



Blackpaint 239

January 5, 2011


I’m back in the Uffizi catalogue today, looking at two works by the above:  The Madonna of the Rocks and the Adoration of the Magi triptych.  The latter was apparently not conceived as a triptych, but was put together later.  It consists of the Adoration, the Ascension (of Christ) and the Circumcision.

I’m always impressed by Mantegna’s hard, chiselled edges, the paint sculpted to give a relief effect at times; that, and his vivid, somehow cold colours that remind me of the Northern painters of the Netherlands.

The Madonna pre-dates Leonardo’s two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks (1493-5 and 1506-8); the Uffizi guide gives 1488-90 for the Mantegna, which was painted in Rome.  I wonder if Leonardo knew the painting, and whether “on the rocks” was a common setting or theme?  It seems rather a coincidence otherwise.

Mantegna’s virgin looks particularly doleful, whilst the pasty, pudgy faced Christ actually looks dead to me (I panicked a lot when my kids were young).  This dead look chimes rather with the tomb “visible below – an allusion to Christ’s sepulchre and a prediction of the destiny of the Child (sic) lying in the Virgin’s lap”, as the guide puts it.

The Adoration is a strange picture – sharply drawn against a cold, darkening blue sky, it features a circlet of those little putti, I think they’re called – winged half -babies, pinky red on the left, stone coloured on the right, surrounding the virgin and child as if mounted on a Christmas tree behind them.  A star – THE star – is set amongst four grown-up angels, immediately above the cave; the stable, presumably.  The tail of the star drops a perpendicular tail to the mother and baby, and there is a black, thread-like line, possibly a crack, dropping from the top of the picture down to the Magi.  the effect is that of grappling hooks and lines being lowered from heaven.

The Ascension also features a circlet of putti, all red this time, their little wings powering Christ’s ascent on a small round tablet of rock.   As he goes up, he grasps the pole of the red cross standard, like a boy scout on Church Parade.   A group of disciples gaze up at him, as well they might.


I’m very struck by the varying attraction of Cezanne’s paintings in the Phaidon book by Catherine Dean.  For me, they range from nothing much (Bay of Marseilles, seen from l’Estaque, Chestnut Trees at the Jas de Bouffon, building at Jas de Bouffon, Dr. Gachet’s House) to staggering (Lac d’Annecy, some Mont St. Victoires, Card Players, Boy in Red Waistcoat – with the really long right arm – the Still Lifes with apples and/or peaches and the fantastic Blue Vase).

The one that caught my attention today was “A Modern Olympia” – rather comical, cartoonish, especially the black servant whipping away the white sheet to reveal the naked woman, her legs scrunched up in front of her for modesty, before the upward gaze of the bearded, seated gentleman visitor – Cezanne himself?  Particularly striking, I thought, was the difference between this and all the other repros in the book.  I would never have guessed Cezanne.  The colours and the looseness of the brush strokes, as if the images were almost on the verge of disintegration, called to mind Cecily Brown – if only for a moment.


Cezanne’s picture is a “modernisation” of Manet’s 1863 Olympia, of course; I happened to come across Rauschenberg’s “Odalisque”, 1955-9, presumably another modernisation.  A stuffed white rooster stands atop an easel(?) on which is a colourful Rausch collage, topped by a small picture of a naked woman seated on the floor – looks like Marilyn, but I can’t quite make it out.

Fish Eye



2010 in review

January 4, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2010. That’s about 24 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 210 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 236 posts. There were 330 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 107mb. That’s about 6 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 18th with 177 views. The most popular post that day was Blackpaint 176.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for michelangelo, asger jorn, durer, jorn, and per kirkeby.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Blackpaint 176 August 2010


Blackpaint 16 December 2009


Blackpaint 26 January 2010


About Blackpaint. November 2009


Blackpaint 17 December 2009