Archive for March, 2012

Blackpaint 334 – Mohicans and Bellringers

March 30, 2012

Latest Life Drawings

A picture interval, illustrating some more common drawbacks – for example, don’t forget to draw head (see below).

Bellringer’s muscles

Crowded studio

Left leg missing

Dressed for street; right arm overdeveloped.

Lost charcoal so had to use blue paint

Perhaps a little overlarge in chest area

OK really

Fell off podium

Started too far over

Head missing

And again

Floor tilted up

No room for feet

Normal blogging service will be resumed next blog, with interesting text and proper abstract painting.

Blackpaint

30.03.12

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Blackpaint 333 – Turkish corpses, frenzied nuns and tagliatelli

March 29, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan.  As the police, army, doctor and prosecutor search the Turkish countryside at night  for a murder victim, guided (!) by a suspect who can’t recognise the spot, they chat about yogurt (shades of Pulp Fiction and hamburgers);  winds get up that rustle the poplars (Padre Padrone) while the searchers take piss breaks, or peer into the searchlights, or land blows of frustration on the confused (or dissembling) captive.  Two more tiresome film buff references: the countryside resembles that of Iran in Kiarostami’s The Wind will Carry Us – and the interminable dictation of legalese and medicalese to typists by first, the prosecutor, then, the doctor, recalls the two secret police at the end of Tarr’s Satantango.  Three memorable images – a winding road through cornfields, laid out  like a thick straw mat; apples plopping into a fast- running stream and bounding downstream over the boulders; and a wind-blown Turkish homestead, made from the dry earth, it’s yellow lamps glimmering.

Perfect for DVD, I found it 30 minutes too long – I was waiting for the bit where the image would freeze and fade to music, but several of these images arrived and moved on into another sequence; arrival at the police station, post-mortem…

The Devils

I’d forgotten just how brilliant this film was and how many famous faces it contains; apart from Reed, Redgrave and Dudley Sutton, there’s Max Adrian and Brian Murphy from Man about the House (or was it Robin’s Nest?), as the two crazed physicians in leather masks.  They sort through the disgorged vomit of the crazed Ursuline nuns, seeking proof of Satanic practices – they find children’s organs, semen and – what’s this?  “A carrot”.  Louis XIII, shooting Protestants dressed as birds and released from giant cages to run across the king’s firing line, shoots one, who tumbles into a pond; as he sinks, the king says “Bye Bye… Blackbird”.  And music by Peter Maxwell Davies!

Joan Mitchell, Last Paintings, at Hauser and Wirth

Five huge canvases from her last decade; the familiar brushwork, like shredded paper, or wide strips tumbled together into a pile, or standing in glowing, superimposed stripes like trees (in “Trees”, 90-91), or multicoloured bundles of tagliatelli, in “Sunflowers”.  The burning, tangled colours a little more raw than usual, and some noticeable dry brush drags.  Upstairs, the Tondos, portholes looking out onto the Grande Vallee – I like the one with the glossy white at the top – and from the big ones, “Then, Last Time, No.4”, the tumbled together one, in dark blue and green.

Michael Raedecker

Also at Hauser and Wirth, at the gallery round the corner from the Mitchell (North Gallery).  His pictures are made with thread on large canvases painted in metallic greys and greens.  Wedding cakes, chandeliers, window and row of bungalows.  The bungalows are cut into panels and re-sorted amongst several canvases to create discontinuities. At the upper and lower edges of the canvases, white blobs that are reminiscent of Peter Doig.  The press release describes his work as “subtle and unsettling… enigmatic” – which seems fair enough.

Mary Heilmann

Finally, and also at Hauser and Wirth – all three of these exhibitions are free, by the way – the above; piercingly, blindingly vivid nursery colours on boxy chairs and small, biscuit-like paintings.  Irritating at first, but worth hanging around for 10 minutes until your eyes adjust.  One great picture in blues and greens of waves piling up – she uses an effect that makes the dark blues look like flattened tubes spouting diagonally across the little canvas; reminded me of that great Albert Irvin, “Flodden”,  I was writing about a few weeks ago – but that was huge; this is small.

Blackpaint

29/03/12

Blackpaint 332 – Ken, Katrine and Five Abstract Painters

March 23, 2012

Tonino Guerra

Obit today in the Guardian, the above was the co-screen writer for Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia (the one with the self-immolation at the end); Antonioni’s l’Aventurra (the one with Monica Vitti, in which the girl Anna goes missing from the island); and Fellini’s Amarcord (the one with the fog, and the motorbike races, and the uncle who climbs the tree and throws stones at everyone) – but also those neo-realist(?) films of Rosa; Giuliano, Illustrious Corpses..  a major passing.

BFI Documentary Section

On the South Bank, by Waterloo Bridge, is the BFI and you can walk into the above section and sit at a screen and watch anything they have for free, no membership or bother.  I walked in today and found they have all Ken Russell’s BBC stuff, Elgar, Delius, etc.  I watched “Scottish Painters”. his 10 minute prog on Colquhoun and MacBryde; loads of great paintings on show, MacBryde’s still lifes and Colquhoun’s eerie, stone-faced women in shawls with Picasso hands..  Then, his 16 minute feature on the guitar, with Davey Graham doing “Cry Me A River” on a bombsite – looked about 16.  Leave it for a week before you visit – I want to see all the Kens first (Devils now out on DVD; got it today).

Those Who Kill (ITV3)

Why have there been no reviews in the broadsheets of this Danish serial killer series?  After all, Troels from the Killing is in it; Rie popped up last night, as the wife of the psychopath.. Presume it’s because it’s ITV3, not BBC4.   No woollen jumpers, it’s true, but Katrine, the damaged heroine, has established a sort of uniform of her own.  they are pretty much a disaster as police; there have been four episodes, I think; she was kidnapped and tortured in one, taken hostage in a prison and nearly raped in the next, had a week’s rest while Thomas, her sidekick, went undercover and was beaten up and came close to being killed – and in the last one, she had a brief, vigorous affair with the psychopath of the week – and, yes, was nearly murdered.  I love those ballet-like bits when they go into dark, derelict buildings, holding their pistols out before them in a double handed grip, then spin round, dart round corners, etc.  Unmissable – unless, of course, you missed it.  Repeated Saturday night.

Back to Painting..

Thought I could do five great abstract paintings today, so here goes…

Joan Mitchell, Evenings on 73rd Street

Headwind, Peter Lanyon

Berkeley no.38, Richard Diebenkorn

Terry Frost, Red, black and white

Interchange, Willem de Kooning

Nothing really to say about the above pictures – except that I think they are all staggeringly brilliant.  my own pathetic effort below:

My New Colours

Blackpaint

23/3/12

Blackpaint 331 – Lucifer Sits In with the Band

March 18, 2012

Ginger and Fred

Fellini again, quite late (1986), and starring his wife Giulietta Masina and Marcello Mastroianni – recommendation enough, really, but I want to go on about it. 

 Two elderly dancers, who once did a popular double act, imitating Astaire and Rodgers (today the’d be called a tribute act); they haven’t seen each other for years, but are invited to take part in a Christmas variety show, run by a commercial TV channel.  it turns out to be a freak show; they have been invited because they are old and will be odd and amusing for the audience, especially if they can’t cut it any more.  If they can, they’ll provide sentimental value.

  This film is, of course, part of Fellini’s war with TV, which he waged unapologetically- despite getting some funding for his films from TV companies, and even making some commercials himself; good for him – hypocrisy makes the world go round.

Despite the onslaught on sensation and cheap, mindless sentimentality, Fellini does allow them their sequence of Astaire-Rodgers numbers on air at the end of the film – and they bring it off, apart from one collapse from an overexcited Mastroianni.  Another director, maybe a younger Fellini, would have let the power cut end the show, robbing the pair of their big moment.  Mastroianni, with his ruined good looks, his leer and his jeering whistle; Masina, her ladylike, beaming optimism suddenly undercut by that sour, downturned- cornered mouth, just fantastic, the pair of them.  It’s worth watching the advertising hoardings in the background – fleeting glimpses, but interesting images.

Lord of the Flies

The film by Peter Brook, using real English kids on a bit of Puerto Rico that looks like a real tropical island.  Brook avoided coaching the boys on dialogue, so in places there are excruciating pauses and under/overacting; but some of the scenes are riveting.  When Jack, the fascistic choirboy leader marches the uniformed choir in, they enter singing “Kyrie Elaison” from Britten’s Noyes Fludde – and its chilling, not charming, as in the latter.  The killing of the airman, the rock crushing Piggy, the chase through the burning jungle and the arrival of the naval officer in his shorts and whites are equally gripping.  Skinny Jack, with his warpaint and cutting, upper class accent, is like a demented Edith Sitwell, crossed with Heydrich.  Then there is the still of Ralph’s anguished face at the end.

 I saw the last 40 minutes as a sort of sandwich between The Picture of Dorian Grey and the end of Copycat, the Sigourney Weaver serial killer film – it made both films look ridiculous.

Grunewald and the Ysenheim altarpiece

At the Picasso and the Brits show at Tate Britain, the Three Dancers especially, and the Bacons. reminded me of the Grunewald (if that really was his name) crucifixion, in the museum at Colmar.  10 years since I saw it.

In the first panel, the famous tortured Christ on the cross, with the huge, “gripping” fingers; the arm of St John the Evangelist around the Virgin, enormously elongated (arm, not Virgin).

Next, the Annunciation, and the orchestra of angels with their weird instruments and a grey, feathery Lucifer joining in(!)

Then, the Resurrection panel, with Jesus leaping forwards in a halo of light, as if arriving at the party.

Next, the Temptation/tormenting of St,Anthony; the snot-dripping monster, the man with all the ailments (St. Anthony’s Fire, or ergot disease), bubonic plague, leprosy – and the little, winged. buck-toothed demon, reminiscent of 60s fantasy paperback covers, Jabberwocky illustrations, Bosch or Max Ernst.  In the other panel, St. Anthony meets St. Paul in the desert – but there’s loads of what looks like Spanish Moss hanging around – like Louisiana, more than the desert of the Middle East.

Affordable Art Fair

In Battersea Park.  Great to walk round in my usual scruffy clothes,  being beamed at, like all visitors, by beautifully dressed dealers who think I just might be a Russian oligarch dressed down, looking for something cheap, a few thousand pounds, say.  Hardly any abstract stuff on show – lots of bird paintings,  though; birds seem to be in vogue at this “affordable” level.

Depressed, I went home to listen to Charley Patton.

“I like to fuss and fight,

I like to fuss and fight;

I like to get sloppy drunk with a bottle (in bond?),

And walk the streets all night.”

Charley Patton, Elder Green Blues

No new paintings today, so here’s an old one and a crap life drawing:

 

 

Blackpaint

18/03/12

Blackpaint 330 – Guns, Knives, Spaghetti and Rubbish

March 12, 2012

Niki de Saint Phalle

I have been looking at her “Shooting Piece” for many short periods, during the last 11 days – reason being, it’s on the March page of our Tate calendar, which hangs on the toilet door.  On Saturday, at the Tate, I had the chance to look at it in the flesh, or rather, plaster.  It’s a white plaque of thick, rumpled plaster, down which several trails of paint –  red, blue, yellow, violet – have been allowed to dribble.  It seems that she put paint into polythene bags, buried them in the plaster, and invited fellow artists – Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg – to fire bullets into the work.  The paint released then ran down, in and out of the ridges randomly (sorry about the inadvertent alliteration).

I like the work; I find it pleasing visually and quite memorable.  I think I could have gone on liking the work and not knowing how it was produced, without being troubled by it.  Or rather, now that I know, it doesn’t alter my feelings in any way.  Is it now a joint work by Saint Phalle, JJ and RR?  Does the element of chance add or subtract meaning?   Not for me; I respond to its looks, not the information I have about its origins, the intentions of the artist, its context, in short.  Very shallow, maybe, but a good rule of thumb in galleries – unless you want to spend a lot of time peering at wall info, or blocking everybody’s view while you listen to some long audio commentary.

Igor and Svetlana Kopystansky

I watched their film, made in Chelsea district of NY over 2 years.  Called “Incidents”, it’s basically rubbish blowing about the streets in strong winds.  It’s hard to avoid the thought that they may have cheated by introducing particularly interesting bits of rubbish – why is this cheating?  Don’t know – it turns the film into something manufactured, rather than observed (but editing, which they of course did, does that as well).  Completely contradicts what I said about Saint Phalle, but blogger’s privilege…  Anyway, these plastic bags, cartons, bits and pieces slide and whirl about, occasionally pouncing on other bits like predators or mating insects.  Reminded me of one of those Czech cartoons you used to get on TV when they had a slot to fill.

Alighiero Boetti

At the Tate Modern.  Starts with a bunch of Arte Povera pieces, such as a perspex cube containing a sort of chest made from a variety of brown materials like bamboo and spaghetti; huge rolls of stiff paper, pulled out like a giant’s toilet roll.  Lots of writings on large yellowing paper sheets, noughts and crosses, alphabets, little broken symbols like Braille crossed with pixcels (not easy on the eye. requiring close study); letter/word colour tiles, that were almost the same as pieces by Gavin Turk, shown in a weekend paper a couple of weeks ago – some sort of hommage, presumably?

Aircraft drawn on blue in biro, apparently,; “Tutti” – tapestry wall hangings with everything in them, crammed in – bones, horses, people, trumpets…..; and the famous Afghan map hangings in bright colours, countries with flags embroidered on them.  Did it in 20 minutes, having not been stirred to serious thought or moved to tears by visual splendours.  I’d put it in the same slot as the Orozco show, a while back.

Colquhoun and MacBryde

I was interested to read in the Bristow book, “The Last Bohemians”, that Ken Russell made a BBC film about them for Monitor – only 10 minutes long, entitled “Scottish Painters”.  From Bristow’s description, it sounds like a serious study of their painting techniques and work.  A few years later, when Ken was in more florid mode,  would he have included the scene, related by Bristow, of a drunken, naked Colquhoun chasing a drunken, naked MacBryde around a front garden in Wembley, waving a knife. and lit up by occasional lightning?  I don’t think he could have resisted..

Stained Glass

Blackpaint

12/3/12

Blackpaint 329 – Manly Women and The Rear View

March 6, 2012

Leonard Rosoman

Obituary for the above today in Guardian. Fireman during the Blitz, painted the famous picture of the wall collapsing on two firemen during a raid (which he witnessed).  A beautiful picture of an aircraft with folded wings, Sutherland – ish, a luscious rose-pink; was in the Imperial War Museum some time back, maybe still on show.

Robert Motherwell

Looking at Motherwell’s art, you really come to understand what is meant by “gestural” painting – that’s exactly what many of his pictures resemble; a deliberate, sometimes violent, always deliberate gesture, usually in black, often with spatters, on a plain background.  His colours, unlike those of, say, Hoffman, are limited to maybe three or four at the most.  The Spanish Elegy series ran to over a hundred pictures, all with the same central image, based apparently on the dead bull’s testicles in the bullring.  This (below) is his Ulysses, in the Tate, which I have mentioned several times; it’s the most striking image in the surrealism bit (what’s it doing there?)…

Joan Mitchell

Every day, I change my mind – yesterday, I would have sworn de Kooning was the best of the AbEx bunch – OK, I know he wasn’t really an AbEx, not even an abstractionist for a lot of the time, but for convenience’ sake…  Today, I’ve picked up the Joan Mitchell book and it’s page after page of beautiful, fresh, intertwined tangles of bright paint, green, gold, blue, that somehow avoid bleeding into each other and becoming muddy and sludgy – Hemlock, Evenings on 73rd Street. George went swimming, Hudson River Day Line – and then the ones assembled out of colour blocks that look as if they are glowing with fire – Salut Sally, Wet Orange, Belle Bete, all with thin colours dribbling over and through the blocks.  They look good enough to eat.

Hudson River Day Line

She’s sort of the Anti-Auerbach; even when the canvas is covered, there’s light and space and air, somehow.  I love Auerbach’s sludgy paintings too, I hasten to add.

de Kooning

I’d assumed that he put his paintings together on the canvas, so to speak; that the charcoal and paint lines left in or only partly erased or obscured were evidence of an improvisatory approach – wrong.  He left some in, painted over others,  He traced or enlarged elements from one picture or sketch to another.  He appears to have borrowed images from other painters on occasion, a notable example being the screaming woman looking up to the sky in “Guernica”.  He mixed his paints with plaster of paris to achieve particular effects. 

It seems that few American Abstract Expressionists fitted the stereotype of the gestural painter, who improvises as he/she goes along.  Maybe only Pollock and a couple of othersMotherwell?

Apart from three canvases, my paintings are totally improvised – when I start, I’ve hardly any idea of where they are going to go.  No sketches, it all takes place on the canvas or the paper.  First thing – get the canvas dirty with a swatch or slash of paint.  After that, it proceeds by trial and error and correction, scraping and plastering.  Shapes emerge and are incorporated or painted over, tracts of paint have to be concealed, scraped off or cut back.  Eventually, an image or set of images emerges, that I think constitutes a picture.  I’m sure that, if I did sketches or preparation, the end result would be better – but the process would be like work and I’d have to stop.  I’d rather keep painting.

Michelangelo

I haven’t written anything about the maestro for ages, so had a flick through the picture books tonight.  Two things struck me, both very banal, I’m sure.  First, most of his women, with the exception of Virgins, are really men with breasts stuck on (I think Alan Bennett put that observation into “The History Boys”) – and one of the images of God in the 8th bay of the Sistine ceiling is showing his bare backside, for no good reason.  Given that lots of genitalia were later painted over, how did that get past the censors?

Goodfellas

Paging through the channels aimlessly the other night, came across Paul Sorvino’s pouchy face peering at the garlic clove, as he shaves it into thin slices with a razor blade – and that was it, hooked again; only seen it about twenty-three times.  Astounding that he never got an Oscar until The Departed.

A really early one.

Some of my stuff in the WhatIf Gallery, Dartford.

Blackpaint

06.03.12

Blackpaint 328 – Raw, Astonished Ranks

March 1, 2012

de Kooning

Interesting to read in the Retrospective book that DK had a problem doing hands; in his figurative pictures, they are either concealed in some way, or presented as stylised, jagged interlocks of fingers.  Doesn’t matter, of course – but it’s nice to find out that even the geniuses have their weaknesses.   Durer, for instance, couldn’t do rhinos.

Fellini

Which brings me yet again to “And the Ship Sails On”.  Hockney mentioned it to Andrew Marr in the film about his RA exhibition; he said that the film was about the difficulties of perception, I think, or something like that:  it makes sense, in view of the deliberate undermining of illusion in the film.  The rhino, as I said, is too big and obviously polythene; the smoke from the funnels of the battleship spreads out like a ridiculous Ascot hat and doesn’t disperse; the rolling sea across which Freddie Jones rows the rhino is clearly a glittering, artificial blue-green fabric – and at the end, the camera rolls back to reveal the whole film crew at work behind a monstrous rocking platform, bearing the “ship”.  Jones, incidentally, looks for an instant, during the ash scattering scene, exactly like Fellini’s wife – something about the wistful smile and sideways glance.

Poetry 

I suppose this is obvious, but I was struck this week by the way some lines stick hard in your head, whilst others immediately sink into nothingness, even though you try to recall them.  I was trying to learn Kipling’s “Edgehill” and the phrase “raw, astonished ranks” has stuck fast.  the rest I can retain for minutes only.  I would guess that’s the case with paintings too; you remember an aspect, a patch of colour, a gesture, whatever, and retain only an impression of the rest.  This is proved to me by the number of times I’ve described a picture in this blog, then looked at it again and found I’d got it badly wrong.

All’s Well that Ends Well

Just finished reading this again and found it for the most part a tiresome experience – as opposed to seeing it done, of course; there is one notable aspect of it though, and that is the character of Parolles, who, like Toby Belch, has similarities to Falstaff – with the possible exception of Bloom, the richest character in world literature.  Parolles is a boaster, a coward, and basically everything contemptible in Elizabethan society.  He is exposed and humiliated cruelly by his soldier “comrades” – but instead of endorsing his downfall, Shakespeare gives him an almost defiant speech in which he accepts his nature and affirms his right to be as any other:  “Captain I’ll be no more;  But I will eat and drink and sleep as soft As captains shall…There’s place and means for every man alive.”

Auerbach and de Kooning

Interesting that both these artists had a high regard for the work of Chaim Soutine, the flesh painter; I wonder if Freud – yes, in the Taschen Freud, it says that he admired Soutine’s paintings of dead animals and reproduces a 1919 Soutine painting of two pheasants, which is similar to Freud’s Dead Heron of 1945.  Not really the same thing, though; I was thinking of Freud’s later naked humans.

Robert Hughes

I’ve been dismissive of Hughes’ pompous attitude to some artists, but I must say, he writes beautifully about painting; in his Auerbach, he refers to “E.O.W” (Stella West) as being “carved from a block of butter-like substance” in one picture and of figures and things being stuck like flies in jam on Auerbach’s surfaces.

Hedda Sterne

The woman at the back – and the only woman – in the famous photo of the “irascibles” , including de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Still and others; a presence that, sadly, she appears to be famous for, rather than her excellent and varied paintings.  Died last April, another one I missed – must have been away.  Well worth a look on Google.

A couple of pictures from my life class, and a proper one below.  Any reader in vicinity of Dartford (Kent, UK) may care to drop in to the What if..Gallery over the next 10 days and see some of my pictures, along with those of Marion Jones and Chris Grice.

Blackpaint

1/3/12