Archive for August, 2013

Blackpaint 409 – Baroque Carrots, Bertolucci and Lautrec in the House

August 31, 2013

Guggenheim (Cont.) – Riotous Baroque

Concluding last week’s blog on Bilbao; “Riotous Baroque one of those exhibitions that mix modern works with 17th century and Renaissance paintings on “similar” themes (sex, death, supernatural, drunkenness, riot, religious transport, violent death etc., etc…)

The old paintings include Teniers animals aping men, drinking, spewing, fighting, wearing clothes; witches’ sabbaths, flying ghost ships, gaping-mouthed devils, drunken oglings and gropings in Dutch taverns, mythological figures tearing their own innards out – all good stuff.  There are three, big, beautiful paintings of saints in ecstasies on huge dark backgrounds, that could have been Caravaggios or Zurbarans – but turned out to be by de Ribera, de Piola and Jan van Bathurnen.  Never heard of the last two.

The modern stuff:  Jurgen Teller photographs of Charlotte Rampling and Raquel Zimmerman standing naked amidst white baroque statuary – rather like those Richard Hamilton pictures recently at the National Gallery, naked hoovering and the rest; Glenn Brown doing the usual thing of old-style pictures, swirly, sickly, layered paint, simulated decay; several simple, patchy paintings by Dana Schulz that recall Gary Hume; a painting by Urs Fischer of a woman in an Ingres dress, her face and body obscured by an enormous erect carrot, peeled, ridged and glistening – what could it represent?

fischer carrot

Actually, this is one of a number Fischer has done of portraits with face obscured by vegetable or fruits such as bananas and lemon slices, so perhaps I have misread any phallic significance.  Fischer, I find, is a man; I’d thought the Urs was short for Ursula, like a German friend of ours.

Finally, three large white Albert Oelhens.  Sprays and splashes and  swatches of delicious paint, mauve, mint green, crimson, over his beautifully applied CGI images – on one, a metallic, psychedelic starburst; on another, a big “per cent” sign.

albert Oelhen

Toulouse Lautrec Museum, Albi (Southern France)

Stunning town and so are the paintings in the TL museum.  Woman on a Divan,  Comtesse Adele de Toulouse Lautrec (1895) –  my partner says she has Cezanne hands – Carmen la Rousse, tousled hair, startled eyes;

lautrec3

sketches for posters fabulous, with a depth that the posters don’t have; Caudieux the actor; the brothel pictures, women in chemises, lounging on divans, in bed together…

lautrec4

The woman doing her hair – that white and black on brown board; it looks like pastel and charcoal, but it’s paint.

lautrec2

 

Inspired me to try same; results at bottom.

The Conformist

Watched Bertolucci’s great film again, and found it more balletic and operatic – without the singing – than last time.  Trintignant’s gliding walk in the fedora and overcoat, Sanda’s Lady Penelope face, the dance of the two women, the Paris shops by night with the blue windows, the Caesar-esque assassination in the forest, Sanda’s face a blood mask…  great film.

The Dreamers

More Bertolucci; Paris 1968 this time.  Great scene where the three protagonists race through the museum in imitation of “Bande a Part”; the run is intercut with the original film, the runners interchanging, colour to b and w…

Sweet Tooth

Reading McEwan’s last book; marred only by too much local colour.  I’m sure that all the London pubs and bands mentioned are accurate – I know they are, I was there too – but they can be distracting.  BUT – the book is written from the point of view of a woman; I can’t think of any other male writer who has done this, apart from Joyce with the Molly Bloom bit at the end of Ulysses.

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Blackpaint

Life Drawings from Millman Street

31.08.13

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Blackpaint 408 – Bilbao; Picasso’s Leeks, Urs Fischer’s Tongue

August 22, 2013

 Guggenheim Bilbao

If you’re in northern Spain, brave the giant Scalextrix set around Bilbao and visit Gehry’s Guggenheim.  Even if the exhibitions are bad – not often – the building is always worth another visit.

At the moment, there is an exhibition about France in WW2.  It’s a little contrived, cobbled together, and actually runs from 1938 (surrealists, Spanish war aftermath) to 1947.  It includes pictures and cartoons by several artists (Charlotte Saloman, Felix Nussbaum) who died in Auschwitz and other camps; art done in hiding or on the run; art done in exile;  “official” art, i.e. acceptable to Vichy and/or the Germans (including Dufy with a giant blue panorama, like a Festival of Britain poster, and a Villon, rather like a Colquhoun/MacBryde figure); there is even a Picasso room, with some great studio photos by Brassai and one terrific painting in watery blue, “Studio with skull and Leeks”.

picasso skull and leeks

Most of the art, as always in wartime, was realist, symbolist or tragic/heroic – crucifixions, barbed wire, agonised, objectified suffering, calls to arms, etc.  Cartoons and collages  along Grosz and Heartfield lines from Joseph Steib; for some reason, a stupendous nude in the bath from Bonnard that I last saw a couple of years ago in the Pompidou, surely – that one with the walls that look like Klimt.

bonnard bath

Also a couple of beautiful, colourful abstracts from Sophie Tauber-Arp, “Etudes from the Earthy Food” (?)

After the obscenity of war, a floor of plain obscenity.  Three or four large Paul McCarthys, “The Spinning Dwarf”; black cartoon charcoal or paint mouse, claggy smears and sprays of paint here and there, pages of porno mags torn out and stuck on upside-down.  I suffered a rather painful neck spasm as a result.

Urs Fischer’s Tongue, poking through a ragged hole in the wall – not her real tongue, that is, but a synthetic one that emerges suddenly when you approach the hole – it darts through and licks at you.

Two R Crumb strips in his – er, uncompromising style, Boswell’s Diary and Making Love to a Strong Girl – no racial stereotypes this time, but plenty to offend those who wish to be offended.

R Crumb strong girl

Finally, there is Riotous Baroque, which I’ll do next week.

Thomas Bernhard, Old Masters

Reading this protracted, repetitive rant against artists, philosophers, musicians with an Austrian connection – I think it’s supposed to be ironic – I was suddenly reminded of John Cooper Clarke’s “Evidently Chickentown”, although the latter is a far superior piece of art, I think.  Watching the hour long programme celebrating his poetry, I was bowled over by “Beasley Street” – bits of it were  almost like those Auden poems that copy the form of nursery rhymes.

Top of the Lake

Great TV serial. marred by two factors; Holly Hunter’s laughable and highly irritating guru “GJ” (or maybe GeeJay) and the cop out regarding the relationship of Robin and Jonno – are they really brother and sister? No – Jonno’s mother had an affair as well.  That’s all right then.  All the white men, apart from Jonno, were violent and potential rapists, all the women deeply damaged by men.

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Blackpaint

22.08.13

Blackpaint 407 – Bloodshed at the RA; is Stoner Perfect?

August 15, 2013

Sorry for hiatus – been away.

Mexico, a Revolution  in Art, at the RA

Not all Mexican – Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Philip Guston, Cartier -Bresson,  DH Lawrence  et al, all down there on a visit at one time or another.

Starting with the inevitable sepia photos of firing squads and their dead victims, one sequence showing the shooting of four Mexicans, one after the other, at the moment the bullets strike; violent death somehow seems more prevalent in Mexican revolution, the executions routine and casual – maybe a reflection of the ubiquity of photographers.  Also strikers, prostitutes peeping from windows, semi-surrealist street shots…

A few lurid, blood-raw landscape pictures, and one snow-capped peak that recalled the Canadian “Seven” painter, Lawren Harris.  Maybe the landscape really IS that raw, blood orange colour – best to leave it to God, perhaps, like those lurid American Sublime sunsets.

The Guston (early figurative mode) and the one opposite of a man in a cat’s suit the best, along with a portrait by Siqueiros of Zapata – like a hooded-eyed, ancient deity.  Also an Orozco and a Rivera; both better as murals, I think.

Guston in Mexico

The RA Summer Exhibition

Overall, not inspiring.  Lots of well-known RAs doing their usual thing; some beautiful Irvins, especially the small, marmalade orange prints called “Shakespeare” (presumably after Shakespeare Road, rather than the playwright) – and a huge, penetrating blue canvas by Barbara Rae,   I think the most striking painting – in a good way – in the show.  But I didn’t record the title.

Gillian Ayres’ flower-shaped images on prints, Tracey Emin’s broken-line etchings, John Carter’s Oiticica-like wobbly squares… A number of John Bellanys in garish, livid colours, humans with seabirds’ heads.. a big, brown, messy, lovely Basil Beattie.

Jock MacFadyen’s paintings were interesting – none of the cartoon-like tattoo’ed thugs with pit bulls; instead, a realist derelict factory with graffitti and a minimalist portrait if Humphrey Ocean – good, but I think I prefer the cartoon stuff – speaking of which, A big Rose Wylie over the door in her usual style.

Most striking of the non – RAs was a small yellow, patchwork print by Hetty Haxworth, called “Rig and Furrow”, loads of prints of which already sold.

haxworth

Worst painting by famous artist; Per Kirkeby’s “Laokoon”, a roughly executed serpent in ugly colours.  Also Pete Tonkins’ acrylic abstract.  Ugliness, whatever that is, not necessarily bad in a painting, of course, but should be something else to carry it; coherence, structure, something anyway.

Stoner by John Williams

First published in 1965, a campus novel set in University of Missouri in years from WW1 to the 50s.  I thought it was stunning – I normally read a bunch of books a few pages each every day, but I put others aside until I finished this, in maybe four days, really fast for me.  It’s not flawless; the dialogue in the love scenes a little shaky, perhaps, and a death scene seems prolonged; but it made me reflect on my own time as a student and teacher, with some very depressing and uncomfortable results.

Something that occurred to me, but apparently to no-one else who has written about the novel on the internet, was that Lomax’s campaign against Stoner through Walker could be read as a metaphor for the ideological struggles between radical movements and more conservative forces on campus, which became common a little later in the 60s; I was thinking particularly of the accusations of racism or misogyny that were often deployed against conservative and liberal academics.  No doubt this take is somewhat crass; all other reviews stress the universality of the themes and the perfection of the novel.

I couldn’t help casting some of the characters mentally, in the film that must soon be made; Stoner himself, as a young man, I see played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood); Finch could only be Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Great book; best of its kind I’ve read since Richard Yates.

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Montreuil, Blackpaint

15.08.13