Blackpaint 253


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.

Turner

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

22.02.11

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