Blackpaint 361 – Bronze, Snow and Fire


Bronze, Royal Academy

This exhibition fulfils one of the most important criteria for me – there’s not too much to read.  In the half-light of the RA, this is quite a relief.  if you want to learn about the processes, you can; but the technical stuff is in a section of its own that you can pass by, without feeling that you’ve missed out.

The most impressive exhibit confronts you as you enter.  It’s a statue of a dancer (one leg missing) that was dredged up from the sea bed off Sicily, I think.  There is speculation that it is the work of Praxiteles, but this is probably hype, I would guess.  The motion frozen, the roughnesses of the surface, and the unfussy perfection of the modelling are something to see.

Then there is the long Etruscan Shadow Spirit, smiling to itself, the image of a Giacommetti figure – except smoother.  Then there is the Greek horse’s head, very like the Elgin one in the British Museum, the Etruscan Chimaera, the Scandinavian chariot of the sun and the Austrian carriage nearby – and the beautiful Benin and Ife heads…  I’ll stop now, before I list the lot.

The main impression it left me was the contrast between the beauty of the rough, or unpolished, or sparely decorated surfaces of artefacts of ancient civilisations (apart from those of India, Burma and China – no-one could call them unadorned): and the hideous, often huge, dark brown, highly polished contortions of the Renaissance : there is, for example, a huge wild boar that I think is the ugliest sculpture I’ve ever seen, although made with consummate skill and no doubt perfectly accurate in every detail.

There are exceptions, of course:  Cellini (well, of course) for one.  Interesting to see one of de Kooning’s Clamdiggers, like something risen from a bog clothed in clods of mud in a Harryhausen film, and the Jasper Johns beer cans, another dK connection (he gave Johns the idea).

Anna Karenina

This film, starring Keira Knightley in the title role, came as a surprise in that it moves back and forth between the stage, the theatre and naturalism.  In this respect, it is the descendent of Olivier’s “Henry V”, made during WW2, which starts and ends on the stage, but changes with great subtlety throughout.  The other work it recalls is “Oh What a Lovely War!”, which moves back and forth between the battlefields and Brighton Pier.  As reviewers have remarked, the choreographing of movements and the stage settings in Karenina lead you to expect the actors to do a song at any moment.

There are a few other film and art references:  the ball scene has a bit where the minor characters disappear and Anna and Vronsky are dancing alone (cf. West Side Story);  the beginning of the horse race sequence has echoes of My Fair Lady Ascot scenes; Anna and Vronsky wound together in white bedsheets reminds one of a Lucian Freud painting and there are touches of Renoir and Manet too.  Keira Knightley, certainly beautiful, and outstanding in this role, has a way of stretching her long throat forwards and thrusting her chin that gives her an almost insect-like appearance at times – like a praying mantis.  I thought she was too vivid for Vronsky at first, but Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s weakness, in his toy soldier white uniform, proved actually just right for the character.  The horse race scene is the outstanding moment.

Although reviewers have praised the cinematography, and the film is flushed with luscious reds and crisp snow whites, I missed a certain sharpness in the detail.  At the end, raindrops fall on oak leaves in extreme close up – they haven’t got that crystalline Bela Tarr look.  Maybe it’s easier to do in black and white.

Rita Ackermann

At Hauser and Wirth in Piccadilly.  Eight huge blood-red and blue abstracts under the title “Fire by Days”.  Actually, they look as if they might be human figures going up in flames.  Very impressive, and intriguing, in that it looks as if she has used sand to texture them here and there, although the leaflet only says oil, spray paint and acrylic.  She seems to have painted creases in the canvas on one at least (first on left, top left of canvas) whilst another has a thick seam running down the left side, as if two canvases joined.  Apparently, she worked out from a paint spill in her studio.  In the basement are blue skeins of oil on paper titled “Fire by Day Blues” and in the upstairs gallery, a series of distorted portraits of the same face – Fire by Days The Fool.  I think the red ones are great.  I looked through her book (£40.00) and found resemblances to Albert Oehlen and other German Expressionists of the 80s.

Blackpaint

4.10.12

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: