Archive for June, 2012

Blackpaint 348 – Hopping Through the Market and Swinging in the Trees

June 28, 2012

Chelsea Degree Show

The “plaques” of paint I enthused about in the last blog were made by Clare Travers.

Other Chelsea works I liked:

Jonathan Slaughter – droopy, wilting, tubular sculpture, called, I believe, “Pay for the Printer”, a title borrowed from a Philip K Dick story.  In this tale, human societies have become dependent on friendly aliens known as “printers”, who can reproduce goods and chattels that are described to them; then they get ill and start dying and their powers wane; the replications become ever poorer and fall to pieces or melt back into shapeless matter – time for humanity to shape up and get the tools out again. 

Minji Kim – fragile sculptures of joined rectangles and cubes, formed from thin sticks glued to each other (they don’t appear to interlink like Escher, but are rather glued together), hanging horizontally in front of a dark background.

Anne – Marie Kennedy – paintings of dark grey blocks, cut and slightly shifted by thick slices of white.  Painterly roughness, of course; I have to have some texture.

Don Gumbrell – big, cartoonish paintings with a slight George Condo feel; modern German Expressionist colours.  Like the colour and surface, not so much the image.

Tess Faria – videos, which I normally pass by en route to paintings; she’s plastering a whitewashed wall with black mud; she’s sitting in a big white box in the road; and in the last one, she’s hopping on one leg through a market (could be Deptford?)  – hopping and shopping, in fact.  One or two passers-by look back briefly.  Don’t know why, it sounds trivial and old hat, but it made me watch until she’d finished plastering the wall in one video and hopped out of the market in another, and cheered me up.

Anon – In the same room as Tess, a number of items of furniture, TV, wardrobe etc, beautifully made from chipboard.  Videos, too, but I liked the furniture.  Forgot the name and the work wasn’t in the catalogue.

Selma Dahhouki – more video; she’s swinging on a rope on a tree in the woods, she’s attempting unsuccessfully to slide up another tree trunk, she’s diving into the green waters of a river or lake.  And yes, she’s naked, as you would be, doing these “back to nature” type activities.  Fortunately, the task I have set myself is merely to describe, not to interpret – so I can enjoy the simple pleasures of just looking at art.

Also liked Joanna Stamford’s battered, torn, bronze arm bracelets and lumpy plaster chairs; Tommy Ramsay’s oils of brick walls and columns on grey/brown backgrounds; and Susan Collyer’s Richter-ish blur pictures – particularly the grey “plate” with the orange squares (since I’m looking at this in the catalogue, can’t make out whether it’s a painting or photograph).

Generally, lots more painting in Chelsea show now, mostly retro like my own stuff.  Lot of interesting abstract stuff on walls of TV programme sets too – Mad Men of course, but also Neighbours – don’t watch it myself, mind you – but so I’m told.  And even some advert, there’s a couple of good abstracts, not in some Bauhaus kitchen with beautiful people either.  Can’t remember the product, though.

David Bomberg  

The Sarah Rose collection of Bomberg and the Borough painters is open now at South Bank Uni in Borough High Street; fabulous, interesting painter, famously “uncompromising” (difficult personality).  I’m off there at earliest opportunity – see collection online at www.boroughroadgallery.co.uk

Blackpaint

28.06.12

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Blackpaint 347 – Bowling, Nicholson, Chelsea and Quinn

June 21, 2012

Tate Britain

Some “new” stuff, worth a look:

Howard Hodgkin, deep resonant green and white, more clear-cut than his usual brushwork.

Catherine Yass video, replacing the Wallinger’s airport hall; this one, of a tightrope walker, startng the transit between two tower blocks in Glasgow, the Red Road site, I think.  He gets about halfway, and then retreats backwards, the winds being too strong.  Sweating palms and clenched sphincter job, for me anyway.  Not sure what the Yass output was; most of it was taken from tightrope walker’s helmet camera.  Wallinger’s was in slo-mo, with added music – don’t think there was music for this one and normal speed…

As part of the Patrick Keiller exhibit, that striking Gursky photograph of the winding black and white roadways, entitled “Bahrain” (very similar to Burtynsky‘s work at the Photographer’s Gallery, technically anyway).

Karla Black, a whole room’s worth of exhibit, huge,long, loose, crumply roll of – wallpaper? with flattened “plates” of pastel powder, each of different colour, poured and compacted along its length.

Next door, fleshy, beige-grey, snail-like coils on individual stands, by Sarah Lucas; a huge, emerald green Tillmans photograph, with the black inky threads trailing and swirling like hair under water; and a couple of Calum Innes works, one blue and yellow game of two halves, the other, black or dark, with Clyfford Still-like “tears” running down.

Elsewhere, a lovely geometric abstract with a rough, yellow/green surface by Winifred Nicholson, called “moonlight and Lamplight” from 1937.

The most striking thing for me there at the moment is the roomful of Frank Bowling’s poured acrylic paintings; blistering, bright colours, reminiscent of John Hoyland (indeed, several of Bowling’s paintings on net are very like Hoyland’s – or vice versa).

Chelsea Degree Show

Opposite the Tate, some seriously good work on show, and the catalogue only £2; there is a white room complex on the ground floor that is particularly good; square arches giving a series of partial views through.  Two big paintings in Popart style, one yellow with bathing suits hanging on a line, the other sort of lilac or mulberry pinky, motif like a frame, I think.  In next space, through an arch, patches of fabric stuck onto canvases in such a way that they overlap the walls.  Through another arch, a sort of campsite scenario set up, with a little camp stove with an orange paper(?) flame twisting and “burning”.  Individually, not so impressive maybe, but seen as a collective piece spreading over the several white spaces, very pleasing.

Also, a number of wall plaques, I suppose you could call them, composed of slatches of pigment of Bram Bogart thickness, with fragments of paper, card or fabric “splatted” onto them, as if stamped into the vivid and various paints with a rubber sole. 

La Strada

Watched this again, and found  Giuletta Masina’s Chaplinesque mugging very irritating.  The relentless comic pathos, determined brutishness of Anthony Quinn and the circus background disguise the harsh essentials of the story – sister dead, sold to a thug for 10.000 lire, beaten, raped (?), humiliated, the murder of the acrobat – it’s not a comedy.  Anthony Quinn is the anti- George Clooney.. or Cary Grant, to get the era right.  Interesting to see the influence of the film; that religious procession was in the Godfather II, surely, and maybe Le Quattro Volte.

Blackpaint

21.06.12

Blackpaint 346 – The Glamour of Desolation

June 14, 2012

Burtynsky again

Second visit and I realise that these fabulous photographs actually glamorise the processes of oil extraction, refinement and waste disposal – not sure if that was the artist’s intention.  The scenes of environmental dereliction, in the Azerbaijan oilfields and especially Chittagong, look great.  If I were in Bangladesh as a tourist, I’d want to go to Chittagong, see the hulks on the beaches with golden light pouring over and round them, and take pictures.  From across the room, the photographs reminded me of those classy riverscape paintings used to illustrate Penguin Classic editions of Dickens – “Our Mutual Friend”, maybe.

If they had been in black and white, they would have looked like Baltermans Soviet war shots; Stalingrad or Kursk…

And, inevitably, the salt flats shot recalls Brueghel…

Tree of Life (Malick)

Another second visit, and the Tarkovsky overtones immediately flooding in, especially “Mirror”; but a couple of Ray Bradbury moments I missed the first time, too – the clown who drops into the water tank (surely that’s Gacy’s clownface?) and the tall man in the wooden tunnel/corridor…  Probably me reading stuff in, rather than Malick.

A series of images at the end to play with; beach and sandbar, desert rocks, doorway in desert and water, that rock fissure from below again, the floating mask – and who are the two girls with the mother when she gives her son to god/eternity/universe…?

British Museum – The Horse

The Stubbs paintings; sometimes, there’s something strange or not right with his riders and horses, isn’t there?  The horses seem to me to be elongated somehow, can’t quite put my finger on it…  It must be a way of seeing, since he did all those anatomical drawings of horses (a copy of the book is in the exhibition).

Van Dyck

There is the most beautiful drawing of a horse in black chalk with white highlights on blue paper; the wall note says it’s probably a sketch for an equestrian portrait like the one of Charles I in the National Gallery – the one in which the horse’s neck is too long and/or the head too small.

Picasso, the Vollard Collection (print room of British Museum)

Seen these etchings already in Santiago de Compostella (see Blackpaint 288).  The beautiful curving line, freedom of depiction, the way he mixes spare line with dense forests of cross-hatching.  That head-knob nose, copied from – forgotten, somewhere Middle East or Med.,  that makes an appearance for several prints and then disappears.  Mostly elderly artist with nude model and statue; a series of Minotaurs, drinking at orgies, or creeping into young girls’ bedrooms – there are usually naked girls, vulnerably loitering or asleep, in the vicinity.  There is a series of five or six “rapes”, with great flurries of limbs and torsos, but difficult to make out.  Finally, there are several blind Minotaurs, being led here or there in a stiff-legged, Egyptian profile walk.  Some Rembrandt and Goya etchings are mixed in, where Picasso had borrowed a theme, or the subject matter/technique is similar.

Blackpaint

14th June 2012

Blackpaint 345 – Doc, Ray, Sigmar, Bela, Fred and Ginger

June 7, 2012

Two heroes gone this week –

Doc Watson

Listen to “Stack O’ Lee” and Alabama Bound”  on  “Ballads from Deep Gap”, with his son Merle accompanying him – country guitar playing beyond adequate description..

And…

Ray Bradbury

I’ve blogged about him before (see Blackpaints 41, 149, 170 ) and recently re-read seven of his short story books – I wrote down four, then counted them up; Silver Locusts, Small Assassin [Dark Carnival}, October Country, Illustrated Man, Golden Apples of the Sun, Dandelion Wine, Day it Rained Forever.  Easy to see his influence on Stephen King, which is a good thing – but then there’s the 1920s whimsical nostalgia; straw hats, striped blazers, bonnets, park bandstands, sarsaparilla, shades of Dick Van Dyke.  This can be wearing but it’s interspersed with real creepiness, malice and horror.  The Small Assassin for example, an intelligent, malign baby that murders its mother; the undertaker who abuses his clients in the mortuary and eventually gets his comeuppance; the Catacombs.  Best of all, I like “the Lake” from “The October Country” – an air of real melancholy.  I think it might be his earliest published story.

And back to art.

Sigmar Polke

Polke is an artist about whom I have written very little; the reason, I think, is that his work is so diverse, it’s difficult to get a handle on it.  If, for instance, you take four Polke pictures from Taschen’s “Contemporary Art” (1990), you find them completely different from each other.  “The Computer Moves In”, paint or ink sprayed on a photographic print (?) of someone seated at a computer station, on a pixelled background; “Camp 82”, a barbed-wire Auschwitz corridor between concrete fence posts and spot lights, under a baleful, dirty, grey/orange sky; and “Alice” – white outline drawing of Alice and the hookah-smoking caterpillar on his mushroom, on a background of white spots and green “football” wallpaper.  They are all from the early 80’s; “Socks”, from 1962, is a painting in varnish of three long brown socks laid out as if for display- it looks just like a Wayne Thiebaud.

The text makes great play of his light sense of irony and this lightness is maybe another thing that distinguishes him from other German artists of the period…

Picasso 

At the Tate Britain show of P’s influences on British artists, there were one or two startling, early Impressionist-style paintings that were impossible to recognise as Picassos.  The Rotterdam Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum apparently has another.  It is called “Woman at the Table Outside a Cafe”, from 1901.  A woman in a beautiful grey-green dress, in a cape and enormous white feather hat; red lips, challenging expression, slightly caricature-ish.  Apparently, she is an “old prostitute”, according to the catalogue.  The picture suggests Lautrec, or maybe Van Dongen (love that name).

Richard Pare

The sweeping “S” shape of the balustrade in the “Chekist Housing Scheme” stairwell, photographed in Moscow by Pare in 1999 and shown in the RA’s recent “Building the Revolution” show.  It’s exactly the sort of thing Fred and Ginger might have danced down in “Top Hat” or “Swing Time”. 

The Turin Horse

It’s all there; the relentless weather (wind this time), the pitch-dark, painterly interiors, the textures, the repetition, the dressing and undressing, the small actions performed in their entirety, no editing – the hot potatoes, eaten with burnt fingers, lips and mouths (cutlery not needed in Tarrland), the drinking of Palinka…  But then there is the beauty and sharpness of the images.  When the girl wrestles the well cover off, I was waiting for the Japanese girl to emerge…  The photographer is called Fred Keleman; he should get a mention – and of course, there is Vig, who writes and performs(?) the necessarily relentless accordion theme.  I don’t really care what it all means – it’s mesmerising.. but best in small doses.

Blackpaint

7/05/12