Blackpaint 308


Dulwich Art Gallery – Painting Canada

Thomas Thomson et al – Thomson is by far the best of the Group of Seven exhibited here.  There are strong similarities to Hodler; pinks, gold, ochre. deep reds and orange of the woods against the clean, cold, blue washed skies.  There’s a Japanese feel about some.  A number of Thomson’s unobtrusive, small paintings, too small to really appreciate until I saw a beautiful one reproduced in the Observer last Sunday.

Thomson’s body was found in a lake, having fallen from his canoe – or maybe he was murdered and dumped?  A surmise chucked in by the organisers to spice it up a bit, I suppose.

As well as the lovely but not over-remarkable paintings of Thomson and his mates, there are those of Lawren Harris.  Unbelievably awful blancmanges of icy mountain peaks against folds of undifferentiated ice and snow.  These are so bad they have to be seen to be believed.

After Harris, a quick sprint round the usual treasures of Dulwich; the Gainsborough portraits, the Rubens sketches and a Canaletto of the Bucentaur by St,  Mark’s Square – Beautiful, but the paint is so thick.

Whitechapel Gallery – William Sasnal

Great free exhibition, several roomfuls; Richter comes first to mind, the photo paintings, blurred faces, the layered single colour plaques – oatmeal, grey.  Luc Tuymans, too, I think, in the drawing style.  Cartoon-ish, graphic outlines, the drained colours (greys, blacks, browns, greens).  Free use of trickle-down in the strong, straight, black lines of the big paintings of mountain, lake and buildings.  Several paintings which are abstractions of death photos by a Mexican photographer whose name escapes me;   an incinerated corpse, burnt by electrocution, a hanging man on a tree – although I could not make it out from the abstracted picture – it looks like a branching, undersea invertebrate or maybe a necklace arranged in a stiff pattern of beads.

Other pictures that I recall – Japanese girls, kneeling worshippers with distorted, blurred faces, a group of mountain hikers, portrait of Roy Orbison, a vanishing picture of Saturn,  a huge (three panel) pig farm with an Auschwitz feel to it, a re-rendering of that Seurat boy on the river bank, blanked -out portraits, a sinister, derelict ski jump… why sinister?  It’s the style.  The cartoonish draughtsmanship, the drained colours, the blurred faces, the oily black line, they all contribute to that quite common vibe of something nasty behind the mundane and commonplace.  Quotations from Sasnal on the wall information indicate that he takes himself and his art very seriously, so don’t expect any jokes.

Whitechapel – ROYGBIV 

Also free, another tranche of Government paintings, this time based on colour, hence the title “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain”, a mnemonic for the colours of the rainbow.  A beautifully produced, free booklet to go with it, with every painting in the exhibition in miniature.  The standouts are:

Graham Sutherland’s” la Puce”, an etching and aquatint of  a flea in bed;

Callum Innes,” Exposed painting, Cadmium Red Deep”, red, cream and darker cream rectangles with a red bleed;

Robert Buhler’s “Twilight, Venice (II)”, a glowing dome in a violet evening light, reminiscent of the Melville bell tower in the last Whitechapel exhibition of Government paintings.

It’s only on until December 4th.

Bela Tarr

Watched a filmed interview with Tarr, in which he was asked why he overwhelmingly used “ugly” people in his films; shrugged, and replied “It’s my nation”.

A couple more life drawings and one proper abstract one, to finish:

Marco Polo

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

27/11/11

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