Archive for August, 2011

Blackpaint 291

August 30, 2011

Tarkovsky and Bruegel

Watching “Solaris” the other day, came to the bit where the camera closes up on – goes into, almost – the reproduction of Hunters in the Snow;  I recall a scene in “Mirror” that suggested this painting and I’m sure that Tarkovsky quotes this scene in “Solaris” too.

I have to say I was astonished at the clarity with which Bruegel depicted the distant details – landscape, birds, the villagers capering on the ice; never noticed this particularly before, I suppose it takes a film close-up to bring it home.  Also, it reminded me of Bela Tarr’s Hungarian villagers – especially when they dance drunkenly with chairs or bread rolls on the head.

Dead Areas

In last blog, I suggested that most great films have patches in them that are pretentious, or awkward, even laughable (unintentionally).  This is surely more true of art house cinema, since the director is trying to make art, as well as, or maybe rather than, money.  Same goes for all art – music, theatre – and for painting.  Trouble is, when you find a dead area and change it, everything else changes too and you end up painting a different picture.  I’m thinking of abstract painting, where the choice – and therefore the pressure – is maybe greater; but it’s probably there with figurative painting as well.  Adrian Searle, I think, was writing about Lucian Freud, and making a lot of the fact that he painted everything in a picture (walls, window sills, floorboards) with the same attention to detail as the “subject”.

Katherine Jones

Several delicate, hanging “books” in the shape of birds. feathers of thin paper with one-line poems in the edges; prints of her signature mysterious glass-houses on the edge of a dark wood or a black mountain – in the Festival Hall Poetry library, on the 5th floor, and unfortunately now finished.  But have a look on her website anyway; the fact that she is my niece hasn’t influenced my recommendation in any way.

Guggenheim – last word

Robert Gober -A sculpted torso, half male, half female;  an odd, triangular cot; a rolled-up “unfolding door”.

Nate Lowman – stunning colour photographs of oil rigs with sun, moon, fire; what were they doing in the “Transgression” section, along with Paul McCarthy’s ” Tomato Head” and “Sasidge Cut”, and photos of naked men with beer cans, meat and onions for penises?  Interestingly, we had to queue for 30 minutes to get into this bit; overeager attendants letting in only as many as were leaving, despite there being only 20-odd in there at a time.

Thomas Hirschhorn – “Cavemanman”; an extended cavern made from brown tape, composition rocks and tinfoil, containing figures and torsos, pop band posters, overflowing with Coke cans, pages of instructions about voting systems posted up, giant books on Chomsky, multiculturalism, semiotics etc, etc, and film loops of prehistoric cave paintings.  Presumably, the cave is our civilisation as future excavators might see it – but what was meant by the dynamite sticks taped to the wall?

Blackpaint

30.08.11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 290

August 26, 2011

More from the Guggenheim Bilbao

Kenneth Noland – “April Time”; a huge yellow ochre colour field with pastel green, orange and toothpaste borders.  Also “Time Shift”; equally huge blue and green chevron on white field.

Frank Stella – Orange and pink, airbrushed ? half wheels, in fluorescent paint, cut to shape.  Check out Stella in the 60s in the DVD Painters on Painting – he’s like a young Woody Allen, with a strong sense of grievance.

Morris Louis – “Saraband”; acrylic resin on canvas.  Stripes of dulled colour, oranges,  crimson, greens,  dulled by layering over darker pigment.

Helen Frankenthaler -” Canal”; poured acrylic on unbleached canvas, blue/orange, staining to blue  , then to grey.

I think I’m right in saying that there are only three women painters amongst the abstractionists on show: Frankenthaler, da Silva and Elaine de Kooning (a lovely painting like a sheaf of highly coloured leaves).  There are more female sculptors and conceptualists, however, in the sections entitled (for some non-luminous reason) “The Luminous Interval”:

Kiki Smith –   a group of body sculptures; body with scarf “entrails” dangling; pile of heads, legs, arms linked by a chain; severed, bloody forearms, palms up, on a cushion “bed”; a leaden man bent double as if touching toes, a great scab of slag enclosing his backside; tiny black bacon rasher-like things, on tiny tables; a man-thing crouching half way up a wall with a long strip of black shit emerging from the anus – title: “Shitbody”.  So, some fairly physical items there.

Annette Messager – An enormous exhibit of dolls, gloves, stockings and a multitude of other fabric-based bits and pieces, hanging from red threads to make a sort of tree thing.

Louise Bourgeois – hands and forearms entwined on a stone block, in a cage, surrounded by large circular mirrors.

Mona Hatoum – room-sized, open “crate” made of shelving, containing light bulbs going on and off.

Rachel Whiteread – Flat-bottomed, amber coloured wax bath mould; white bookshelves with whited-out books and white boxes on platforms.

Marina Abramovic – her strangely sexy – maybe it’s just me – video of her scrubbing the skeleton (sounds like an Australian metaphor), previously described at the Whitechapel Gallery.

Wanguchi Muti – Darkened room with a wall of fox(?) pelts at one end, scores of upside-down wine bottles dripping onto a long table.  Strong smell of stale wine.

Common elements – use of whole rooms, body parts, hanging things, bodily functions, cages. 

Last word on Gug next blog.

Alexander Nevsky

You can see that Olivier saw Eisenstein’s film before making Henry V; there’s the baggage train, the shower of arrows, the charge (across ice instead of green fields), even the single combat between Alexander (Henry) and the Grandmaster of the Teutonic Knights (Constable of France).  Branagh’s 1991 remake of Henry V owes more to Welles’  “Chimes at Midnight” than Olivier’s Henry – especially the mud and blood and  slow motion in the battle scenes, as well as Robbie Coltrane’s brief turn as Falstaff.  One place where Olivier’s version still stands way above Branagh’s is the speech before the battle; Olivier didn’t see fit to ruin it by having “stirring” music swelling behind Shakespeare’s words. 

Conversations with Fellini, edited by Costanzo Costantini (Harvest,1995)

A fascinating book, in the sense that the questions are shaped to appear tricky, demanding, sometimes aggressive – but which Fellini fields with self-deprecation, humour and beautifully turned metaphors.  The book is fraudulent, therefore, but the fraud is clearly  part of the Fellini package, so it rings true to the man.  Mastroianni was clearly born to play Fellini’s alter ego.

Blackpaint

25/08/11

Blackpaint 289

August 20, 2011

Guggenheim Bilbao – Painterly Abstraction

Great exhibition, based on Gug’s own collection, including Ab exes, colour fielders and even minimalist/post painterly abstractionists like Frank Stella – seems to bely the title, but maybe that room wasn’t part of the main show – doesn’t matter.

Asger Jorn

A beautiful Asger entitled “Green Ballet”; usual Jorn goblin faces and globular, floating things in a green sea.  Loads of brilliant colours and textures swirling around, that made me want to go straight home and paint.

Sam Francis

“Red and Black”,  cluster of red globules, rising into a Prussian blue, then black upper field.  Also “Shining Back”, that characteristic Francis indigo, violet blue with orange, sliding/dripping down the unbleached canvas.

Jack Twarkov

“Red Lode” – fiery coals of red piled at the base; rest looks like grey-black, but on closer inspection, it contains fields of dark blue and green.

Jose Guerrero

“Signs and Portents”; awful title, but striking picture – yellow, orange, blue with black dabs, swipes and dribbles.

Corneille

“Spell of the Island” – There was a painting in the Tate Britain by Gillian Ayres a while ago that resembled the parts of a full English breakfast spread out; this Corneille looks like a giant yellow pizza with the Ayres bits gathered round and on it like toppings and side dishes.  It’s very enjoyable.

Conrad Marca-Relli

Collages produced by overlapping cuts of shaped canvas – a strange, Diebenkorn – like effect.  Never heard of him before.

More from Guggenheim next time.

Pretention

A correspondent has taken me to task for calling “Last Year in Marienbad”  pretentious;  I think all art contains pretention – difficult to see how you can make anything worthwhile without overreaching sometimes, and doing something laughable/ludicrous/ridiculous.  Sometimes you get the sublime and the ridiculous in the same work.  This especially applies to film makers – I can think of bits of both in the work of Tarkovsky, Tarr, Pasolini…  Bunuel and Fellini, of course, are both sublime at all times.

Thomas Hardy

Some great scenes in “Return of the Native”;  two men gambling frenziedly by night on the open heath – by the light of glowworms!  A secret assignation, in which the agreed sign that the man has arrived is the throwing of a moth into a candle flame!  Can you imagine arriving on time to meet your lover and then having to chase moths around until you find one slow enough…

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Re-reading this for the first time since 1989, and I think there is clear evidence that Shakespeare lost interest and wanted to get on to the next play.  Proteus is about to rape Silvia (Valentine’s beloved) when he is prevented – but he says sorry to Valentine.  I’m paraphrasing here, as you might guess, but Valentine’s reaction boils down to; “Oh well, if you’re sorry, that’s OK – let’s be friends again and you can have her.”  Lots of phrases that foreshadow Romeo and Juliet.

 

Yes, the fingers are part of this work.

Blackpaint

19.08.11

Blackpaint 288

August 11, 2011

Santiago de Compostella

It means Saint James of the Field of Stars and refers to James the Greater (there were two disciples  named James, the Greater and the Less), whose bones allegedly rest here in the Cathedral, having been stolen and smuggled away from Alexandria in the night.  Perhaps at odds with the disciple image is James’ reputation as the Moor Killer; he is supposed to have turned up to support the Christian side in a battle with the Moors  and killed 60, 000 of them.  There is a statue in the cathedral of him on horseback, slashing his sword down, presumably on the head of an enemy; in  his big, floppy pilgrim’s hat, he resembles a Remington version of General Custer or Buffalo Bill.

The Cathedral has some curious sights for those not of the faith; there is no escaping an Indian, or perhaps Thai aspect to the numerous turrets, the elaborate altarpieces and the general profusion of decoration;  It reminded me of Fatehpur Sikri in Rajahstan.  The figures of Christ and the madonna were strangely doll-like; one, Christ with sword and orb (actually it might have been a Spanish king, but I think it was Christ) looked as if it might step down stiff-legged like a Golem and start slashing away.  There were several booths containing priests ready to hear confession – one had a placard listing the languages he spoke, another was apparently fast asleep – giving the impression of fortune tellers awaiting clients.

You go up the narrow steps behind the gold – is it the sun, or the head of Christ or the Virgin? – thing on the main altar and straight down the other side, no time to linger.  As you descend, you look up and there are two huge cherubs hanging above your head like Ron Mueck babies, but not quite so lifelike.  The descent into the crypt, to pass the silver box containing relics of the saint, is conducted at a similarly brisk rate.

Tapestries

There are threee sets of tapestries in the Cathedral museum which are  “based on” designs by Rubens, Teniers and Goya.  The Rubens ones have the usual Pugwash women, but with rather crude facial features; they show Achilles being dipped in the Styx, and some Greek love myths.  The Teniers are scenes of village life; dancing, drunkenness, rowdies being chucked out of celebrations, a man urinating discreetly in a corner, a skating scene and possibly some work going on.  The Goyas were various; a boy trying to trap a bird, children playing drums – the characteristic things were the hats, tall and pointy for soldiers, curling and oddly drooping at the  sides for those matador jobs.  Also the stance – that shoulders back, bum thrust out, hand on hip stance for the bully-boy soldier.

Picasso 

Free to see, in a private gallery nearby, 60-odd etchings by Picasso from 1931 – 33.  They contain some wonderful images of course; the one I know best is the Minotaur relaxing with a glass of wine and a female admirer.  Many are on the theme of the artist and model, but the one that stuck in my mind was one that contained two Guernica horses, done several years before the famous painting.  There were also two that showed a woman asleep on a table or the artist’s lap, which foreshadowed the famous Dream (the one where half her face appears to resolve into a penis).  They were entitled the Vollard Collection.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The Philip K Dick book on which “Blade Runner” was based, of course.  I’d never read it before and was surprised to find he never used the term Blade Runner (it comes from William Burroughs, via the script writers presumably).  They must also have come up with Roy Baty’s famous lines about the shoulder of Orion and the Tannhauser Gate – they are nowhere to be found in the Dick original.  On the other hand, the film left out the cult of Mercerism, Buster Friendly,  the coveting of animals and  the philosophising.

So, two distinct works of art; Ridley Scott’s stripped-down, cold-hearted action thriller film and Dick’s original – little character development,  perfunctory in places, but fizzing with ideas.  I think all his novels are like this; he can’t be bothered to finish them before starting to develop some new idea that has occurred to him.  The short stories, conversely, are beautifully succinct and focused.

Blackpaint

11.08.11