Archive for December, 2012

Blackpaint 374 – Review of the Year (Yawn)

December 31, 2012

The Blackpaint Annual Review 

Exhibitions – went to about 40; these are the most memorable:

Bronze at the Royal Academy

That statue of the dancer that languished on the seabed; Praxiteles?  Maybe…

Also, the Etruscan smiley god and de Kooning’s Clamdigger.

Migrations – Tate Britain

The fantastic Schwitters collage and Singer Sargent’s Ena and Betty.

Burtynsky at the Photographers’ Gallery

Shipbreaking at Chittagong and the ship apparently set in a sea of coal.

Kusama at Tate Modern

The boat covered in fabric penises and, of course, the darkened room with mirrors, reflecting pinpoints of coloured light, with shallow water around the walkways.  Everything was interesting.

London Art Fair at the Royal College of Art

The beautiful Keith Vaughans.

Albert Irvin at Gimpel Fils

Blinding colours, stars, flowerheads, flak streams – he really does yellow well, not an easy thing.

Films

Once upon a Time in Anatolia – that apple bouncing down the stream bed in the night.

The Master – Dodd mincing about singing “We’ll go no more a-roving” to a room full of fawning acolytes – and suddenly, they’re all naked – or was it just the women?

Anna Karenina – the horse race, exploding over and out of the stage set.  Many disagree, apparently, but I think Keira Knightley is a really good actress.  Lately, it seems to me that male critics feel they can praise only the following actresses: Imelda Staunton, Tilda Swinton and especially, Anna Chancellor.

DVDs and TV Films

Where to start?  Ken Russell, of course –Women in Love,  The Devils, The Music Lovers, Gothic.  The last three fantastically over the top; Oliver Read tearing himself from a crucifix to couple with a swooning Vanessa Redgrave; how beautiful Glenda Jackson was as Gudrun Brangwen.

Red Desert (Antonioni) – those colours in the industrial landscape.. Monica Vitti…

The Gospel According to St.Matthew (Pasolini) – I had it on at Easter; one after another, my atheist children came in, fell silent, watched it through to the end.

Tree of Life (Malick)  – America’s Tarkovsky.  Beautiful, and like Tarkovsky, utterly devoid of humour.  These chaps know they are important.

Melancholia (Von Trier) – The opening sequence, that white horse falling backwards, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg both riveting.

The Leopard (Visconti) – Burt and Claudia in the ballroom scene, prefiguring “Russian Ark”.

Swingtime – Fred and Ginger awesome in “Pick Yourself Up”, beauty and perfection in “Never Gonna Dance”.

The King of Marvin Gardens – Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson, both staggeringly good.

Books

The Grass Arena by John Healy.  Unique, I think; boxer, fighter, drinker, criminal, rough sleeper, chess master, yoga practitioner, writer…

Ulysses, James Joyce.  6th time I think.  Still the most important work of fiction in English written in the 20th century; difficult to see how any fiction could supplant it.  Also really filthy, sexy and funny.  How could he have written like that when he did?

The Road and Everything Flows by Vassily Grossman.  Sort of fiction, but Grossman often strays into journalism; not a problem as he has stupendous stories to tell, about the war, the purges, the gulag…

And here’s my best painting this year – Happy New Year, to those for whom it is New Year.

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Cap Frehel

Blackpaint

31.12.12

Blackpaint 373 – Orpheus, Oedipus and Human Nature

December 27, 2012

Through the Looking Glass

A strange confluence of coincidence this week.  First, I watched Cocteau’s “Orphee”, in which Death (in the form of de Cacares) leads her slaves and victims through mirrors into the Underworld or back; then, in the Russian “Master and Margarita”, currently showing on Sky Arts TV, a character takes the same route into a room.

Later in the same episode, a writer, taken forcibly to a psychiatric hospital, attempts to escape by jumping through a closed window – splat!! – reinforced glass.  And, to complete the parallels, the repeat of the Christmas “Father Ted” (lingerie department, Golden Cleric, Father Tod Unctious) Father Jack does the window exit, to meet the Plexiglass Ted has installed.  Strange forces definitely at work.

“Orphee” special effects still impressive to me, compared to the sophisticated stuff around now; I suppose because they have a dreamlike atmosphere that comes mostly from their simplicity – maybe the ramshackle, improvised feel corresponds to my typical dream landscape; shabby, disintegrating, dimly lit, soiled….  I was interested to hear that the proto Bohemian crowd of poets and artists in the opening cafe and brawl scenes were genuine Left Bankers, recruited by Juliette Greco for Cocteau.  They look anything but genuine.

Oedipus Rex

Pasolini masterpiece that I saw decades ago at university; blinding North African colours – although it may have been filmed in Italy – the outlandish helmets and crowns, and above all, the wild music at the wedding scene.  Fantastic contrast to “Orphee” – I recommend watching the two DVDs at one session.

The Hunt

A film actually on release, that you can see at a cinema, rather than on DVD at home.  By Thomas Vinterberg, of Dogme fame (with Von Trier).  Vinterberg made “Festen”, the brilliant black comedy(?)about a celebration of the birthday of an incestuous patriarch.  His son exposes him as a rapist in a speech; the assembled family members rally behind the father.  Unfortunately, Vinterberg spoils it at the end; when notes from his dead daughter prove the patriarch guilty, the people turn away from him in disgust.  It would have been better, more sour, more “true”, if they’d stuck to him to preserve respectability.

“The Hunt” also deals with child abuse. A teacher is falsely accused; the community, all his friends, turn against him with no proof offered.  He is ostracised, attacked, victimised in a number of ways.  At the end, however, the community accepts his innocence, welcomes him back into the fold – and he is also prepared, outwardly at least, to go back to “how things were”.

This, I think, doesn’t ring true; when people find out they are wrong and have treated someone unjustly, they don’t apologise, or even “forgive and forget” – they resent the victim for being innocent and putting them in the wrong.  They’ll find a reason why it was his fault.  And after all, “No smoke without fire”, so he was probably guilty anyway.  Is this a pessimistic view of human nature?  Possibly…

Adrian Heath

Reading the Jane Rye book on this British artist and I have to say his work is magnificent; the colours are  great, not something I necessarily expected from reading about his cerebral and considered approach to painting; also the painterly surfaces, the contrast of rough and smooth.  I recommend you check him out if you don’t know his work.

My Review of the Year in next blog.

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Blackpaint

Saint’s Head

27.12.12

Blackpaint 372 – It’s all about women, beaches and room 47

December 20, 2012

Tate Britain

They seem to be re-opening the galleries one or two at a time.  Went there a couple or three weeks ago and there were no 20th century rooms open; now several rooms have opened up – the Frank Bowlings are on view again and the early C20th room, with some new additions.  There is a Christopher Wood, “The Fisherman’s Farewell”, a nice little Alfred Wallis view of St.Ives and a beautiful, leaf green Dora Carrington of two tiny female figures in Edwardian white, gazing at a huge green hill which overhangs them.

There is  a Stanley Spencer Resurrection set in Cookham; in the middle of the graveyard, several African women – are they all women? – , one wearing a set of gold neck rings, are among those rising ; what’s the story there, I wonder?  Apparently, Spencer was unable to give a clear explanation, except that the picture was supposed to represent a sort of universality and some stuff about instinctiveness – also, he was interested in African art at the time.

In the same, or maybe the next room, several beautiful Gwen Johns, especially one called “the Invalid” or “The Convalescent”; it’s next to Harold Gilman’s “Mrs. Mounter”.  And there’s a great nude by Wilson Steer – I always thought he did landscapes.

wilson steer

I like to do that thing of standing in the middle of the room and scanning round with half-closed eyes – yes, you get curious glances – to see which paintings grab your attention.  Sometimes, of course, it’s the most garish ones, like the Francis Hodgkin one with the green faces; often, it works though, and you get the “best” pictures.  This time, it was the Whistler “Woman in White”, leaning on her mantlepiece, her head against the mirror (surely the reflection is a bit too low?)  and – maybe in an adjoining room – that Vanessa Bell from 1912, of the women on the beach with the sun hats and the bathing tent.  Simple but magic and very early.

whistler

vanessa bell

Turner

There is a whole roomful of mostly watercolour sketches, clouds, skies, beaches, that are so much more beautiful (to the modern eye) than the more conventional of his big, finished canvases.  One in particular, called “A Lay In”(?), like ripples across a sandy surface.  Among the bigger paintings, one should seek out the whaler boiling blubber – it has a much longer Turner title – and the Doge marrying the sea in Venice – where else?

Hidden and Inland Empire

Great Michael Haneke film with Binoche and Daniel Auteuil, in which the French media bourgeosie are threatened and made uneasy by guilt over their colonialist past, embodied by an impoverished North African and his son..  They deserve it for being very smug and irritating, completely unlike the British bourgeoisie, who, of course, are neither smug nor irritating and always behaved impeccably in the colonies.  

I happened to watch David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” immediately afterwards; there was an apparent coincidence.  In Hidden, a sudden suicide takes place in room 47 of an apartment block; in Empire, Laura Dern shoots someone and then runs into room 47.  In Empire, a leering face with blood pouring from mouth, appears straight after this; in Hidden, there are mystery drawings sent – of a face with blood pouring from mouth.  I thought I’d discovered something here – but no, someone in a Southern California university has already written a long piece on it.

La Regle du Jeu

Schumacher the gamekeeper was played by Gaston Modot, who, as I said last blog, was also “The Man” in “l’Age d’Or”; I should also have mentioned the beautiful Nora Gregor, the fatal femme Christine – a cross between Marlene Dietrich and Kristin Scott Thomas, I think.

Happy Christmas to my readers.  Log on to Paintlater’s blog to see some fantastic AbEx paintings.

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Oceanic Orpheus

Blackpaint

20.12.12

Blackpaint 371 – Cezanne’s Skull and the Gamekeeper’s Moustache

December 13, 2012

Bloomberg New Contemporaries

I know I did this ICA exhibition last time, but didn’t give any names of the artists – going to put that right now.  The “strolling” video (glamorous Japanese(?) women strolling in a mannered way around gardens and statuary) is by Tony Law.  The squares with diagonal cross inside, black on white canvas – the ones a bit like Bram van Velde – are by Jack Brindley.  He also has a sculpture made of a bent metal rod, like a very thick aerial; doesn’t sound much, but it’s good, I think.  The blurry paintings on unbleached linen are by Emanuel Rohss – one of them looks like a sinister head and shoulders figure now, maybe a comic superhero covered in leaves….

Jennifer Bailey did the acid green, triangular, Varda Caivano – like paintings, and Suki Seokycong Kang did the loopy, Twombly-Wool grey and pink painting.  Finally, Nicole Morris did the video in which a woman model tries out poses against a background of blue partitions.

A couple of exhibits I didn’t mention last time:  there is a video on a TV showing a series of clips, repeated a defined number of times each.  A young man in a swimming pool jumps onto the back of another, while someone’s midriff passes the camera; a host introduces a singer on stage; a woman sings a song from “Evita”; a parrot squawks; all these repeated a number of times.  I think the point is that repetition creates integrity, or “establishment” in some way.  The repetition acts as a sort of frame, starting and cutting off the sequence at given points and establishing a sort of completeness.  Think of repetition in music, the idea of a “riff” in jazz.  Yes, it might drive you mad of course – but I find the idea interesting.  The video is the work of Piotr Krzymowsky.  Finally, there is a huge linen, covered by a spidery dark blue and burnt orange expressionist pattern by Max Ruf.

National Gallery

Spent two hours there the other day.  I think I saw everything – five things stuck with me in particular: Samson’s huge left shoulder and arm in Ruben’s painting and that dark crimson robe; the executioner’s snappy white and blue(?) striped tights in the Master of Kappenburg’s painting; the fantastic Degas paintings in the first of the Impressionist rooms, the black outlining of the hands – is it good or bad, I can’t decide; the Cezanne self -portrait, in which the colours on the bald skull of the painter  echo those on the rocks of the landscape by the same painter, a few feet away; and that lovely wet Paris street at night by Pisarro.  And the Titians and Raphaels and Tintorettos… I still don’t think the Manchester Madonna and the other unfinished one look much like Michelangelos, however.

La Regle du Jeu

Started watching this creaky film out of sense of duty – often cited as one of the greatest ever – and after a few minutes, totally hooked.  The shooting party scenes I only realised were a metaphor for the spread of Fascism when I watched the commentary, I’m sorry to say.  What it reminded me of , more than anything, was “L’Age d’Or”.  the country house setting, the madcap entertainments, or course, but above all, Schumacher the gamekeeper, with the moustache and glaring eye.  When I looked it up – yes, same guy, who played “the Man” in L’Age d’Or nine years earlier.

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Saint’s Head, Man’s Back

Blackpaint

13th December 2012

Blackpaint 370 – Abstraction under the Soviets, New Contemporaries Over Here

December 6, 2012

Breaking the Ice: Moscow Art 1960 – 80s

This is on upstairs at the Saatchi and consists of three sorts of work, loosely speaking;  abstract (expressionist and constructivist, I suppose you could call it), surrealist and Pop Art.  The abstract works are somewhat derivative, but the wonder is they were done at all.  What would have been the rewards for producing this sort of work in that period?  Where could you show it?  There would have been suppression, destruction of the work, persecution, maybe imprisonment.  Maybe you could do them secretly, invite a few friends round to see, sell a few or give them to friends…  At the Venice Biennale last year, I saw photographs of brave abstractionists from this period who displayed their work collectively in the open air, sometimes in the snow, as art shows/demonstrations.  Inevitably, they would be broken up and the works destroyed, often with violence from the police.  I’m afraid I didn’t pay close enough attention to this exhibition, being tired after the big show downstairs (reviewed in last blog).  I’ll be going again to put that right.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA

This turned out to be a great show and I thoroughly recommend it.  There were a number of paintings that really caught my attention but again, didn’t make a note of the names; when I go again, I’ll amend this blog to put it right.  In the meantime – small, dark-coloured, triangular paintings with dribbles, reminding me of Bram van Velde (motifs) and Varda Caivano (colours, especially that acid green/blue).  Also like Van Velde, two black on white canvases with a rectangles divided by crossing diagonals; sort of kite shapes.  Darkish watercolour blooms on brown, unbleached linen.  A video loop called “Going for a Stroll”, which showed a series of beautiful Japanese(?) women in stylish clothes, doing just that, on white stone bridges, in parks, by water, ornate surroundings.  What caught my attention here was one sequence in which the woman appeared to be bleached out by mist or maybe pixel degeneration in the film – made her look like a Sasnal or Richter picture animated.  A lovely, juicy painting, like a combination of Twombly and Christopher Wool – squiggly loops, dark red on grey – but what’s in the background?  Looks like a dark building…  On a TV in the middle of the gallery, a woman life model, trying out poses against a background of blue and yellow.

Upstairs, a big cinematic  video titled “Improvisation” – basically, an athletic male dancer carrying out a series of increasingly fast and complex African dance steps – real pleasure to watch.

The Beaches of Agnes

Agnes Varda’s great autobiographical film, a combination of history, surrealism, and playful reconstruction of her life in films and notably, her life with Jacques Demy; another real pleasure.

Blackpaint Exhibition

This weekend, 11.00am – 6.00pm, Saturday and Sunday, at Studio Blackpaint, 84 Ribblesdale Road, London SW16 (near-ish Tooting Bec tube).  Come and see the paintings featured in this blog and buy, if you wish.  Overseas visitors especially welcome – do I hear the planes heading in from USA, Australia, Brazil, Reunion, Ukraine, Vatican City…?

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Saints Heads

Blackpaint 

6.12.12