Blackpaint 328 – Raw, Astonished Ranks


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

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