Blackpaint 251


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

12.02.11

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