Archive for February, 2011

Blackpaint 255

February 27, 2011

British Art Show 7 (cont.)

Christian Marclay – Clever, funny exhibit; film clips featuring clocks, watches, people saying what the time is – corresponding to real time. Just ponder for a moment the amount of research required to assemble 24 hours worth of such footage.  I wondered if he maybe used stock footage of clocks to cut away to, but if so, it’s done seamlessly. I recognised two films in the 10 minutes we watched – “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “3 Days of the Condor”.  Sometimes the segues were amusing – if that was not accidental, then it’s one more thing that he must have edited for and therefore an even more staggering achievement.

To what purpose, though?  It put me in mind of that Fischli and Weiss exhibit at the Tate Modern – in the basement now, no doubt – where all the bits and pieces were artificial, sculpted out of polyurethane or something to look absolutely real – when you could have got the real things and assembled them with no effort at all.  The point is the huge pointlessness; vast effort to raise a small smile.  Quite profound really; read Ecclesiastes.

Sohei Nishino has made a panorama of London by taking 10,000 photographs, selecting 4,000 and cutting and pasting them together, thereby getting a crude, reconstructed version.  Sort of the opposite to F and W; making something new and imperfect to contrast with the usual panorama.  Can’t help feeling that the expenditure of effort puts this somehow in the Marclay – F and W field,though.

George Shaw – Huge versions of his sinister and depressing (I use the words admiringly) Humbrol shedscapes.  One, a bulldozed tract of pulverised dirt pent up by metal caging, another of a dark, deserted recreation ground; you get that sinking stomach feeling looking at them.

Wolfgang Tillmans – Another beautiful, huge, inkjet picture, the spidery threads of pigment opening like some sea anemone; unfortunately, it’s emerald green.  Can’t stand the colour.  Also, glazed cabinets displaying magazine pages, articles, cheesy adverts,  plastic surgery, facial mutilation, material on sexism… Bit like clearing up Bacon’s studio floor and bunging the stuff in glass cases.

Cullinan Richards – Occupying the stairwell, newspapers with tarry black slash markings,  picture in rough white of a horse and rider at full vertical gallop up the central shaft; I loved this, first I thought a little like Baselitz, but this morning, found another rough white horse, tilted at an odd angle – this one in the Per Kirkeby catalogue.

Milena Dragicevic – Distorted and surrealised (I know it isn’t a proper word, but it should be) women’s faces, one for example with huge, red, letter box lips.  Echoes of Marlene Dumas.

Sarah Lucas – Hans Bellmer-ish sculptures made from stockings or tights stuffed like sausages, looped and knotted in swollen, intestinal bundles; organised in rather obscene ballet on top of pedestals.  Clever and striking but unlikeable, as if that matters.

Alasdair Gray – the Lanark author; clean, meticulous, pastel coloured drawings of family, domestic life…

Vaida Caivano – Four abstract oils, small, dun colours, thin and threadbare, drily painted.  Not as rich as the ones in the Victoria Miro Gallery, unfortunately.  Unusually for this exhibition, they were all “Untitled”.

Apart from the Marclay, we didn’t watch any of the video installations – the heavy black curtaining was mildly disgusting, as was the chemical smell in the theatres.

Few more exhibits tomorrow, plus a review of Bela Tarr’s “Man from London” – Bela Tarr, Tarkovsky’s less compromising brother director…

Exterminating Angel

Sorry – old picture; camera batteries exhausted.  New one tomorrow.




Blackpaint 254

February 25, 2011

London Street Photography

At the Museum of London.  As always, with photography like this, there is the historical interest: clothes, transport, shops, trades… but there are four whose work jumps out:

Wolfgang Suschitsky – a single blossom tree in a misty street, reminiscent (to me, anyway) of Whistler; and a night scene of a man pushing a milk cart past the neon-lit frontage of the “Revudebar”.  It turns out that he’s a famous cinematographer who worked on “Get Carter”, “Theatre of Blood” and the “Ulysses” which starred Milo O’Shea as the definitive Bloom, TP McKenna as Buck Mulligan and for some reason, is always described as a failed project.  Of course it fails to present the book adequately – how could it not?  Fantastic success in its own right, however.

Back to Suschitzky – born in 1912, still living, son Peter also a cinematographer (Naked Lunch and other Cronenburg films).

Humphrey Spender – A beautifully “lit” view of a lake or riverside with sitters on grass and  swans, I think; Seurat via Cartier Bresson.  Stephen’s brother, worked for Mass Observation, most photos of cloth-capped workers, factories, mills, stadiums – only one other I could find on Google like this one, on a river or canal bank in North East.

Terry Spencer – Mods and skinheads; I thought Terry was probably a Mod himself, but no – Spitfire pilot, DFC, record for baling out of an aircraft at lowest height, subsequently war photographer…

Roger Mayne – Those great shots of Notting Hill boys and girls in the 50s.

In all above cases, I recommend Google Images to see some beautiful photographic art.

Courtauld Gallery

Bellini, Assassination of Peter Martyr – gory murder in a forest, knife lodged in his head, “CREDO” written in his own blood on ground, the surrounding chopped tree trunks bleeding in sympathy.

Signorelli, Massacre of the Innocents, little picture in which dead babies lie around marinating in pools of their own blood – he’s a real sensationalist.  His Last Judgement in Orvieto Cathedral on TV the other night (Fig Leaf, see last blog) green demons dragging the damned to the pit – a real cartoon feel to it, in the modern sense.  I like him -he’s the graphic novel version.  There’s a touch of that to Michelangelo’s too, but more classy.

Gauguin, Haystacks, a sort of huge, incoming yellow wave of hay rolling towards the viewer, white-capped women surfing it with hayforks.  Thinly painted, outlined, a “drawn” quality.

British Art Show 7 – “In the Days of the Comet”

At the Hayward.  A lot to write about so I’ll do a couple today and carry on next time.

Phoebe Unwin – Proper paintings, hints of Clough, Hodgkin and maybe Rauschenburg.  Silver Shower, a showerhead against a background of aluminium foil; another like a stack of cake slices, thin red filling..

Charles Avery – A long, white, cartoon riverside panorama; hotel with a lot of sex going on in windows; dogs cavorting, a big shop or restaurant at top of picture, a ship coming in on right.. a long, jokey title, seems to be a feature of this exhibition.

Also – A big glass case containing a desert scene, sand, snakes, broken glass a young woman in shorts and a see through shirt, reflected on outside of case; a big excrescence on top of case – glazed triangles stuck together like a bunch of coagulated wigwams.

Roger Hiorns – Transparent globs of epoxy resin, distorted by application of heat, perhaps, hanging from ceiling.  Also – a complete engine and drive shaft (?) just lying flat on the floor like a dead pterodactyl.

We waited by the bench to see if the naked man turned up; every so often, he comes to the bench and a small fire starts up under it.  On this occasion, we were disappointed – no show.

Enough for today; more tomorrow.



Blackpaint 253

February 22, 2011

Susan Hiller

At the Tate Britain.  Three or four things stuck in my mind, but I’m going again because I’m sure there’s more to it.  Trouble is, you have to read the artspeak explanations to fully understand – and life is too short.  Anyway, this is what I saw (and heard):

A large collection of sepia to Eastman colour postcards of huge waves crashing over British promenades – some of these may have been altered by artist; not sure.

Recordings of one line phrases in dying languages, by the last living speakers.  Several First Nation tribes of the Americas – Welsh Romany caught my eye and ear.

A collection of Victorian memorial plaques to people who had died trying to save others; lots of fires, drownings, falls through ice, traffic accidents (horse-drawn).  Lots of children trying to save siblings.

A dark room full of a forest of hanging ear phones; voices telling stories in a number of languages, the one in English I listened to was about UFOs.

A series of vivid red and yellow photos under glass, of faces blurred and faded – all female I think (?)

So, dying, fading, becoming extinct, blurring, failing to communicate, haunting …..  Now to read the booklet and find out what it was really all about.

Fellini’s Eight and a Half (How do you do fractions in figures on a keyboard?)

Fantastic film, of course; Mastroianni as a preening, but harrassed, film director, pursued by adoring and demanding lovers, scorned by an inexplicably bitter wife, tortured by the idea that he may just be superficial and have nothing to say.  He wears his overcoat over his shoulders and has a floppy, wide brimmed fedora as he saunters through the film, greeting, blowing kisses, politely stonewalling..  It ends with a startlingly affecting sequence in which the entire cast parade down an open staircase into an arena, led by  marching troupe of musical clowns.  Reminiscent of the closing sequence of Russian Ark (see Blackpaint 232).

Franz Marc and August Macke

German Expressionists, both killed in WWI, I’d tended to conflate their work – but they are actually quite distinct.  Marc’s colours are darker and glow more intensely; Macke’s are fresh, bright and lighter.  Think I prefer Macke, at the moment; I love those women with the ankle length skirts and no feet, like bowling pins.


Andrew Graham -Dixon made an interesting observation on the Culture Show, that maybe Turner needed the medium of watercolour, its propensity to spread and run of its own accord, to achieve the sort of freedom he showed in “Ship on Fire”.  Maybe, but when you see what he could do in oils, the Petworth paintings, Sea Monsters, the storm at the harbour mouth with the long title – you know the one …

The Taschen is good on Turner’s perspective “problems” in “House of Commons on Fire” – check the far end of the bridge in relation to the fire – and in the one of Raphael in Rome – the balcony.  Does it matter? Of course not, but interesting.  Also, there is the recurring woman, rear view, leaning forward, in the Petworth and “bivalve” paintings.

“Fig Leaf” – Obscured Objects of Desire

A couple of things popped up on this survey of sculptural censorship on TV last night that were new to me.  First, the Greeks used to paint their statues.  Apparently, this is common knowledge to the decently educated, but was news to me.  Does that mean the Romans did too?  I would guess it does – which implies a break with tradition, on the part of the Renaissance sculptors.

Second, an explanation for the diminutive genitals on Greek statues; a small penis was a sign of “control and restraint – of good citizenship”, according to Stephen Smith, author and presenter of the programme.  This explains the small penis displayed by David – Michelangelo was following the tradition.  I’m glad to have an answer to this question, which I have touched on in earlier blogs.

The Risen Christ

Smith featured the above sculpture, in which Michelangelo presented Christ naked, with one arm around a cross.  It was attacked with a hammer by a monk in the 17th century and now wears a bronze loincloth affair.

Laura Cumming on Watercolour

Excellent review in Observer, except that she seems to share Searle’s inexplicable dislike of Blow’s “Vivace”.  Cumming describes it as “hugely inflated” – so it is, but in a totally good way.  Sometimes it’s right to blast away the understated, quietly magical, wonderfully executed, minutely observed, immensely subtle….  Chuck a great big bucket of red over it.



Blackpaint 252

February 17, 2011

Vincent’s Sunflowers

As I said a blog or two ago, I could never warm to the famous Sunflowers; now, “research shows” (Guardian, Tuesday) that sunlight turns 19th century yellow chrome paint brown – but “only if the yellow paint had been mixed with white pigments based on sulphates.”

This maybe explains the difference between these sunflowers and the blazing, yellow/orange entities that Van Gogh painted in Aug – Sept 1887.  Something I didn’t know about Van Gogh was how much he was influenced by Japanese art and culture – witness the 15 or so paintings of orchards and trees in blossom he knocked out in Arles in April 1888.

As for industry – the Taschen book shows 25 pictures for July 1890; not bad going, considering he shot himself on the 27th.


I was interested to discover that Turner used scraping away as a Technique in some paintings, notably the bottom left foreground in “Rocky Bay with Figures”, c.1830 and the crown of “Death on a Pale Horse”, c. 1825 – 30 (see William Gaunt’s Phaidon book).  This struck me as pretty advanced for the time, but my knowledgeable partner sniffed at my ignorance and said it was common.

I’m not convinced – Turner seems so way ahead of everyone else.  “Ship on Fire” and “Boats at Sea”, for example; the latter defines minimalism.  I suppose they are every bit as “abstracted” as that Melville I go on about –  and done decades earlier.

Watercolour Exhibition at Tate Britain

Which brings me to this show, which opened to the public yesterday, and which I attended with two companions and several hundred  grey retirees, mostly teachers, I would guess.  Within minutes, my friend had pronounced “Wrotham” incorrectly when reading a label – he was promptly and tartly corrected by the woman next to him; “It’s pronounced ROOT-HAM, actually. ”  She moved on with a tight little smile, leaving us suitably corrected and chastened.

Anyway – loads of brownish landscapes, as you would expect – I liked the Indian powder works on the riverbank – jewel-like miniatures, beautiful botanical drawings in eye-destroying detail, bright little Books of Hours.

Best thing is if I just list my highlights:

John Piper, Nantfranccon (I think); Layered rock strata, like piled bodies.

Edward Burra, a valley in Northumberland with a great, green, lowering hill overlooking it.

Ravilious’ lovely White Horse, with the slanting lines (rain?).

Girton’s Bamburgh Castle, one of David Dimbleby’s choices in his series on British art and landscape.  Stunning picture – doesn’t look much like Bamburgh Castle now, though.

Blake, Jane Shore doing penance – proof that Blake could do really ordinary, boring pictures too.

Samuel Palmer, “Dream in the Appenines”; hints of Raspberry Ripple in the sunset; Benjamin West, American Sublime and all that – bloody awful painting.

Arthur Melville, “Blue Night, Venice” – and what a blue it is; little bit green, but translucent, against the tower.  Comes close to Turner’s Venice sketches.  Why is he not better known?

Turner – the two already mentioned above, and several small sundown sketches, including “The Scarlet Sunset”, with the yellow wiggle on the water surface; it’s only the size of a postcard!

There’s a war room:

William Simpson – a butterfly rests on a cannonball, a lizard scuttles past, or maybe holds a frozen pose for an hour or two, in the aftermath of battle.  It’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” – but from an earlier war.

Mutilated faces from WWI and a French hussar dying, with his intestines exposed by a sabre cut at Waterloo.

A really strange Burra – “Soldiers at Rye” – in which the soldiers, with their bulging muscles, theatrical stances and inexplicable pointy-nosed masks, look like a troupe of travelling players from the 17th century.

The lovely little Samuel Palmer with the horizontal crescent moon, to offset the Appenine monstrosity; maybe he needed the small format…

Two David Jones, white and grey, that from a distance, bear a faint resemblance to Dubuffet’s scraped – away pictures.

Lucia Nogueira, her blots and stains with intermingling colours, so simple but memorable.

The Patrick Heron, of course; not as intense as the oils, though.

Roger Hilton – two of the child-like pictures, done in posters I think, from his bed-ridden period.  One with the dog, strangely affecting.

Peter Lanyon, fabulous of course, like a skate egg case on its side, and colours like Alfred Wallis.

Left the best to last – huge, on the end wall, is Sandra Blow’s “Vivace” with it’s glorious, vulvic sweeps of red acrylic, chucked from a bucket onto an off-white canvas.  Just what this constipated exhibition of little, detailed exquisiteness needs.  For some reason, Adrian Searle chose to be dismissive of this celebratory work in his Guardian review; he called it “silly”.  Wrong!  Blow’s painting is like a pint of cold Guinness with a creamy, perfect head, looking up at you from a bar counter – after a long drought, passed in the company of prissy relatives.

One last thing; £14.00, or £12.00 for concessions, is a lot for an exhibition put together substantially from Tate’s own resources.  A tenner, maybe….

This Flight Tonight (to Joni Mitchell)



Blackpaint 251

February 13, 2011

Kings Place

Three exhibitions on here at the moment, all of which strike a remarkable note of contrast – conflict, really – with the corporate surroundings:

Norman Cornish – The Narrow World of…

A series of drawings and paintings of cloth-capped, mufflered, rough-suited men in pubs, leaning on wooden bars before beer pumps, surrounded by straight glasses, not jugs, of amber beer.  Not a mug in sight – “Glasses with ‘andles? ‘Ow effete!” as an old Bill Tidy cartoon put it – and certainly, no wine glasses.  Dogs figure; rangy whippet-types, with muscular rear ends.  The best is a small yellow watercolour in a corner.

Cornish was a miner himself from Spennymoor, County Durham.  I think there’s a touch of early Van Gogh in his close-ups and a hint of Lowrie in his street scenes (which are not featured in the exhibition, but are in the Cornish book on sale).

Angela Hughes – Transitions

A number of paintings, ranging in size from vast to small, mostly featuring the basement of a derelict glass factory.  Ghostly is the word – sprays of glassy white on a brownish pink-grey background, dim lines of machinery, cable looping down like lianas, racks emerging from the gloom.  Pastels, charcoal and oil all used, but even the oil paintings look as if they were done in the dust and sediment of the factory floor.  This sounds bad, perhaps, but is not meant so – they are effective and haunting.

Keith Pattison – No Redemption

Outstanding photos of the Miners’ Strike, the 84/85 one that is, which mostly centre on Easington Colliery in County Durham and the streets of the town where the miners lived – past tense, because those who still live there won’t have been miners for 25 years.  Pickets, police, skin tight jeans and skimpy denim jackets, the odd biker leather, banners, arrests, working miners under escort…

What really comes across is how much of an invading army the police were – marching in in columns, hard-faced, riot masks and shields, lining your streets, standing on your doorstep, telling you go that way, not this way, dragging you off under arrest from outside your own front door.  You can’t tell if the police are local, or members of, say, the Met who allegedly inflamed the strikers by waving their overtime packets at them – some police were reportedly better than others.  Nothing can disguise the army of occupation impression, however.

Alma Street figures frequently – I wonder if it’s still there, not demolished or re-named.  The photographs are works of art, as well as reportage – beautifully “composed”, in the sense of great anticipation and instant selection on Pattison’s part.  Surprisingly little anger from the strikers; many of the photos have a cheerful, almost carnivalesque atmosphere.

Expressionist Woodcuts at the Strang Print Room, UCL

Nolde’s “Prophet”, a Resurrection by Beckmann, a Grosz with street executions and disabled soldiers, hungry street life, Kathe Kollwitz’s beautifully drawn but oppressively monumental pictures of women with dead sons.  Durer’s Four Horsemen and St. Michael to compare (measure them against?).  A little exhibition but great stuff.



Blackpaint 250

February 10, 2011

Frankenstein at the Olivier

Danny Boyle director and Nick Dear, writer – or rather, adaptor of Mary Shelley’s original.  But the important thing for the audience, which contained a number of excited teenage girls, was Benedict Cumberbatch playing the monster, and to a lesser extent, Jonny Le Miller, playing Victor.  They are going to alternate the roles.

The first 20 minutes or so were fantastic.  Cumberbatch was naked on stage, being “born” from a pulsing, pod-like womb (Body Snatchers, definitely not Spinal Tap); then flip-flopping prostrate like a fish; then swiftly learning to get to his hands and feet, then stand, shakily upright and walk, after a fashion.  There were clear references (I’m avoiding the use of “channeling” here, I hope other pedants will note) to Muybridge and Bacon – the crippled boy walking on all fours – and, above all, Blake.  I think it was the stance; upright, straight-legged, head thrown back – and perhaps the washes of light from the wide ribbon of light bulbs in the “ceiling”.

Then, the Industrial Revolution arrived, in the form of a train, loaded with working men and women who began laying about the stage with sledgehammers and tools – Metropolis – and soon the monster acquired a cloak and a jeering mob – the Elephant Man.  Later in the play, Dickens, in the shape of the children’s costumes, especially the cap of the little boy. The programme mentions Fuseli, but I must have missed that.

I had the feeling throughout that I was watching a musical; I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if someone had burst into song (there was some dancing, flamenco-ish guitar music and something that sounded rather like “Wimoweh” – ask the grandparents).  There was a great revolving stage, luminous huts descending, a mansion facade that also served as a ship at one point, and made reference to Kay Neilson.

I have to say that, as soon as we were back to straight, “naturalistic” exposition, everything went very flat; I was continually waiting for the next spectacle.  There were about four or five of these, I suppose.  In fact, I would have been happy if the whole thing had been done like the first sequence – as a sort of combination of mime, ballet, performance art, spectacle, and music.

There is a rather operatic rape, by the way; a man somewhere behind me was obviously shocked; “Oh no, oh dear “, he gasped in dismay.  The teenagers were undisturbed, needless to say.

National Gallery

Took a turn round the “modern” bit; especially the Degas(es) – what is the proper plural? – that never fail to astound me.  Those two “red” ones, just look at the hands, and the portrait of the pudgy little girl with the challenging stare.  Then, there is the little one of Princess Pauline de Metternich; I bet she wasn’t happy about the bags under her eyes.  What was Degas – an Impressionist? If so, it shows the limitations of these terms, two artists like, say, Degas and Monet yoked together…

That Ingres woman in the dress is Mme Moitessier, a banker’s wife, not a landlady as I said in previous blog.  A chap was copying the picture – I avoided mentioning that it took Ingres 12 years to finish.

A couple of horrible Vuillards; Madame Wormser and her kids.  I hate that acid greeny-blue, bluey green.

Turner’s Ulysses escaping from Polyphemus; how many ships in the picture?  I think four.

Finally, Hogarth’s “Marriage a la Mode”; the last, grim painting in the series, in which the mistress has poisoned herself and the servant who supplied the poison looks on in horror; I was reminded strongly of Madame Bovary, not surprisingly, since I have just reread it.  What is remarkable is that I am also reading “Vanity Fair” – and on Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” the other night, the firemen hurled a bookcase to the floor prior to burning it and two of the books that fell from it, on which the director chose to focus in close up, were Bovary and Vanity Fair. Coincidence, you say?  I think perhaps not, my sceptical reader…

Sorry again, re-used image; new stuff from now on.



Blackpaint 249

February 6, 2011

Don’t Look Now

Another example of the Odessa Steps Scream in slow motion, after Bacon, of course, but preceding Eraserhead (see Blackpaint 219); Donald Sutherland, lifting his drowned daughter’s body from the river.

Roeg is great with glass and liquid too – the embryo-shaped bloodstain spreading around the photographic slide, the glasses and water or white wine, splashing and crashing onto the tiles when Julie Christie collapses…

Actually, while typing this, another example of the Odessa Scream occurs to me – the animal roar of the “possessed” on detecting a “normal” person in the 1978 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” – that was Donald Sutherland too.

Two abstract painters this Saturday –

Varda Caivano; Voice at Victoria Miro

Nine quite small pictures, the biggest 36* 44″ approx., all oil on canvas, one each with charcoal, pastel and ink markings.  Totally abstract, very thin paint, small areas of bare canvas here and there, for instance along upper margin; trickle downs, scrapes, busy, crowded surfaces.  Sombre colours, mostly; one a glowing red/orange, one an acidy green, two black, grey-blue, cloudy switches and swags (these two the best).  They are all called – “Untitled”.  Strangely, a couple reminded me of that Kokoschka of the woman and the swan, was it?  Alma Mahler, anyway.  It was the swirly, grey-blue surface.  And one, definitely, of Per Kirkeby (the acid green one).  In fact, I would have guessed she was Scandinavian, not Argentinian thereby proving myself foolish in expecting artists to meet some spurious national stereotype .

Victoria Morton at Sadie Coles

Some of Morton’s pictures much bigger, 98*66 in approx.  the big paintings, for example “Figurene” and “Soft Eater, Hard Eater” a tangle of bright colours and pulsating, yellow-white blobs, with a suggestion of cityscape at night about them.  One, “Wah Wah” I think, much darker, almost like one of Ofili’s recent paintings; dry, matt, thin finish.  Reminders then, of Ofili and Doig in the technique and even Hodgkin (the spots and the bright orange frame on one of the smaller ones).

Various other assemblages:  two low, hinged, painted wooden panels like a screen for dwarfs; a smeary, sketchy watercolour on paper entitled “Children” ; a couple of lovely oil sketches in a far-too-big frame; “Ballet Costume”, a black stand with a crown of painted tissue ribbons billowing from the top.

In the Guardian review of this show, “SS” writes of Morgan’s work being “Lush with thick, expressive swabs and light dashes of brightly hued pigment…”; Well, I got the “light dashes” and the “swarming, pointillist dots” s/he writes of elsewhere – but I must have a very different idea of “thick, expressive swabs”.

The notes accompanying Morton’s show are impenetrable.  The notes on Caivano are merely pretentious and very hard work.  Enough moaning, though; two excellent free exhibitions of  abstract painters, to be snapped up by those who love these things.

Listening to “Midnight Shift”, by Buddy Holly-

“Well, if you see old Annie, better give her a lift;

Annie’s been workin’ on the midnight shift.”

Sorry, old image – run out of paint.



Blackpaint 248

February 3, 2011

Exterminating Angel

For those not familiar with this (fantastic) Bunuel film, it concerns a collection of bourgeois dinner guests who find themselves unable to leave the mansion of their host at the end of the evening – they just can’t seem to get out of the dining room, something stops them, a sort of force field that manifests itself through their own fears, reluctance and prevarication.  It’s arguably his most surreal film, apart from l’Age d’Or and Un Chien Andalou, from the collaboration with Dali in the 20s and 30s; sheep (and a bear) wander in to the mansion, a woman has a dead chicken in her purse – that sort of thing.  Great title; I wonder why he called it that.

La Dolce Vita

Before leaving cinema, and whilst pondering unanswerable questions, what does the big, dead fish signify at the end?  Looking up at Mastroianni from those huge, glassy eyes… seeing through the emptiness of his life, maybe – no, far too glib…


Surprised to see (in the Uffizi catalogue again) a most beautiful dress, on the “Eleonora di Toledo”.  I usually associate him with the breast-squeezing teaser in the National Gallery, but he could do clothes too, it seems.  It reminds me of that great dress on the landlady in the Ingres painting, also NG I think – the one that took him 11 years to finish.

Parmigianino and El Greco

This is probably crass, but I see a similarity between these two; not only the obvious one of the elongation of figures, but also in the coloration and lighting of their pictures.  El Greco far more expressionistic in his landscaping, of course, but still..

Van Gogh

I could never quite see the fuss over VG’s famous sunflowers; I find them dowdy and brown.  However, I’ve just seen some of the sunflowers he did in 1887, in that “Cut Sunflowers” series, especially the ones against the blue background, and they are fantastic in repro – would love to see them in the “flesh”.  Also that “Trees and Undergrowth” from the same summer, the one with the dark green foliage and the medallions of yellow sunlight piercing through.


I’m still getting that thing where the same structure, or very similar, seems to emerge every time – different colours and textures, but same shapes.  Sometimes  only see it when I invert the painting, but its there.   Even when I plan not to do it and do something else entirely, I look at it when it’s “finished” and think, no, that’s no good – and start to paint it over and improvise; and there it is again.  It’s the Exterminating Angel, maybe!