Archive for November, 2013

Blackpaint 423 – Spencer and Durer, Honey and Fire

November 28, 2013

Durer at the Courtauld

Drawings, woodcuts and etchings showing influence of Italy on Durer; includes great drawings by Mantegna as well.  Durer’s broken outlines, dense and varied hatching on display; great piglets (actually look more like wild boars) in Prodigal Son.  A young woman in a Mantegna drawing looks just as if she’s on her mobile.

Also in gallery, Richard Serra drawings, consisting of masses of crushed black crayon pressed down by Mylar, a sort of transparent plastic.  So, quite a broad spectrum of drawing style on display at Courtauld…

Still think the best painting in the gallery is the Marx Reichlich portrait of the young woman below.

(c) The Courtauld Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Skaters in courtyard below look just like figures in a Lowry, provided weather dull and overcast – pretty safe bet at this time of year.

Stanley Spencer at the Courtauld

In the Terrace Rooms, behind the ice rink, the murals from Burghclere, relating to WW1.  Only one shows action (I don’t think it’s one of the murals); Irish soldiers, struck by a salvo of shells from Turkish artillery.  The viewpoint is maybe 30ft above the ground; a great, looping, grey envelope of smoke, with shadowy forms of horses or men concealed in its folds.  Dead and injured are scattered on the rock or cinders, wounded being carried away.

All the other large pictures share a similar viewpoint – 10 – 30 ft above ground or floor, sometimes the ground tilting drastically upwards about halfway down the picture.  This is most noticeable in the strange picture of soldiers drinking from a spring or well or waterhole – they lie face down, capes stretching along their backs like folded ants’ wings, maybe, lapping at the water, as if pinned to a board tilted towards us.

In another picture, “Map Reading”, I think, only the officer is bothering; in the background, a bunch of soldiers gather berries from bushes in flower, as if they are on the Sussex downs or in a garden in Kent.

spencer mural

In several pictures, white sheets, mosquito nets, bandages, even buckets echo the idea of angelic wings; all tasks portrayed are mundane; scrubbing lockers, eating bread and jam, bathing…

Unfortunately, the Resurrection centre piece is represented only by a giant slide projection, since it is impossible to move the original.  The crosses don’t have that 3D quality they have in the photographs.  A great exhibition though, and free.

Bal

A Turkish film, director Kaplanoglu, set in lush green, mountainous forests, terraces of planted tea; a honey-gatherer who dies alone in the forest when he falls from a tree, his son who speaks only in whispers… A great scene of communal dancers at a mountain fair, women in traditional dress, curtains of mist drifting around the cars and stalls scattered around the hillside.  The pace is “stately” throughout, so be prepared for scenes in Bela Tarr time. “Bal” means honey; it’s one of the “Yusuf” trilogy, with Egg and Milk.

Gravity

When Sandra Bullock is aboard the Russian space craft and fire breaks out, the alarm screen says “FIRE!” in English.  All other notices and instructions are in Russian only.

A Passage to India

Finally got round to reading this, and I’m impressed with the way Forster unfolds the misunderstandings, crassness and arrogance operating between the British, the Indians and the “Eurasians”, and within the Indian groups.  I think I need to read “Burmese Days” again, as well.  Burma, not India, of course, and somewhat later than “Passage”, but I think it will be instructive.

??????????

Skegness

Blackpaint

28.11.13

Advertisements

Blackpaint 422 – Painting and Guinness at the Tate, Woolf and Joyce about town

November 21, 2013

Tate Britain – Painting Now; Five Contemporary Painters

First, Tomma Abts.  Abstract shapes that resemble metallic strips, bent into shapes, gleaming and casting shadows. as if real; flat patterns and clouded surfaces too but the metallic ones are the ones that stick.  I want some texture, though.

Simon Ling does wonky East End buildings and shopfronts, corners of houses… he does a red/orange undercoat which shines through here and there like Poussin; heavy, livid Kippenburger colours.

simon ling

Catherine Storey paints odd, furniture-like, abstract structures; I liked the drawings of the shell chairs, on yellow baking paper.

Lucy McKenzie paints astonishing, trompe l’oeil “corkboards” with typed sheets and photographs apparently pinned to them – they’re paintings, but they fooled me at first.  What’s the point?  There is something in the leaflet about fascism and nazism, but I didn’t get it.  They have to be seen, though.

Finally, there is Gillian Carnegie.  Black cats lurking on dark staircases, black flowers in black paintings.

Alison Wilding

Her sculptures, no one anything like any of the others, are in the Tate hall.  The one that struck me is like a well head, made from alabaster blocks, broken at the top and “repaired” with poured black latex.  The alabaster is like giant blocks of Turkish Delight.. or the remains of Jacob and the Angel, the Epstein statue in another part of the gallery.

William Scott

The other new picture, in the room with the St.Ives painters, is called Composition in Orange, Black and Brown and looks as if it has a pint of Guinness embedded in it.

william scott

Refreshing image.

The New Staircase

The Tate’s new spiral staircase reminded me of the one photographed by Richard Pare in the Moscow Cheka  flats that I wrote about in Blackpaint 345. Curved steps shaped like orange segments – Fred and Ginger would look good on them, but maybe a bit narrow to dance down.

Chelsea Space

At this little gallery across the art school courtyard opposite Tate Britain, an exhibition of country music posters from Hatch Show Prints of Nashville.  Cash two tones, Nelson headband, Bill Monroe, Airstream, Corn Dogs…

Cash

 

Rescue Dawn

The Werner Herzog film about Dieter Dengler, US pilot shot down in Laos and his amazing escape through the jungle.  At one point, I thought I was back at Aguirre, Wrath of God – that whistling bird call.  Either the same species in Laos and the Amazon or there is a “jungle sounds” tape.  Then, there was a beheading with a machete; Aguirre again.  At the end, it turned into a cheerleader for the US, with the assembled crew of an aircraft carrier applauding Dengler – or maybe Herzog was being ironic.

The Act of Killing

Wrote about this disturbing film last week, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer; how did he pitch this film to the killers and get them to take part?  It must have been a sensitive task, to say the least – or maybe not.  Congo and his horrible mates seemed quite eager to co-operate and to let it all come out.  Proud, in fact.  they seemed to be on great terms with the director, frequently appealing to him on camera, as “Josh”.  Should be a documentary about the making, maybe.

Jacob’s Room, Dalloway, Woolf and Joyce

Interesting to read that Virginia Woolf had read the first few chapters of Ulysses by the time she wrote Jacob’s Room in 1918 and was reading it again while writing Mrs. Dalloway in 1922.  Both Jacob and Dalloway are reminiscent of Ulysses in the way that Woolf skips apparently at random from character to character (some merely one-line sketches) to build up a scene or sequence; Joyce does this, but it’s just one of a whole range of techniques he pioneers.  The sky writing plane in Dalloway reminds me a bit of the sandwich-board men, advertising Wisdom Hely’s in Ulysses.  Not suggesting she was plagiarising – she hated Joyce’s “indecency” and “board-school” showing off, as she termed it.  Fascinating that two such different authors should come up with the same thing at the same time.

??????????

White Line Fever 2

Blackpaint

21.11.13

Blackpaint 421 – Kienholz Dolls and the British on the Beach

November 14, 2013

Onnasch Collection at Hauser and Wirth

This spreads over both H&W galleries – the one in Piccadilly and the other in Saville Row.  I’ve only seen the Piccadilly one, but will certainly get to the other one.

There is a ridiculously high wooden chair on a sort of curved wooden boom, by Ed Suvaro and a group of wooden assemblages by Ed Kienholz: a pumpkin thing on a miniature bike; a group of bound, captive dolls atop a pedestal – with pedals; half a cello with a fat tube of squashy wire/wool stuff pumping out.

kienholz

Then there is Lance Tuttle, who makes cardboard and paper “plaques” with dangling plastic cups or drink cans; and George Brecht, a member of the Fluxus group, who made assemblages, for example, doll’s house furniture, a screw press, inside glass domes and Joseph Cornell – type boxes, cabinets, shelves of cards and magic tricks…

Finally, there is  a great block of turf-coloured bricks with red tongues of something curling out of them like flames, or some disease.  On closer inspection, it is apparent that these are the tips of gnomes’ hats – they appear to have been rammed through the blocks, as you can see the bases of the figurines on the other side.  it’s called “Dwarves”, I think, and it’s by Dieter Roth.

The Media Space at the Science Museum

There is a wonderful exhibition at the above, of the photographers Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr; they’re all black and white, from the 60s through to the 80s.  Fantastic, sad, funny pictures, both men very similar in approach (to my eyes, anyway).  The Britannia Coconut Dancers; serious seaside pleasures, men and women dozing in deckchairs with handkerchiefs under the lenses of their glasses, as if trying to make themselves as daft looking as possible; old men standing forlorn on run-down northern rugby grounds; a cinema queue for “Jaws”, which seems to contain Martin Carthy, Lucille from Coronation Street and Thora Hird; 1977 Silver Jubilee picnic tables, thronged with celebrants – then, in next picture, deserted, under driving rain.  Those old prams with their curly suspension struts; old women praying or dozing in chapel pews; squads of holiday makers excavating a beach, like building workers, below a fortress of a hotel in Newquay; Broadstairs beach with promenade and stairs in concrete (?) tiers, like a Moroccan citadel; echoes of Cartier – Bresson in the fat back of a man on the beach.  Both men have that facility of capturing several “events” in the one photograph.  My favourite, Parr’s, I think, is the sandwich queue at the mayor’s inaugural party in Todmorton – that bloke with the medals looks determined…

tony ray jones1

Impossible not to smile at these photographs, which are great art in my opinion.  Tony Ray -Jones died at 31, of leukaemia; Parr is still producing great pictures, of course, in colour now.

Jacob’s Room

Several times, I caught similarities to the “Wandering Rocks” section of Ulysses in this, the most experimental of Woolf’s novels, surely.  It ends with Bonamy and Jacob’s mother clearing out his room; presumably he dies in WW1.

I notice that Woolf seems to like a little surprise at the end.  I thought that Katharine Hilbery, in Night and Day, was showing signs of mental illness – fugues, detachment, going walkabout – but no-one else on the net seems to think so; one read it as a romantic comedy.

Augustus

John Williams epistolatory novel about the Roman emperor – it’s good; like Stoner, it’s a “whole life” job – but again, like Stoner, it takes Williams for ever to kill his hero off.  Minor fault, perhaps.

The Act of Killing

I’ve only seen the first 25 minutes of this terrifying film, in which old gangsters gleefully re-enact their mass murders of “communists” in the coup of 1965; the repulsive Congo bears a slight, but disconcerting, physical resemblance to Nelson Mandela.

??????????

Solo Flight

Blackpaint

14.11.13

Blackpaint 420 – Australia at the RA; Whiteley’s Murder Pictures

November 7, 2013

Australia at the Royal Academy

This exhibition has had an astonishingly savage reception in some quarters, notably from Waldemar Januszczak and from Brian Sewell, who slates the aboriginal painters as ravaged by alcohol and trotting out pictures that are meaningless, when divorced from their ritual tribal functions.  Adrian Searle is also exercised by the omissions and patchiness of the show.  Clearly, it has bitten off too much to chew – impossible to do a whole continent thoroughly, with the rich and complex aboriginal cultures and the European tradition.  Still, there’s some great stuff to see, so you can go and be stimulated and entertained AND pontificate about how sketchy and incomplete the exhibition is…

To start with the aboriginal paintings; they are segregated from the others for the most part.  They are surprisingly huge and striking; there is one that is just like a Per Kirkeby, red, pink and white in a tower- or hill- like structure.  Another in this first room is a huge white square with pink and blue borders, with a wave-like swoosh in the centre; it looks like a tapestry.  Everywhere there are concentric circles, stars, giant figures built from blobs and stars of paint; “Cyclone Tracy” by Rover Thomas, a black funnel-shaped swathe through a striped landscape; another showing the story of a cannibal old woman who lived in a cave and ate kidnapped children.  It’s like a map – a blob in the middle is the woman’s cave.

australia3

Cyclone Tracy by Rover Thomas

There are paintings from the early days of European settlement; a couple that look almost like Caspar David Friedrich.  the early Euros obviously had difficulty seeing with “Australian” eyes.  Later, there are the Australian Impressionists, Roberts and Streeton etc. ; diggings, camps, sheep shearing; a great picture, “Lost”, a girl adrift in a eucalyptus forest; a radiant moonrise, a pink/grey dawn.  if you stand in the centre of the room, you can see there is an Australian colour set – dusty, tawny, orange but bleached out.

Then, we are at the modernist section; Sidney Harbour Bridge, painted by Grace Cossington Smith , who also painted the beautiful screen, like something Duncan Grant might have painted at Charleston.  Flesh hunks roasting on a beach, the sand and sea represented by blazing bands of yellow and blue; a collection of athletic, Lempicka-like figures tossing balls to each other, showing off.

Now the Nolans; several Ned Kellys – police at a burning beacon, Ned’s sister quilting the inside of his helmet, the shootout at Glenrowan.  And an odd one with a parrot (see below).

australia2

Now the 60s 0n – a Brett Whiteley of a bay, orange with small boats –

australia1

Olsen’s “Sydney Sun”, which hangs above you like a mirror over a bed – so I’m told – a bilious yellow, and compared by Januszczak to diarrhoea; two pictures by Fred Williams, small fragments and twists of paint in flat landscapes of grey and brown; a black and white Fairweather, a lot like Bryan Wynter and an enormous Arthur Boyd – a roughly drawn white figure, like a Bacon, on a black background, with a window looking out on a blazing white yard.

In the later galleries, two things of note – Fiona Hall’s set of opened sardine tins, with silver trees growing from the tops, containing not sardines, but penises, vaginas, and other “artefacts of a sexual nature”.  And a great abstract landscape, brown, grey, splattered, brushwork rather like Rose Wylie, with a bright, cream channel down the middle.  I think it was by Elizabeth Cummings but I can’t find it on the net.  Anyway, great exhibition, despite the savaging.

Brett Whiteley

I was so impressed by this painter that I bought the Thames and Hudson “Art and Life” catalogue at the RA.  The influences on him are quite obvious;  Diebenkorn in the early abstracts, maybe a little Adrian Heath too; William Scott – there’s a frying pan – and Roger Hilton, in the drawn line.  In both the drawings and the paintings, line and colour, Francis Bacon.  But he’s so good that he’s much more than the sum of these influences.  I prefer the earlier stuff, but fantastic.

The Christie Pictures

In the mid 60s, Whiteley was living in London and he became interested in the sex murders carried out in Notting Hill by John Christie in the 40s and 50s at 10 Rillington Place.  Whiteley did a series of paintings and drawings relating to the murders, some depicting Christie actually carrying out the killings.  The paintings are indistinct; they show naked bodies (Christie and the victim) fragmented and entwined and several show the penis-like nozzle of the gas pipe he used to gas the women.

When you flick through the book, you are struck first by how great the drawings and paintings are and you derive pleasure from them.  Then you read the titles, and you are repelled by the subject matter.  Still great art though?  see what you think.

christie1

christie2

I suppose there is a precedent for this; Sickert’s depiction of the Camden Town murder, say – or the Goya Disasters of War.  The sexual content in the Whiteleys adds another disturbing layer, though.  I wonder where they are – it’s hard to imagine anyone having them on the living room wall.  I bet they’re in storage in a gallery archive.

116

The Stadium

Blackpaint

7/11/13