Blackpaint 320 – The Shire, the Sunset and the Pequod


David Hockney

His new show at the RA seems to be dividing the critics somewhat, so I am eager to go see.  Some seem to be casting him as Grand Old Man of figurative painting, upholding traditional old English values (that thing about drawing, a sort of fetishism I think) against the conceptuals, the empty, sensationalist Hirstites. His grumpy old squire-ishness and eccentricities about smoking and the calendar assist in this, I suppose.  Some reviewers are writing in awed tones about beauty and soul – enough to make you sick, or me anyway.

Martin Kettle in the Guardian expresses this identification with traditional values – he chucks in Yorkshire pride too, no nonsense in Yorkshire – most strongly; he writes that “Hockney and his art express and address the kind of people and country that he and we wish we were”.  What does this mean?  That we are  people who love landscape painting, hate abstract and conceptual art, admire the “useful”, despise the frivolous, can draw really, really well?  All sounds deeply conservative to me, as if Hockney’s art was made to chime with Cameron’s current version of Thatcherism.  He’s probably right about many people living in Britain today – when times are hard and uncertain, you tend to cling to what you see as safest.  Not sure he’s right about Hockney, though.

Hockney’s tree pics and landscapes strike me as so oddly coloured that I think of them almost as cartoons – the repros I have seen remind me of the graphics that you used to see in pre – CGI animation; not so much East Yorkshire as The Shire.  That bright green, the beetroot – to – mauve colours he uses for paths; it all lacks the denseness and richness and subtlety of trad English landscape.  So what – he’s using trees and landscape to make pictures and if the pictures don’t look like the landscape, it shouldn’t be a problem.  The only question is, do you like the pictures?

Giorgione

Was in the National Gallery today, and I came across a couple of paintings by this mystery man of Venice.  The first, Il Tramonto, the Sunset, had a lot going on in it as well as the sun setting; St. George killing the dragon, St.Anthony waving out of a cave, St. Roch (maybe) getting his leg bound up, and a pond with a very humpy monster sitting in it.  What is the relationship between all these?  Like the Tempest, in the Venice Accademia, no-one has much idea what’s going on.

The other picture was the Adoration of the Kings, that little panel with the groom crossing his legs and looking down at his feet, way off to the right out of the main action of the picture, but stealing the attention completely.  The glowing yellows and reds are up to Raphael standard.

Catena

Why does Catena have partridges wandering about in both the pics on display next to the Giorgiones?  there they are, in both a St. Jerome in his study (lion with very human face) and in an Adoration (baby Jesus with head like a cannonball).

Travelling Light

At the Whitechapel, the latest government pictures selection, by Simon Schama this time.  Best pictures; Roger Hilton’s fabulous Pequod (thought it was a big Alfred Wallis, from across the room); Bomberg’s Jerusalem Armenian Church, and Marta Marce’s “Scalectrix” loops.  There’s that great portrait of Byron, done up like a Greek soldier, but looking very soft – not like the mad satanic near rapist portrayed in Ken’s “Gothic”.  Once again, fantastic booklet, made for bloggers so they don’t have to take notes.

Blackpaint

19.01.12

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