Blackpaint 264


Marlene Dumas

I’ve been looking at her Phaidon book again, and most of the images – no, ALL of the images – are “ugly”.  That is to say, they are distorted, bloated, explicit, mostly grey or brown, like decaying flesh.  There are ugly babies, naked figures lined up as if for inspection in a concentration camp or  a brothel, women offering their bodies in pornographic poses (but so crudely painted that they are not titillating –  in a conventional way); actual paintings of dead women’s faces…  I used to think the baby with the red hands (Painter) was the most disturbing – now I think it’s those “school photographs”, especially The Turkish Schoolgirls (1987).  Look at the front three from the far right!  They will haunt your dreams, like something from The Orphanage.

So why do I like her work?  Well, it’s strong, dramatic, caustic, driving.  If it was music,  it would be Piece of my Heart by Janis Joplin, or maybe Gimme Shelter; if it was food, it would be lime chilli pickle; if it was a film, it would be Salo.. This could go on and on (if it was an insurance company..), so I’ll stop with the pretentiousness now – I hope you get the point.

It occurs to me that there has to be something to offset the harshness and horror; that something is, of course, the technical skill in the images; the use of colour, the draftsmanship, the artful clumsiness and crudeness in just the right places to just the right degree.

The Killing

I’m counting Morten as 50% right; OK, he wasn’t the murderer, but he was the political manipulator.

Magritte

Went to the drawings and prints at British Museum yet again and this time, read the blurb on the Magritte drawing.  It referred to Herbert Read’s comments that Mag looked for affinities between unlikely things – the example here is leaves and bricks.  The drawing is of a tree in which the foliage is shaped like a single leaf; poplar. I would say.  Only, instead of individual leaves, it is composed of bricks, as in a brick wall.  OK, leaves soft, pliable, rustling; bricks hard, unyielding, silent.  However – leaves combine together to make a greater unity, bricks combine together.. etc.

Too cerebral and systematic for me – I like my surrealists wild, untidy, loose ends, what’s that in the corner, what’s that supposed to be… so it is, how disgusting – the feeling that it might really have been dragged up from their subconscious minds, even if they’re faking it – as perhaps Dali might have done once or twice.  Maybe Magritte’s subconscious mind worked that way – after all, he was famously neat, fussy, and tidy, even when painting.  But then, so was Miro.

Looking again at the Kitaj life drawings, they contain distortions; that inward curve of the lower back is surely exaggerated and the lower leg also curves too much.  The genitalia are far too small, of course.  These distortions, however, are of the order of Michelangelo distortions, as the drawings are in the same class as M’s, in my view.

Far From the Madding Crowd

First time I’ve seen this utterly beautiful film; I loved the circus scene, the songs, the characters, the story.  Two whole seconds of “David Swarbrick” on view, playing fiddle in the barn.  Julie Christie singing “Bushes and Briers” – the stunning original, not the nearly-as-beautiful Thompson/Denny song.  Was that really her singing? and Terence Stamp, doing the Jolly Tinker?  If so. they made a good job of it – as did the tinker in the song.

Blackpaint

31/03/11

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