Archive for August, 2012

Blackpaint 356 – Night Fishing, Rick and Ilsa, Sidney’s Fez

August 30, 2012

Away from wi-fi so couldn’t publish last week.


Thought I’d pick out some paintings that demonstrate startling or memorable colours this week, so here goes:

Picasso, Night Fishing at Antibes (1939).  Indigo, Claret and verdigris green.   Look how much he’s packed in, too – not only the boat, the man with the spear, the fish, sea, birds, but the quayside and a woman with a bike.

De Kooning, Woman with Bicycle.  The Picasso suggested this to me – maybe to DK too.  He chucks in all the colours but manages to make them look fresh.

Per Kirkeby, Flight into Egypt, 1996.  The flaring reds and oranges against that blue, and the textures.  The red and blue combo shows up in aseveral done in 1995 -6; Nikopeja I and II, Siege of Constantinople and an Untitled (Asger Jorn had a stage of giving apparently abstract pictures historical titles too – maybe an influence there).

Patrick Heron, Fourteen Discs (1963).  Two fried eggs – one with a green yolk and blue “white”; the other, natural yolk, green “white”.

Jorn, King of Hades. 1942.  Grid of black bars, sea green/blue and fiery red/orange glimmering through.


Saw this all the way through in one go for the first time last night and was, of course, bowled over.  The dodgy sets, the Wilson, Keppel and Betty costumes of the waiters, Sidney’s fez, Conrad Veidt’s unconvincing (?) German officer, Claud Rains’ apparent infatuation with Bogart (“If I were a woman, I’d want to marry him”, or words to that effect) – and Ingrid Bergman, sexier even than Ginger Rodgers.  The dialogue so full of quotations, and that song; I’d assumed it was by someone famous, Irving Berlin or Cole Porter, but no – Herman Hupfield.  Dooley Wilson was Sam; he was a drummer who couldn’t play the piano – but it’s his voice on “as Time Goes By”.  Acted with Lena Horne and Bill Robinson in “Stormy Weather”.

In the Paris flashback, Bogart looked to me uncannily like Robert Wagner.  I know it’s prurient, but did Rick and Ilsa “renew their relationship” in Rick’s flat over the club?  It seems to me it was implied by the fade out after she pulled the gun on him.  I’d like to think so – but then, they’d always have Casablanca, as well as Paris…

Top 10 films

Critics recently did one of these, so here’s mine, with reason in brief:

Satantango (Bela Tarr) – they plod through the relentless rain, across a darkening plain, to majestic, melancholic accordion music…

Amarcord (Fellini) – the fog scene, and meeting the ocean liner in the rowing boats….

L’Atalante  (Vigo) – the underwater scene and the clarity of the filming.

Mirror (Tarkovsky) – she raises her head from the tub, hair over her face, ropes of water spraying around – and everything else really, the fire, the snow scene, the newsreel of the balloon ascent.

The Leopard (Visconti) – Burt and Claudia dancing at the ball; stunning…

Russian Ark (Sokurov) – That staircase at the end as they flock down to oblivion dressed in their Napoleonic finery.

Death in Venice (Visconti) – Bogarde throughout, the Mahler 4th and 5th, the ginger player with the front teeth missing, the tut-tutting hotel manager (also in Leopard, what’s his name?)

Women in Love (Ken Russell) – Glenda radiant, Oliver brooding and smouldering, Eleanor Bron’s dance. the naked wrestling…

I realise none of these films contain any meaningful sex scenes,  so next blog will contain my top five high quality films containing sizzling sex; why only five?   Only seen five.

Sables – les – Pins




Blackpaint 355 – Shark Penis of the Fish God

August 16, 2012

The Tanks at Tate Modern

The cement walls alternate in texture, smooth and rough, and colour, white, grey, honey – like walking through chambers cut from hard cheese.  Along with the massive black, bolted girders the tanks are an artwork in themselves.  You could take photos of corners and crannies, bung them in frames and flog them at craft fairs.

The first “room”, The Crystal Quilt by Suzanne Lacy, shows a speeded-up top shot of figures flicking in and out of a seated area in a church or concert hall with a red polygonal centre.  On the wall is a tapestry of the same pattern.  I thought the film was of Tate Modern itself but it was made in 1987.  Turns out it was Mother’s Day in Minneapolis; 430 women over 60 gathered in a shopping centre around a giant quilting pattern.

Next “room”, Temper Clay by Sung Hwan Kim; massive, lots going on in corners, against wall; videos on several TVs, sound (some intriguing harmonies and rhythms, Korean presumably, narratives and poetry on different screens, misty white park scenes, skyscrapers in sharp focus, prostrate youth looking soulful…  An exhibit to wander into again and again, I suspect something different every time – very satisfying, so long as you don’t look for joined-up intellectual meaning…  “Temper Clay” is a quote from King Lear and there is a long article in the Tanks programme notes explaining – can’t be bothered, I’d rather just enjoy what’s there without having to read what it all means.

Upstairs to the AbEx room again – that Guston “Head” with the tangled grey brushstrokes sort of thatched around it.  The Alan Davie “Image of the Fish God”.

Always gives me a shiver, this one; I think its the shark-like shape on the left, rising out of the black figure like a penis.  A while ago, there was a documentary on the Discovery Channel about one of those mad Americans who messes about with Great White Sharks.  He was towing a seal-shaped dinghy in waters frequented by Great Whites, in order to find out if…WHAM!! A huge, columnar, penis shape, with a lemon slice mouth full of teeth just hurtled straight up, gushing sea water, sending the dinghy skywards (probably with a great bite out of it) and sank straight back to the depths, leaving the shark botherer whimpering with shock.  Anyway, the Davie picture gives me just the slightest sliver of that sensation.

Campbells, near Tate Modern

Flogs old catalogues for two quid a throw – have recommended it before – got Sotheby’s for 2004 today, with three pictures that justify a love for abstraction and demand no figurative associations to get a response – from me anyway.

First, Diebenkorn, a little Ocean Park picture on paper from 1952, sky blue and terracotta, yellow and red in the geometric “frame”:

Next, Joan Mitchell, Untitled 1960, great clots of midnight and Prussian Blue shot through with red and thin white lightning strikes emanating from it:

Lastly, Guston, another “Untitled” from 1952, rusty brown, red and yellow streaks and worms, on grey, texture like a metal plate.  Couldn’t find these online, and batteries in camera dead, so will include photos next blog.


Blue on Ochre Rose


Blackpaint 354 – The Taylor – Vincent Ad; Abstract Art is Mistaken

August 9, 2012

The Taylor – Vincent Ad

In “Common People”, the Pulp song, Jarvis Cocker refers to the “Taylor – Vincent Ad” – or so it appeared to me.  I checked the lyrics on Google and there was no such line; asked others – never heard it.  So, I googled “Taylor Vincent” and arrived on a blog which critiqued the song at length.  In the thread that followed, a correspondent wrote that his mate insisted there was a mention of the TVA.  It turns out that the actual words are “..tear your insides out.” I like Taylor – Vincent ad better.

Because at least two people – myself and the correspondent’s mate – heard “Taylor Vincent”, I feel that TVA has acqired a sort of integrity.  It exists in some sense because we both (mis)heard it.  I see an analogy – spurious, no doubt – with to abstract painting here; I feel that every time I do a painting, I potentially make a Taylor Vincent Ad.  The shape, or device, or motif, or squiggle might not exist in the “real world” (except in the painting, of course) but it has a sort of potential Taylor Vincentiality – especially if someone else sees the same thing.  Or no – if they see something else, maybe that’s the TVA.

Can’t quite get the analogy right; is it me mistaking, or the viewer?  Maybe abstract painting itself is a sort of “mistaking”…  Pseud’s Corner stuff, really.

Picasso the Abstract Painter?

In Art in Three Colours (BBC4), Dr. Fox referred to Picasso as an abstract painter.  I don’t think Picasso painted an abstract painting in his life – I’ve never seen one, anyway; they’re all figurative.  They bear the same relationship to reality as Charlie Parker’s recordings bear to the original themes – maybe more.

de Kooning

Interesting to read in the Retrospective, that dK was another scraper (see Auerbach).  Put loads of paint on, then scraped it off again, leaving perhaps faint traces that he could build on.  This habit developed, understandably, as he became more successful in selling -so he could afford to waste more paint.


I’m reading “Militant Modernism” by Owen Hatherley, in which the author refers to the great photos Richard Pare took in Russia in 1990 (collected in “The Lost Vanguard” and some of which were in a recent exhibition at the RA – see previous Blackpaint).  He compares some of these photographs of semi-derelict Soviet avant-garde architecture with the devastated urban landscape of the Zone in “Stalker”.

This may be pushing it a bit far, but I see what he means; weeds pushing through, water dripping and cascading, flooded basements, piles of rubble – but interesting, evocative rubble in the Zone..  If the Soviet buildings haven’t arrived at this state in Pare’s pictures, many of them look as if they are on the way there.


Despite the nakedly capitalist aspects of the enterprise, the sponsorship deals, advertising, monopolies in the park, etc., it has been possible to detect a socialist,rather than Stalinist, flavour here and there – the target setting of medals for each sport, the similarity of responses when athletes are interviewed – I think they’ve been coached to follow a particular line – and the emphasis on Team GB, the collective over the individual.




Blackpaint 353 – Diana, Fidelio and the Long Shot

August 2, 2012

Titian et al at the National Gallery

The first striking thing in the exhibition is in the Callisto painting, the one on the far left as you enter.  It’s the massive right arm of the nymph in the foreground, with her back to us – the one who holds the equally large arrow.  The right arm is worthy of a shotputter and is out of proportion, but in a good, Michelangelo’s David sort of way (also substantially meaty are the arms of the goddess herself, as she fires the arrow at Actaeon in the “brown” picture).

In the centre of the Callisto painting is a glass object – an orb, globe or mirror – painted with the icy clarity of a Kalf still life.  It sets off the slightly misty “seethingness” of Titian’s surface seen close up.  In the autumnal tones of the painting depicting Actaeon’s death, the blurring is obvious, but can only be seen close up in the others.

In the painting where Actaeon surprises Diana, her small head and the odd angle at which it sits on her neck are, as always, striking; as with the arm, I point out distinctive, peculiar features which help make the pictures memorable for me.

Chris Ofili

There is a series of huge paintings which he calls the Ovid works.  Several display that Art Nouveau, Beardsley – like line he used in the paintings in his last exhibition and that dry, thin surface with the dark blue/mauve ground.  An enormous, light blue phallus in one – “Ovid; lust”, I think and a striking floor of red and white irregular “tiles” in another.

Conrad Shawcross

The Shawcross robot, smoothly running, with echoes of Epstein’s Rock Drill in its general appearance;  while I was there, its movements resembled those of a dog sniffing its crotch with the light probe.  For this reason, I took it to represent one of Actaeon’s hounds, but have since heard that it is supposed to be Diana herself.

There are also ballet costumes by several of the artists and a huge video of beautiful dancers and the directors rehearsing the ballets.  And all free.

Albert Irvin; Fidelio

At Gimpel Fils in Davies Street W1 until September.  Twenty six paintings, I think, that are great.  A couple of years ago, I saw my first Albert Irvin at the top of the stairs in the Tate Britain and it left me completely unmoved.  I thought it was boring; flat and brash, at the same time. Don’t know what happened – the “scales fell from my eyes” (where does that come from?) and now he’s my favourite living abstract painter, with Paul Feiler.

The “usual” fluorescent reds, greens, yellows, motifs that resemble flowers, crosses, pinnate leaves, stripes, squiggles, badges, circles – but amonst them, four stupendous paintings: “Rampart”, a tidal wave of wine or blood in a fluid block (?), “Brady”, yellow base with huge half-circle of green, covering left side; “Beacon”, with the grey/mauve ground and yellow-white cross hatchings like a cake – tiramisu maybe – spatched down on top; and “Trophy”, luminous green and red patches with a huge blue keyhole shape painted on it, for us to see through.

The first three are old – 76, 86 and 94 respectively – but “Trophy” is dated this year and all the rest are 2011 or 2012.  He’s 90 years old; not much development, but pretty consistent.

It strikes me that you could group him with Hoyland, Bowling, Paul Jenkins and maybe Richter (the abstracts anyway) in that they don’t use earth colours much or at all – their colours are airborne and sizzling.

More Irvin at Kings’ place until 24th August.

The Passenger, Antonioni

Watched the last, long shot through the barred window three times and couldn’t see the assassin or make out a shot.  Finally, watched it with Jack Nicholson’s commentary over the top; he points out – or at least, asks the question – “Was that a shot?”  At some point, the camera goes through the bars and turns round to follow the women and police into the dead man’s room.