Blackpaint 415 – Sandra Blow and the Pavilions at Venice


Sandra Blow at Kings Place

Went to see the Long Notes, great Irish/Scots folk group, at Kings Place last night and was delighted to find an exhibition of Blow’s work had opened the same day.  The earliest painting was from 1959, when she was part of the St.Ives set, and the latest from 2006, the year she died.  There are a number of huge canvases that are painted in acrylics and collaged with strips of tape, sacking and canvas patches; rich earth and water hues, ridges of rough texture, chevrons and ingots of high colour piercing through, a little reminiscent of Terry Frost – and of Burri (a partner) and Tapies.

The highlights of this group are:

Breakwater

Blow1

Glad Ocean (1989)

blow2

Brilliant Corner (1993 – detail)

blow3

There are also some beautiful prints, brightly coloured, wobbly geometrics.  A fantastic exhibition, and we only saw part of it – the gallery was closed, we only saw the stairwells and balconies.

Venice Biennale – the Pavilions

I think four are worth a mention; first, the British one (of course), featuring Jeremy Deller.  You get a free cup of tea and mini prints of the two big pictures on display, which you stamp out yourself with a rubber stamp.  The pictures, covering a wall each, are of a giant harrier, grabbing and lifting a Range Rover in its talons, and an angry, giant William Morris, standing in the ocean and thrusting a cruise ship, bows downward, into the water.  The first refers to an incident when a harrier was shot on a royal estate, the second, I think, to the ships of the wealthy that blight Venice and other Med resorts.  Additionally, there is some very satisfying film of Range Rovers being pulped, to the strains of Bowie’s “the Man who Sold the World”, played  by a steel band.  It’s one of the few pavilions which have a truly national feel to it; the Danish one, for example, is a fantasy about African migrants, lost in a facsimile of Paris, actually built in China.

Next, Belgium; “Cripplewood”.  In a dark chamber, a giant wooden and wax entity, fabric like bandages at the joints of limbs, twisted, arthritic bundles of twigs and branches – a little like Kiefer’s supine trees, or a huge, beached whale – made me think of Bela Tarr’s “Werkmeister Harmonies”… or even the Elephant Man.

The most sinister pavilion show was that of Indonesia.  There were life-size shadow puppets, a Paul McCarthy – style assemblage of a man with a TV head and a flower-covered figure rolling a bamboo roller “raft” – baffling – but then…

A dark, church-like space with desks on which enormous white books lie open, the whole surrounded by pictures of rough forest/jungle, charred, like the woodwork..

AND – a group of officers, ex-presidents apparently, seated around a table, a uniformed woman standing as if presiding.  One figure lies face down, apparently dead, another gestures towards a third with a knife, as if inviting him to kill himself with it.  Their faces appear bashed in – “distorted”, according to the guide book.  The commentary in the guide book has no mention of politics; instead, it goes on about Shakti, a religious principle which, it says. governed the creation of the works…

Finally, there is the Romanian pavilion – which is empty; EXCEPT for a group of (I think) eight young dancers, four men, four women.  They announce, with great solemnity, the title of a Biennale prize work from years gone by and then proceed to mime its content.  Sounds mildly amusing but is actually very funny, because of the limitations, as much as anything.

Enough Venice now.

The 70s, presented by Dominic Sandbrook

Odious presenter, explaining with relish how working people in the early 70s caused their own hardships by buying things on HP, wanting houses and cars and holidays that they should have known were not for them, but for the people who could afford to buy them outright.  I don’t remember the people I knew running to the shops waving Access cards.  I hate hearing glib generalisations presented with certainty, by smug academics who were (maybe) at school at the relevant time.

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Pellet

Blackpaint

5.10.13

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