Blackpaint 304


A Canterbury Tale

The opening scenes of this strange Powell and Pressburger film are justly famous; Chaucer’s band of pilgrims ride towards the town (Pardoner, for example, clearly recognisable); the knight flies his falcon, which soars and becomes a Spitfire.  Cut back to knight – same face, but now topped by a 1940’s soldier’s helmet.  Fantastic, poignant – but I couldn’t help thinking that Eisenstein, or his editor, would have done it better.  There is a jump between the bird and the plane, not a smooth transformation.  Maybe I’m wrong; no expert.

It seems to me to be a strange, foreigner’s vision of rural England.  Dennis Price is an unlikely sergeant, with the accent of a toff – his cold eyes and brusque manner seem more appropriate to the serial killer he played in “Kind Hearts and Coronets” than the would-be church organist he plays here.

Then there is the absolute weirdness of the “glue man” story; a local (toff) magistrate, disguised as a soldier,  attacks young girls at night and pours glue in their hair.  Why?  To dissuade them from going with soldiers encamped nearby, who might be distracted from attending the magistrate’s local history lectures and learning about the Pilgrims’ Way.  I think I’ve got that right.

Nevertheless, it has a magic about it and some wonderful scenes of rural Kent in the 40’s – and there are the accents too.

John Martin “Apocalypse”

At the Tate Britain.  A whole Martin exhibition is interesting, but he suffers from the repetition of Apocalyptic and biblical scenes – I liked his paintings much better when there were just a couple of them in the old “Nutter’s Gallery” as we called it, decades ago, in cruder, crueller times.  Martin needs some Dadds and others to vary it a bit.  The searing, shiny pink deserves a special mention, as do the glaring reds and yellows.  His angels, I think are rather Turnerish and I see he uses scraping on rocks and mountains, as Turner did sometimes.  One or two pictures had that bejewelled quality that Gustave Moreau’s paintings have. 

 His version of Milton’s Pandaemonium looks just like the Houses of Parliament; the wall notes, indeed, say he was influenced by the plans for the same.  When all is said, though, he does a great lightning bolt and Earth turning upside-down.

Barry Flanagan

Also at the TB.  Later work is the sinister giant bronze hares, but I preferred (predictably) the earlier stuff – thick coils of yellow rope snaking across the floor, sacking, hessian (hanging and folded) or stuffed tightly with sand to make shrivelled vegetable shapes, or those odd, upright, cut-off tubes of sacking that look like shapes from a David Shrigley cartoon.  Wigwam shapes made from thick cut branches, bark still on – bit of a Beuys vibe, I might say, if I were not afraid of appearing pretentious.  And a few beautiful drawings, one of a figure lying prostrate, which look as if they were executed in a single, perfect stroke (OK, he probably had a few tries, picked the best and chucked the others away); impressive, anyway.

Biennale

Nick Relph – video with blue and yellow filters, hand drawn, over film – appeared to be about GIs in Korea or WW2, phasing into another one about the production of textiles.  Colours punchy and saturated, like Rist.

RH Quaytman – beautiful, black and white photographic print of sun on the surface of a lake, then zoomed in and enlarged in next one.  A sort of fractured, distressed quality to them, reminscent of Richter’s white pictures, I think.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

10.11.11

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