Archive for May, 2013

Blackpaint 396 – Mummy Goes to the Tate

May 30, 2013

Tate Rehang

A couple of dozy errors last week – obviously getting old.  first, Gainsborough.  I said there was a picture by G that looked just like a Hogarth, and nothing like the feathery, impressionistic portraits that characterise Gainsborough.  But of course, G did “Mr and Mrs Andrews”, which is similar in style to the family group in the Tate, and which I’d forgotten about.  So, Gainsborough changed his style between 1750 and 1780; not very earth-shattering.

And Fiona Rae – I wrongly located her next to Frank Bowling and opposite the Anthony Caro red metal sculpture.  She’s actually in a different room, opposite Peter Doig. It’s Peter Blake’s portrait of David Hockney with coloured balloons that is near the Bowling.  So what? you ask – well, the room with the Caro, Bowling and Blake is by far the most attractive room in the whole Gallery when viewed as a whole from the archway at the end; and I said as much last week.

Rose Wylie

There is a whole room full of Wylie’s huge, rough, cartoon-y paintings, reminiscent (a bit) of Guston and cartoonist Barry Fantoni; they look like they are done on board or cardboard by a punky youngster – Wylie is 77 years old, a trained artist and ex-lecturer.  I like them, especially her Nazi generals (see below), a painting inspired by the Tarantino film “Inglorious Basterds”.

wylie

Why are they there, though?  There seems no obvious reason why her pictures should get a room in the Tate rather than any other artist – apart from the fact that, being huge, they look good.  Maybe the answer lies in Germaine Greer’s support.  In 2010, she wrote a big puff for Wylie in the Guardian, pointing out that she had deferred her painting until her children were raised, Greer had bought a couple of her pictures and that there were others available.

Greer began her article by saying that in Wylie’s house, there were two working artists.  She then wrote exclusively about Wylie, not naming Roy Oxlade, Wylie’s husband.  Why say there were two artists, then write about only one?  Pathetic.

Mummy

At Tate Britain, with my 90 year old mother-in-law, ex- 1st violinist with Amsterdam Philharmonic and Liverpool Philharmonic, bit deaf but as sharp as a razor – addressed by the attendant as “Mummy”… “Shall I get Mummy a wheelchair?”  Thank goodness she didn’t hear him.  I suppose he was being kind, but still…

James Salter

Reading three Salters at once; “Light Years” and “Burning the Days” I’ve read before.  I’m interested to find that the new book, “All That Is”,  is actually an easier read than the first two, despite the fact that Salter is now 87 years old; maybe he’s more interested in getting the story told now, than in coming up with surprising and original metaphors.  All three are beautifully written, though.  I read a short story by him in the Saturday Telegraph Review – about a long affair and its end.  Only two pages long. but halfway through, Salter states that the woman let her lover whip her once.  Why?  Seems odd just to bung a whipping in gratuitously….  Maybe it went on more in Salter’s younger days….

Dan In Real Life

This Steve Carell/ Juliette Binoche vehicle on TV the other night; one of those US films, usually set in New England (this one’s Rhode Island), where there’s a huge. talented, odd, kind, musical/theatrical/literary family, all living with their precocious kids in a huge, rambling, ramshackle mansion, bitter-sweet, working out issues, playing games, being lovingly eccentric.. I hate them with a burning hatred and blame John Irving of “Garp”, if he founded the genre, as I think he did.  Mind you, sounds a bit like Dickens, when you think about it.

??????????

Headlong

Blackpaint

30.05.13

Advertisements

Blackpaint 395 – The Tate Rehang, Richter and Frisco

May 23, 2013

Tate Britain Chronological Rehang

Finally, the TB is fully open again, and the rehang is impressive – though, if like me, you have too much time on your hands, you might well have seen most of it, gallery by gallery, as each room was re-opened.  Nevertheless, there are some paintings I haven’t seen before or recently, and some revelations:

There is a Gainsborough family group, done in 1850, that is NOTHING like those feathery, impressionistic portraits he’s famous for; much more like a Hogarth, say.

Joseph Wright of Derby,” The Smithy” – looks so much like a tableau at Tussauds, or in a museum; must be the “lighting” within the picture.

Reynolds – this sounds pathetic, but there’s a standing portrait of a lawyer – check out the hands, he can really do good hands.

The Etty nude – 18th century, but it looks really modern; perhaps the shading, somehow.

Arthur Melville, the Venetian tower watercolour – that incredible, vivid twilight blue sky.

Bit of a jump now to the 1960s and beyond (reflecting my interests, maybe):

Peter Lanyon, a beautiful big painting called “Thermal”, thick loops of white on blue and grey.

Next to it, a set of Kitaj grotesque faces called “the Erasmus Variations”, for some reason.

The huge Frank Bowling figurative painting “Mirror”, in colours reminiscent of Kitaj and maybe Hockney.

The Fiona Rae, with its squiggles and squirts of toothpaste, like an early Craig Kaufman.

Finally, the Tony Cragg “Stack”, like a pile of wood palettes – but actually there are no palettes at all!  It includes breeze-blocks, boards, rolls of material, and a couple of red plastic buckets, like the Turner spots of red.  An eight (?) – decker sandwich.

The rehang was reviewed by Laura Cumming in last Sunday’s Observer; she found it to be badly organised in some respects, some pieces obscuring the view of others; her review ignores the overall look of the rooms, though – if you stand in the archway, looking back at the corner with the Bowling and the Rae, with the Caro red metal sculpture to the right, the room just looks brilliant.

Stanley Spencer

Repeat of James Fox’s BBC4 prog on early C20th British painters; bloody awful portentous tone to all his comments but despite the overstatement, worth watching for the paintings.  The numerous crosses in Spencer’s mural in the Sandon Memorial chapel looked like 3D over Fox’s shoulder.

spencer crosses

 

Dekalog, Kieslowsky

Seen only the first of these Ten Commandments so far; an atheist lecturer is punished by a god which communicates through his (the lecturer’s, not the god’s) computer.  Queasy about the story, but great camerawork; I love the great monolith of the block of flats, standing in for god or maybe the tablet of stone…  Who is the young man in the astrakhan hood who sits by the fire on the river bank?  Ghost of the boy, sort of, maybe?

Heimat

Missed this when it was on channel 4 20 years go, and catching up now on DVD.  Those landscapes. when it changes to colour – they look just like Gerhard Richters.  Thought the same thing when I saw the film of the tornado which hit Moore – sure that will be a great comfort to the poor inhabitants.

Bay Area School at Thomas Williams, Old Bond Street

Interesting little exhibition on post – WW2 painters in San Francisco.  There are a couple of abstracts by John Grillo and a larger one by Ernest Briggs – like most abstracts, they look better when you stand well back.  The Briggs is one of those melters – the paint looks as if it’s slipping and sliding, touch of de Kooning and Joan Mitchell, maybe.  there’s a great little pink based abstract by Diebenkorn. and several so-so portraits by him; you wouldn’t know they were Diebs – but there’s a “Folding chair” that couldn’t be by anyone else.

My favourite picture is a half portrait by David Park (?) in thick black and white strokes, with a small touch of Auerbach about it.

 

 

??????????

 

Red Line

Blackpaint

23.05.13

Blackpaint 394 – Lizards and Fossils and Christopher in Cordoba

May 16, 2013

Ellen Gallagher at  Tate Modern

This got a rather sniffy review from Laura Cumming in the Observer; she found Gallagher’s frequent use of cut outs of thick African lips and “googly” eyes repetitive.  Not like loads of other artists then, who rarely repeat a trick.  There’s a lot of social and political content to her work, as you may guess from the foregoing, but I was most impressed not by the meaning but by the look of it.

She has several works made up of the lips and eyes on a parchment-like support, thick lined paper I think, and from a slight distance they look like walls of tiny bricks – reminded me of Rachel Whiteread drawings.

Others, huge canvases or linens, looked like Victor Pasmores – one plain canvas with a lizard shape writhing on it; another, with several black or inky blocks off-centre.

There were the series of yellow “wigs” on magazine ads, the faces with eyes cut out and the huge black paintings, coated with rubber.  The last room had the delicate “botanical” drawings and the embossed “fossils”, made, presumably, by pressing the image and sometimes shaving tiny leaves of the paper up with a sharp blade.  The best ones were the “Pasmores” – I ignored the deeper meanings and looked at them as if they were abstracts.  Go see it and read the booklet for the politics.

gallagher

Saloua Raouda Choucair at Tate Modern

Lebanese woman, now in her 90s, went to Paris and studied with Leger.  First thing is that the paintings are very small, maybe 18″*24″, that sort of order.  They are very colourful, semi-or completely abstract, many consisting of interlocking, or overlapping, or fitting geometric shapes.  One beautiful, singing, blue one looks very much like a Helion – th influence of Leger and of Picasso is evident in the figures.

The sculptures are mainly interlocking ceramic or polished wood structures; again, quite small; I think some are maquettes.  There are several structures made from thin wires on frames that are just like pieces by Moholy-Nagy and Gabo – since neither of these artists are mentioned anywhere in the written material on the exhibition, I have to assume that she arrived at them independently.

So – a great double at the TM; the Gallagher has much more content but the Choucair makes fewer demands on the intellect.  mind you, you could do what I did and just wander round looking; then read up later.

choucair

Seville and Cordoba

Just back after four days in blinding sunlight and 30 Cent heat – well, hot for us English.  Went to see the Zurbarans in Seville and I was surprised that they were rather mundane compared to the ones in the British Museum.  the art that impressed me most was a fabulous Madonna and child (or rather,  little man) in the Alcazar there.  I don’t think it was Spanish however – looked early Italian to me.

In the cathedral at Cordoba – the one with the hundreds of receding Islamic arches in red and white – there was a huge, dark Saint Christopher painting, half-concealed by a column, that could have been Gulliver, or maybe that picture on the cover of the Pelican edition of Hobbes’ Leviathan.  Plus the usual super realist crucifixions, still rendered in wood for modern catholic churches, I was surprised (a bit) to find.

At one point, I surveyed the cathedral from a central point and I’m convinced that the entire tourist population, apart from me, was taking one photograph after another, to be looked at later.  One old man in the museum just trudged from one painting to the next, snapping it and then getting a shot of the label.  he never looked at anything except through the camera.

In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar Wei.  saw this on TV the other night, and I loved it, without knowing quite why – maybe that violin theme, the rain, the scabby walls, the tension of unexpressed yearning, the stylish smoking – but no, it had to be the dresses and the coiffure.  she just spent the whole film swaying up and down narrow stairs, streets and corridors in those tight, high collared dresses.  Very watchable, considering no sex – overt, anyway.

??????????

Threshold

Blackpaint

16.5.13

Blackpaint 393 – Skewed Nipples and Zambian Spacemen

May 12, 2013

Souzou – Japanese Outsider Art at the Wellcome

This is a great exhibition.  Lots of surface covering, obsessive repetition, writhing fleshiness (shades of Kusama and even R. Crumb, in the skewed nipples); hairy embroidery, ceramic figurines of dragons and heroes that turned out, on close inspection, to be made of paper and cellotape; sinister, fleshy, soft dolls in family groups – why sinister?  By association, I suppose, all those horror films – and enormous, imaginary cityscapes, taking up several walls.  But it’s good to look at, not just therapy; go and see if possible.

Rebecca Ward at the Ronchini Gallery in Dering Street

Linens with warp or weft cut away in diagonals, or at margins, or halves, leaving “ghosts” on the remaining threads.  Some were like finer versions of the Trockel textiles at the Serpentine Gallery.

Patterning is done with dyes or acrylics, varying from monochrome “cloud” marks to colourful – the best one is called “The Heretic” and reminds me of a miniature Sam Francis.  Also chevron patterns, and some distressed with holes and rips, and rumpled, creased surfaces.  Some boxes, like filing boxes, painted with bright devices – not so keen on them.  They are mostly quite small works, 40 * 30 in, that sort of size.

rebecca ward

The Heretic

Deutsche Borse Prize at the Photographers Gallery

Good double to do with the Ward, since it’s just down from Oxford Circus, in Ramillies Street.  I thought there was something sneery about Cristina de Middel’s set of works, the Afronauts, based on the Zambian Space Programme of the early 60s – apparently they were working on a catapult launch.  OK, I’m going to stop right now and check to see if any of this is true.

Back now, and yes, there was really a Zambian space prog.  The trouble is that de Middel mixes up fact with fiction in her presentation, which makes for some good and funny images, but seems a bit like taking the piss to me.  Fair enough, no reason to spare them just because it’s an African country and I’m sure her intentions are good…

Also Misha Henner’s pictures of prostitutes by the side of the road, in Italy, I think; mostly standing by lush green fields under concrete bridges, or in lay-bys.

And Chris Killip’s black and white pictures of fishermen and street life in the North East in the 80s; great photo of the huge ship bordering the terraced houses at Swan Hunter on Tyneside.  Also the one of the lad in his big boots, sitting cradling his head, on the brick wall.

Madame Bovary

The Chabrol version, with Isabelle Huppert.  Much more conventional than the Sukorov version “Protect and Save”, Chabrol’s film nevertheless spares none of the gruesome details, especially when it comes to Hippolyte’s “operation” and subsequent gangrene.  Sukorov’s film has the merchant as a much more demonic character, however, dressing up in his Chinese outfits, and of course, Sukorov’s Bovary is fiercely intense.  There’s a lot more explicit sex in fields and trains in the Russian one as well, all absolutely necessary to the story and not at all gratuitous (not that that would be a problem, particularly).

??????????

Blackpaint

Figure Drawing

??????????

Figure Drawing 2

Blackpaint

12.05.13

Blackpaint 392 – Penis Gourds, Baobabs, and Marienbad

May 2, 2013

Alasdair Gray’s “Lanark”

In Blackpaint 386, I mentioned the similarities between Gray’s painter Thaw and Gulley Jimson in Joyce Cary’s “the Horse’s Mouth”, feeling smug to have noticed.  I’ve just got to the bit in the book where Lanark is conversing with God and Gray has a series of sidebars in which he points out all the instances of plagiarism in his own book.  Sure enough, Cary is one – but it sort of takes the shine off it for me; I thought I was being clever.  Lesson there – finish the book before commenting.

Last Year in Marienbad

I think I’ve got a handle on this, after watching it through again; there are alternative endings presented in the film.  In the first, the Woman is shot by her husband; the man is therefore pursuing a ghost throughout – or maybe it’s his memories; in the second, she finally decides to leave with the Man.  That’s my theory anyway.  Jump cutting still funny, and I checked – the people in the gardens do have shadows, whilst the shrubs do not.

Running the films on 4*

I’ve been watching DVDs speeded up, and with some of them, it doesn’t distract from your understanding much (if you’ve watched them before, of course).  Some of them seem to be improved as silent films, depending on the strength of the images.  So far, I’ve watched Holy Motors, The Tin Drum and the Werckmeister Harmonies like this.  Film directors would hate my methods of watching – 30 minutes, then take a break, maybe finish watching tomorrow, or do another 30; it makes some directors a lot more bearable.  Must try Tarkovsky; Solaris, say.  The big drawback of watching it on 4* is you don’t get the score, of course (obviously).

Saatchi Gallery – New British Artists

Only really two that struck me.  The first was Sara Brewer, who makes spindly metal structures like window frames or supports, that are slightly out of kilter and have traces of paint marks on them at random points, it appears; the second was Nicolas Deshayes, who had two panels painted a smooth and uniform blue, with smaller panels of white “blown”plastic set on, or in them, bulging slightly out from the blue plane.  Reminded me of the sort of thing that Billy Al Bengston and Craig Kaufman of the Ferus Gallery “Cool School” were doing in the 60s and which I’m reading about in the excellent Pacific Standard Time book (also see the film The Cool School, narrated by Jeff Bridges).  Deshayes also shows some large slices of white polystyrene, with curved grooves carved into them, like pieces of salt lake surface, scarred with ski marks and chopped out in great, flat chunks.

Sebastiao Salgado at the Natural History Museum

A huge exhibition, loads of big black and white photographs – the Southern Seas and islands, Africa, Amazonia, Alaska, Russia and Canada, the USA.

It reminded me strongly of Ansel Adams – I wonder if Salgado manipulates his pictures in development like Adams did?  Maybe with advances in technology, he doesn’t need to.  The pictures have that “closeness” that I first noticed in Balterman’s wartime pictures of German atrocities in the USSR  – also in McCullin’s shots of the coalfields (the woman with the pram.  I think it’s to do with the focus being sustained throughout the depth of field.  There’s a picture taken across a valley and bay with mountains  on the other side – they must be a few miles away, but they are as sharp as the range on the photographer’s side; everything seems to be upfront.

There’s a sort of National Geographic, timeless quality to the photos of indigenous peoples – “The last two girls in the world to wear lip plates” (Ethiopia), the New Guinea tribesmen with their penis gourds, the Amazonian tribal girls, beautiful and naked – apart from the bone “beard” they have pierced through the chin.

Wondrous photos, many taken from a helicopter, surely; but that marine iguana’s foot, the baobab trees, swollen tubers on their raised, circular island…

??????????

 

 

Blackpaint – Window on the World

??????????

 

Life Drawing

Blackpaint

2.05.13