Archive for September, 2012

Blackpaint 360 – Faust, Laocoon and the Red Desert

September 27, 2012

De Kooning

I was surprised to read in the Retrospective that DK got into a fight with Clement Greenberg in 1961 (this was when DK’s drinking was “becoming a problem”; unfortunately, it doesn’t say who won, painter or critic).  Even more of a surprise was to read that the whole of Janis’ stable of Abstract Impressionists had left gallery when he showed an exhibition of “New Realists”; Dine, Warhol, Lichtenstein, etc.  Guston, Motherwell, Rothko and dK walked. Those were the days…

Sokurov

I’ve just bought his “Faust” on DVD.  It often goes into that washed-out colour that Sok. used in “Mother and Son” and also uses the elongation and tilting of figures that featured in that film.  The Margareta and Mephistopheles characters are both sinister and memorable – the Grand Guignol dissections are fun too.  I lent my video of the silent Faust – Murnau, was it? – to someone and never got it back, but I remember a scene in that where Faust swings his cloak and it shrouds the entire city – nothing in Sokurov’s to equal that but it’s still very good.

Keith Vaughan

At an art fair at the Royal College of Art in Kensington Gore last week, saw this artist’s “Laocoon Man”, which is the cover picture for the new catalogue of Vaughan’s paintings.  I loved it for the combination of that singing blue background and the rough, cream/grey chevrons within the central figure.  Very beautiful paintings.

I was interested to see that a great, dark Albert Irvin from 63 I think, nothing like the brightness of his later and current work, was going for £14,000 – compared to over £50,000 average for dead British painters of, I guess, similar or lesser fame.  Presumably, at this level, the massive price hike happens  once you are dead.  I wonder how soon after?

Another painter new to me was William Brooker.  A great still life on a beige tablecloth, the folds opening towards the viewer with trompe l’oeil effect.  The precision and lines much like Euan Uglow, though Brooker earlier, I think.

Rachel Whiteread

When writing about Saatchi recently, should have mentioned the chess sets in separate gallery upstairs.  Whiteread’s has 60’s period doll’s house furniture as pieces; lamps, cabinets, a radiogram, I think.  Carpet and lino squares form the chess board.  Sounds twee, but quite funny.  Also, Matthew Roney’s; a picnic laid out on a tablecloth, picnickers having fled something that came out of the woods.  Bits of food and mustard, ketchup for the pieces – four erect penises at each corner for the rooks (maybe salt and pepper pots it occurs to me) –  but definitely penis shaped.

Red Desert

Watched this visually staggering film on TV the other day (sorry about the “staggering”, but it really is).  Monica Vitti fretting and smouldering throughout and Richard Harris thoroughly wooden – “doltish”, as the Encyclopedia of Film describes him.  Ridiculous portentous dialogue, of the kind sent up by Woody Allen, but extraordinary shipyard and quayside scenes in saturated greens and reds; ships looming through fog, pylons, derelict, polluted countryside – fantastic.

Saw” Bronzes” at the Royal Academy last Sunday – next blog.  WordPress appears to be breaking down – can’t do tags or insert more pictures!  Hope it works next time.  If not, I’ll be closing down.

Cap Frehel

Blackpaint

27.09.12

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Blackpaint 359 – Pre-Raphs, Cardboard Dogs and Complaining in Restaurants

September 20, 2012

Deliberate mistakes last blog:  substituting Huguenots for Puritans in the Fitzcarraldo mention;  mistaking Patrick Keiller (artist) for Patrick Kielty (TV presenter and celeb).  Sorry, getting senile.

In last blog, did best use of music in film; should have added worst use – that of “stirring” music behind the Crispin’s Day speech in Branagh’s Henry V; corny, distracting, unnecessary.

Pre-Raphaelites at Tate Britain

Enough eye-churning detail to give you indigestion of the brain.  One or two or even five or six – but hundreds is too much, like eating a whole tiramisu for four on your own (yes, I did last week, as it happens).  There are some strikers – that sky (cobalt?) blue in “The Pretty Baa-Lambs”, by Ford Madox Brown; but the sentimentality… Aah, she’s blind, she can’t see the lambs…

There is, however, another magnificent back to add to my little collection – that of the naked young lady in Burne – Jones’ picture below: “The Doom Fulfilled”, Perseus killing the monster.

That is one beautiful back, but spoilt somewhat by the tasteful way her legs taper to slender ankles and the way she stands as if wearing heels on a catwalk.  He should have had her standing in a pool up to her thighs..

Even though they don’t excite me in any way, I find I can remember loads of Pre-Raph paintings – Ophelia, The Last of England, The Scapegoat, Work, Basil and the Pot of Isabella…  must be strong images or maybe just seen them too many times.  I can’t see how you could make a convincing case for them as “Avant Garde” – that just seems perverse.  They look back to mythology, mediaevalism, even the name of the movement – so Victorian.  Second worst exhibition after Munch.

South Korean Art at Saatchi

Some clever stuff here – dogs and furniture made out of cardboard and left half-finished in a tangle of torn and bent card.   Sprayed with a shiny brown “leather” varnish.  Globular pots, vases, china, sawn into portions and soldered together to make huge, sprawling, pustular monsters, prostrate on gallery floor.  Large, grey pictures of bare rooms in which people sink into the floors, light switches and fittings sag and slide down the walls.  Massive,Gursky-like composite photographs of stacks of long balconies with tiny people and piles of those capsule lifts that go up the outside of buildings..  Clever, as I said, but not really much more.  If you bought one and had it at home, would you see something new in it for very long?

Archipelago (Joanna Hogg)

Brilliant film on TV the other night.  Set on Tresco in Scilly Isles, a family at their holiday home.  Neurosis, awkward silences, blazing rows on the phone within earshot of everyone at dinner, embarrassing complaints about food at the restaurant…  it was fantastic.  Beautifully lit – sun through window on white sheets, wind in the lush, semi-tropical vegetation, the shore, the rocks – definite Scandinavian feel, or maybe even Tarkovsky, “the Sacrifice”.  There is one scene in which the brother and sister are talking in one of the bedrooms, in which the light on their faces makes them look like Michelangelo paintings.  There is a painter in it who turns out to be a real painter, i.e. not an actor.  He is called Christopher Baker, and if those are his landscapes in the film, then he is pretty good, to say the least.

Blackpaint

20.09.12

Blackpaint 358 – Bach, Charcoal, Chalk and Tracer

September 13, 2012

As Promised:

Top 10 uses of music in films (excluding musicals – to come later):

1.  The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pasolini) – Blind Willie Johnson, Missa Luba and the last movement of the Matthew Passion; no contest for no.1, I think –

UNLESS it is 2.  Satantango (Bela Tarr) – that sobbing, throbbing accordion across the darkening plain;

3. 2001 (Kubrick) – Also Sprach Zarathustra, as awareness glimmers in the hominid’s eye, and he begins crushing the skull with the bone (could also have the jazz crooner over the still of Nicholson at the end of The Shining, or Beethoven’s 9th in The Clockwork Orange);

4.  Any Fellini film with Nino Rota music, but especially La Strada and the parade music at the end of 81/2 (eight and a half – don’t know how to do halves on laptop) – also the Godfather, of course;

5.  Russian Ark (Sokurov) – the Glinka mazurka;

6.  Death in Venice (Visconti) – the Mahler, 5th I think, when he decides to return to the hotel and is smirking to himself in the gondola;

7.  Performance (Roeg) – Sympathy with the Devil sequence;

8.  The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy) – naked Britt slapping the wall, driving poor Edward crazy and singing that gauche “folk” song; also the Summerisle population doing Sumer is a-coming in while Edward is roaring out his defiant Prot hymn as the flames climb higher….

9.  Fitzcarraldo (Herzog) – Caruso belting out of the gramophone on the boat, into the Amazon jungle; Kinsky with his cigar clenched in his teeth, serenaded by the chorus of I Puritani, as the boat sails back into Iquitos;

10.  Gallipoli (Peter Weir) – another boat, this time the troopship – the abrupt shift from patriotic song to Albinoni, as the ship glides in to the embattled beach, shells and tracer sailing overhead in the night sky…

Albert Irvin

I’ve bought a book of his stunning prints and was pleased to read that he thinks his flying experience contributes to his work.  He was a navigator and rear gunner in RAF  Bomber Command during the war and says that the awareness of motion and speed feeds in – I’d thought that some of the marks he makes resemble bomb bursts and tracer bullets, as well as the general coloration of the pieces – but no doubt that’s pushing it too far.

Kings Place, Sculptors’ Drawings

A huge, fantastic and free exhibition, with some brilliant drawings.  I especially liked Michael Kenney’s for the way he drives chalk marks into the charcoal, Alison Wilding’s lovely, messy ink storm, the beautiful head by Glyn Williams and Anthony Caro’s great nude – look at that right knee!

P:atrick Kieller at the Tate B (Robinson exhibit)

There’s a Kieller photograph of a gate below Graham Sutherland’s “Entrance to a Lane”; the deep, louring, black/blue of the sky is stunning and it looks just like a little painting.  Also at the Tate, I noticed for the first time how Lanyon’s “Porthleven” has been positioned with the Reg Butler insect woman and the Graham Sutherland biomorphic shapes to its left; all three pieces echoing each other visually.

Figure drawing

Bray Dunes

Blackpaint

12/09/12

Blackpaint 357 – Art Film Sex for the Older Fan; Perfect Illusions

September 7, 2012

As promised, my top five – or maybe six or seven – films with sex scenes, since last weeks had none and I don’t want my public to think I live a sheltered life…

Last Tango in Paris (Bertolucci) – Francis Bacon paintings in the credits, jazz saxophone, and a fabulous shot across/along that bridge; also the first meeting in the empty flat when Marlon takes Maria’s hat out of her hand…

The Night Porter (Taviani) – they are holed up together, hiding out; Charlotte takes Dirk in hand…

Belle de Jour (Bunuel) – there’s hardly any actual sex in it; maybe just the presence of Catherine Deneuve is sufficient.  Best scenes are her dreams of the carriage ride and the coffin going up and down as she lies in it, puzzled at what he’s doing underneath…

Diary of a Shinjuku Thief  (Oshima) – Saw this forty – odd years ago, so don’t remember much except that it made me rather unsettled;

Ai No Corrida – (Oshima) –  Ouch!!  Similar – actually, worse – moment in Antichrist;

Emmanuelle – the boxing match and after; strongly realist storyline – a beautiful young French woman gives herself to an old, authoritarian, aristocratic roue to learn about sexual fulfilment; her husband seems quite OK with this.  Happens all the time in Thailand.  Directed by the appropriately named Just Jaeckin

The Sheltering Sky – fun with the sheikh in the desert; Debra Winger is shut up in a wicker hut for visitations by her Arab master.  Another Bertolucci film. 

Greatest disappointment – Caligula.  Why did director (Tinto Brass) use such tiny prostheses in the fellatio scenes?

Next blog: best use of music in film.

Tate Britain

A roomful of Howard Hodgkin, maybe six or seven paintings, from various points in his career, all oil on wood.  I like “Clean Sheets” best; a small landscape panel of rough wood, dark brown centre with a bright acidy green “window frame” painted in free sweeps around it.  Inside, another swatch of green – a sheet, maybe- and a red/pink tongue of fire licking at the left- hand corner.

“Porlock”, from this year, is on smoothed wood, with swatches of purple, I think, “stacked” in the centre – border is unpainted.  There are lines of interruption in the swatches; maybe that explains the title.

“Come into the garden Maud” ; swirling masses of green and red blotches, like Impressionist shapes – a Seurat extract magnified a few thousand times.

Anna Barribal

She has a pencil drawing of a brick wall, thickly painted (wall, not drawing) and with natural flaws, bobbles, holes in paint layer, light reflected off it – and it is absolutely a perfect illusion of wallness.  I had to lean against the real wall and look from the side to see the flaws disappear, before I was convinced it was a drawing.  Opposite, there is a large roll of paper, covered completely with ink, sagging against the wall – it’s by the same artist.  I half expected the roll to disappear when I looked at it from the side, as if it were a hologram.

In the same room there are perfect drawn copies of tiny snapshots, a perfect drawn representation of an aerial view of Dresden from the internet, and several perfect drawn representations of – drawings, with folds and wrinkles in paper; these last by David Musgrave.

The skills and resources of patience required for the production of these works are unimaginable to me and they are completely successful in representing the reality of one form in another – perfect illusions, from the front anyway.  There’s a humour there too, when the objects are mundane (brick wall) – I’m reminded of Fischli and Weiss.  Is there more than that?  Not sure.

Leghorn

Blackpaint

7.09.12