Blackpaint 326 – Proper Painting and Fucking


John Hoyland

Must have missed the death of the above in 2011; one of the most colourful British abstractionists with those fluorescent colours – only Albert Irvin is as bright that I can think of.  I’ve a book of his paintings and prints on cotton duck; they’re blinding, especially the greens and blues.

Lucian Freud

BBC prog on him mentioned two incidents that I find interesting in terms of the sort of bloke he was;  he made his wife, Kitty Garman (Epstein’s daughter) sit facing the wall while he worked; and he ran up £2.6 million debts with the bookies.

William Feaver, one of the pundits on view, kept referring to” proper painting”, meaning figurative painting that attempts to render reality more intensely, and painting “that is any good” being perpetually in a state of transition…  I love that art critic thing of making definitive assertions  that are really contentious. but that sound obvious because of the arrogant certainty with which they are delivered.

Another example – John Richardson, another pundit, used the word “fucking” several times (in its verb function) in that clipped, upper-class, English accent, asserting that, to Freud, painting and “fucking” were somehow the same, Freud approached both activities in the same way – interesting, since he often painted his numerous daughters at all ages, as well as the queen.

The great paintings made an appearance – the Auerbach head, the naked woman with her arm arching over the mass of bed linen, the Leigh Bowery’s, the Big Sue’s, Harry Diamond in the sweater, the Irishmen, the big man’s head, the back garden, the sinks with running taps, the fantastic self portraits…

There was a fascinating bit of film in which Freud demonstrated that insane stare, where he suddenly widened his eyes like an owl – perhaps explaining why he frequently got into fights on his night expeditions.

Picasso and Modern British Art

At the Tate Britain.  Loads of Picassos, crying woman, triangular jug and candle, women of Algiers, Meninas – a few early ones that are Impressionist in style – a race meeting,  flowers – that you would never guess were Picassos.

A couple of real clinkers, in my view – a woman with arms above her head that looked like a parody; her body exploded into large parts and stuck back together at random, but each fragment carefully and sculpturally painted.  Also, a “homely” woman with her features and spectacles distributed randomly, for no reason I could discern – when I saw a photo of this painting in a newspaper, I assumed it was an awkward imitation by an English admirer.

General impression of the Picassos – unbelievable creative energy and inventiveness, constant innovation, no interest in surface texture (when did that start. I wonder?  Fautrier, de Stael, Burri, Tapies, Dubuffet..? thesis there for someone, no doubt already written).

As to the Brits –

The Duncan Grants are decorative and colourful, much better than you’d think from the crits; Wyndham Lewis shows only the most general signs of influence  – I love those grotesque faces and the long, cut-out woman; Henry Moore, yes, definitely copied The Source for Reclining Figure, but in a different medium, so that’s alright somehow; Sutherland didn’t seem to me overly imitative; Ben Nicholson, yes, definitely!  One Nicholson, dark grey with white sratched lines, contained that profile  that Picasso hid in the Three Dancers.  It looked like a Picasso drawing before he opened his paintbox and coloured in.  Bacon; the crucifixion shapes again recalled to me the Three Dancers, and I suppose those bulbous shapes at the Base of the Crucifixion resemble, as Laura Cumming points out, the Dinard Picassos – but not overmuch imitation.  One of the Bacons reminded me strongly of a Tunnard, though.  As for Hockney, his paintings were more of a tribute to P. than imitation or influence – presumably he was included to bring the thing up to date and to chime with his exhibition at the RA, maybe.

Migrations, Tate Britain

Returned to this for a bit of peace after the crowd at the Picasso.  Forgot to mention Gustav Metzger’s little film before – set on the South Bank, Metzger destroys, with acid, a canvas or linen work – actually, not sure if it was painted-  opposite St. Paul’s, which appears regally through the rent.  The growing holes in the linen resemble, first, Fontana slashes, then feathery plumes and laddering that brought Kirchner’s insect women to mind,  then, those amoebic psychedelic light shows at Pink Floyd gigs at the Roundhouse and Middle Earth (reference for the elderly).

Then, the Tissots – I think the Norman Rockwell of his day – those lovely Victorian girls, lounging against the ship rail; you can hear them in your mind… “Yeah, it was really, really nice?  And then we, like, went on to Boujie’s, and it was totally, like, packed out?”

The Mondrian in the show  is not square – the left-hand side is roughly cut and slants slightly to the left in the frame.  How did he let that happen?  I thought he was a Poirot when it came to symmetry.

John Cassavetes

The recent death of Ben Gazzara and the photos of him with Peter Falk and JC reminded me of Johnny Staccato, the New York jazz pianist/private detective played by Cassavetes in the 50’s – and in particular, its great theme music, composed and played by Elmer Bernstein; Staccato’s Theme, backed with the Jazz at Waldo’s,  one of the first 45’s I owned.  Still got it, still play it.

Trying to do some more conventional stuff, and not pulling it off – but trying.

Blackpaint

20/02/12

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