Blackpaint 325 – Fabric Penis Stalactites


Yayoi Kusama

This artist now in her 80s, has an exhibition at the Tate Modern at the moment and I went, expecting not very much.  From what I had heard, she was a performance artist from the 60s who now lived voluntarily in a mental institution in Japan, and tended to cover everything in sight with coloured spots, from tiny to huge.  True, but much more, it turned out. 

First, there is are some surrealist drawing/paintings, resembling vaguely threatening dragons or snakes, and then some quite beautiful small drawings/collages/paintings in vibrant colours; moons, bacteria, some that reminded me of Hartung, dots, lines, fish (deep-sea phosphorescent)… terrific.

Then, the “Infinity Net” paintings, huge, white, covered with little bobbles of paint, with maze-like patterns just visible.  There are nine or ten of these, and I must admit they don’t look that great in the exhibition book – better on the wall. 

Then, you come to the bit where she covers a variety of things – a rowing boat, sofa, armchair, ladder, cabinet, women’s shoes – with sewn and stuffed little bags in the shape of penises.  An old-fashioned kettle hangs from one.  By way of variety, flowers and macaroni are used to cover shirts and coats and there is an attractive “Bronze Coat”, covered with sewn bags like horse dung.  The echoes of Oppenheim’s fur cup and the jacket covered with glasses (Duchamp?) are obvious.  I thought the penises looked like some mineral growth of little stalagtites – very pleasing.

Then. you come to the dark room, covered with little reflecting coloured discs that show up in one of those fluorescent lights –  and then to the reflecting mirror room, in which hundreds (?) of little coloured lights succeed each other in casting reflections into the surrounding mirrors and shallow pools of water, creating ever-receding pinpints of light.   Careful here – one chap stepped unwittingly into the water.  In the photos, this room resembles a Peter Doig painting somehow; but not in the “flesh”.

There’s much more, but it should be seen, not described.  I have to say, I didn’t see anything here that indicated she was more mentally ill than any other artist – obsessive, maybe, but most artists are, really.  After all, doing art is essentially playing.  Academies have been set up, rules laid down, techniques set in granite,  critics like Robert Hughes intone solemnly on the practices of Auerbach, say, working every day, 10 hours a day, covering everything in charcoal dust, taking 2 years on every portrait – it has to be done properly.  Then, along comes someone who breaks all the rules, sticks up two fingers to tradition, and becomes a huge success.  I love it – long live Damien and Tracy, and Julian Schnabel, who Hughes doesn’t seem to like much.  Play away, make (more) shedloads of money.

Albert Irvin

I’ve just discovered Tate Shots on YouTube, which are short films on artists, talking about their work, and watched the one on Albert.  The paintings (which I hated at first) are now so beautiful that, if I weren’t a working-class boy from South London, would make me weep with ecstasy.  No, not really – but they are good, especially that one with the great, diagonal sweeps of purple with little splats of blue.  Nice bloke, too.  Fiona Rae’s film is good as well – she has a little gizmo for squeezing all the paint out of a tube; must get one.

Flodden, Albert Irvin

Fellini

I’ve just bought the DVD of “the Ship Sailed On”, by the above, but haven’t yet seen it; I am intrigued by the book I have on Fellini, in which he avoids answering the question “What is the significance of the rhinoceros?”  Needless to say, … well it’s needless to say, so I won’t say it.

Can’t decide which way up this should go, so here’s both until I make my mind up.

OR…

Blackpaint

16.02.12

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