Blackpaint 270


Figures in profile

The convention for processions in profile; which culture adopted it first?  The Egyptians and Assyrians (of various kinds – Babylon, Nineveh, Nimrud, Tigrath-Pilaster – I can’t keep hold of the differences) both use the convention; I’m guessing the Egyptians, who presumably then influenced the Assyrians… and later the Greeks, of course.  Then again, maybe both the early cultures developed the convention independently, which would be more interesting.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog’s 3D documentary about the caves of Chauvet in the Ardeche region of France, discovered in the early 90s.  Staggeringly beautiful, powerful, animal images – the horse with its mouth slightly open, the clashing rhinos, the way the artists have incorporated the scoops and bulges of the cave walls, the cave lions in profile, the black pigment on scraped white walls.  There is only one human figure in the whole cave system, a woman’s back on a sort of tooth -shaped rock, poking down from the roof.  Littering the floors, bear skulls, covered in sparkling calcite, like round puddings under a layer of smooth sauce.

Some of the paintings were done 5000 years apart, the later artist having no compunction about adding to the earlier ones – how could s/he know how old they were.. and why care?

Lots of Hans Hass – style spiritual theorising from Herzog; amusing eccentrics (mostly French), dressed in Inuit furs or sniffing crevices, trying to discover new, unknown caverns, or clumsily demonstrating spear throwers.  Some impenetrable musing about albino crocodiles from the Eden-style project near the nuclear power site up the valley; would the crocs one day escape, get as far as the caves and wonder at the drawings?

For some reason, this brought to mind Aguirre, Klaus Kinski in his Conquistador helmet, floating down the Amazon on his log raft, surrounded by the corpses of his followers, monkeys overrunning the vessel – but still staring madly, baring his teeth at the endless green.

National Portrait Gallery

Larry Rivers’ portrait of David Sylvester, the style reminding me a bit of Jim Dine, a bit of Rauschenburg even, with the sweeps of ochre on the body.  Tony Bevan’s self portrait heads at odd angles, with the elongated necks, pipe-cleaner hair; done in strong, crude acrylic colours with thick charcoal strokes.

Ida Kar

Rumanian “Bohemian”, photo portraits of artists; Leger with his flat tweed cap, scowling out like a French peasant, Epstein like a Polish train driver in HIS forage cap, Bratby en famille with one of his paintings, outside a suitably curlicued terraced house; Piper with his paintings and Braque with loads of his – busy boy – Heron with a black squiggle, Helen Lessore looking hunched and rather gloomy and the best one, Foujita, with his Stanley Spencer hair and three of the creepiest dolls I’ve ever seen.  Great portraits, only £3.50 to get in.

Canvas

Bought a square one for a change from my usual 30*40 inches, and I can’t believe the difficulty I’ve had painting it –  nothing fits right.  Suppose it’s good to get out of your usual ways, once on a while.  I’ve ended up with something like a big egg yolk in a bottle-green sea.

Ai Weiwei

On 28th April, Tate Modern’s website expressed dismay at Ai Weiwei’s detention and providid a link to a petition calling for his release.  Please go to same and sign it, when you have finished reading this.

Wedding

Nice to see Nicholas Whitchell, Rowan Pelling, Martin Bashir and all the other members of the royal family being given plenty of air time.  Pity that they can’t just keep on going until the next royal event…

Blackpaint

Mayday 2011

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