Blackpaint 400 – Dora, Mark and Stanley in Dulwich


Dulwich Picture Gallery – “A Crisis of Brilliance”

This is an exhibition of works by a number of British artists, connected with each other by way of the Slade, where they all studied under Tonks , and then by Bloomsbury etc., completed between 1908 and 1922.  WWI therefore features (there is the huge, rippling, faintly Kokoschka – like Bomberg of sappers under bombardment and Nevinson’s solitary, diving biplane) but does not dominate the exhibition.  My highlights as follows:

Stanley Spencer, “Mending Cowls at Cookham” – the  storm- threatening sky providing stark background to the  white of the cowls, as they are put in place.  That key shape does something too;

spencer cowls

Dora Carrington, “Soldiers at a Stream” – little painting, perfectly rendered and coloured, horses drinking, soldiers mounted;

Mark Gertler, “Pool at Garsington” – a touch of Cezanne, maybe; the L-shaped slice that seems to be collaged in, surrounding the house and tree;

gertler2

Carrington, that profile of Strachey with the stunning hands, fingers tented in thought (actually though, not- he’s holding a book).

There are some beautiful pencil drawings, hard to choose the best; self-portraits by Spencer and Carrington and Bomberg, all great (although Carrington’s, done at 16, looks nothing like Gertler’s portrait of her, done a few years later – Gertler’s is exceptionally fine, lightly but surely drawn and conveying a wealth of character; the gaze of love, presumably).

gertler1

Carrington’s heavy-hipped “standing Nude” is notable and the Gertler “Seated Nude”, done in watercolour pencils.

The clinker of the exhibition is Carrington’s “Bedford Market”, but she was very young when she did it and it’s very competent.

The exhibition is only three or four rooms, quite understated, but some real treasures.  I see I haven’t mentioned Paul Nash at all – probably because I’ve seen so much of his work lately.  The impact dulls with repetition; or does it always?  Maybe there are some painters who always grab you – for me, it’s de Kooning.  Forgot to mention Bomberg’s “In the Hold”, one of his horse-frightening geometric “abstracts”, way beyond anything else in the exhibition for experimentation and fittingly, separated from the others at the entrance.

Salter, All There Is

Finished this now, as well as “Light Years”; the writing in the earlier novel perhaps more consciously “fine”, sometimes crossing the border into pretentious territory – but I read them both, quickly for me, and am close to finishing his memoir, “Burning the Days”, for the second time.  There is a startling section towards the end of “All There Is”, when Salter’s protagonist Bowman rather forcefully overcomes the weak resistance of Anet, the young daughter of his ex-lover, takes her on a trip to Paris and abandons her there in a hotel room – an act of revenge on her mother, who had abandoned Bowman (and “robbed” him of a house in the courts).  Anet says “No” – but Bowman clearly knows she means “Yes”, and acts accordingly.  He’s right, of course; afterwards, she’s happy – until he ditches her.  Salter offers no hint of approval or disapproval; merely “describes”.  Maybe that’s what startled me about it – it’s so at odds with currently acceptable attitudes towards sexual conduct.

Almodovar, Talk to Her

This film is another case in point; it has a young woman in a coma, who is stalked – before the accident – by a pudgy mother’s boy.  He manages to become one of her carers when she is comatose, rapes her and makes her pregnant, a crime for which he is eventually imprisoned.

Unbelievably, given the circumstances outlined above, you feel a sort of queasy sympathy, rather than revulsion, for the rapist.  I’ve checked online; it’s not just me, the proper critics are united in their admiration for the film, which won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 2002.

So, how can this be?  Firstly, you don’t see the sex (although there is a fantasy sequence where a tiny dancer enters a rather stylised vagina).  The  surreal atmosphere of Almodovar’s films probably helps; and the rapist is portrayed throughout as a gentle, concerned character with a strong empathy for women, who is in love with (fixated on) the victim.  And he is caught, imprisoned and eventually kills himself.

Almodovar is clearly a follower of Bunuel in his anarchistic, surreal tendencies and his insistence on exploring the “unacceptable” faces of sexuality – fetishism and illness are prominent themes in the work of both.

What makes Almodovar’s film less jarring than the incident in Salter’s book?  I’m not sure.  To be continued.

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Blackpaint

27.06.13

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2 Responses to “Blackpaint 400 – Dora, Mark and Stanley in Dulwich”

  1. kevin mandry Says:

    Went to Dulwich myself on Sunday, and liked what there was of it, though I’ve never really warmed to Stanley Spencers homely holiness…the big surprise was discovering just how prolific Nevinson was – without ever really finding himself (except, briefly, during WW1.) Clearly it all just fizzled out for him in the end…
    In the unlikely event of finding yourself in Chichester, take a look at the Otter Galley at the University, which has a retrospective of (some) of the works of Peter Iden; to my mind his late abstract landscapes are as good as anything by Ivon Hitchens. He claimed to have been inspired by (among others) Peter Lanyon and Barbara Rae, and I was walking down Richmond Hill today when I came across a dozen or so BR’s in the Richmond Hill Gallery! She may have been an RA and an a CBE, but I can’t truly say I was that impressed….certainly not for the asking prices!
    Hope you’re well and painting: I’m still decorating!

    • blackpaint Says:

      Must check out Iden. Quite like BR myself; it’s the sizzling colours against darkness, I think. Good to hear from you – yes, still painting.

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