Archive for December, 2013

Blackpaint 427 – Sources of Light, Crime and Punishment

December 26, 2013

Light Sources in Painting

Still reading Morton Feldman’s articles in “Give My Regards to Eighth Street”,  which are full of interesting assertions (backed by no evidence whatsoever) about painting and music.  As a composer, he can claim to be an expert; he knew many of the Abstract Expressionists, spent time with them at the Cedar Tavern, so can claim expertise there, too.  Here is what he says about light in painting; I haven’t investigated fully – see if you agree:

“Light from nature

raking light: Caravaggio, Vermeer

overhead light: Watteau, Courbet, Pissarro

refracted light: Monet

intellectualised light: Seurat

Pictorial light, not from nature

constructed light: Giotto, Mantegna, Picasso, de Chirico

invented light: Piero della Francesca, Rothko

non modulated light: Mondrian, Pollock

light without source: Rembrandt”

I reproduce some paintings by these artists; you can check the light.



Caravaggio – raking light?  Yes, from left.



Vermeer – right again.  That is – from the left.



Courbet – above?



Rembrandt – light without source?

I’ll look at some more next blog.

Team Nigella

After writing about Citizen Kane last week, I remembered that Kane (Hearst) was proud of making the news, not just reporting it.  A number of lesser examples of the same have been provided by the leftish press recently – no doubt the right-wing press do it all the time, but I don’t read them.  The Guardian and the Observer tend to be self-righteous about distortion, so these are the examples I offer:

David Cameron did not say he was on “Team Nigella” – he agreed with a reporter who used the term.  Little thing maybe, but I think it’s different.

He did not announce that it was “Mission Accomplished” for British troops in Afghanistan; the phrase was suggested by a reporter, and he agreed to it in a strictly limited definition (preparing the Afghan army to defend the country from the Taliban).  What else would he say?   “I’m bringing them home, job not done, leaving the Afghans in the lurch”?

An Observer headline stated that the Bulgarian PM had “issued a fierce” condemnation of the government’s attitude towards EU immigration; in fact, the paper was referring to remarks he had made in the course of an “exclusive” interview with the paper (presumably at the request of the Observer).  That’s not what I would call “issuing”.

The Desolation of Smaug

Serious signs of padding in this latest 3 hour stretch of a trilogy sort of based on Tolkein’s children’s book; brilliant battle scenes, great Orcs and the introduction of an Elf woman-warrior called Tauriel, who isn’t a real character – that is, she’s made up by the film writers, not Tolkein.  I was impressed by the dragon, until the final close-up of its face, when I got a flash of the original “Night of the Demon”, a film I love, but one in which the demon is not wholly convincing.  Left the cinema with my 3D specs on again, as in Gravity.


From the ridiculous to the – not sublime, but serious anyway.  Watched Dekalog 5, which is actually Kieslowsky’s “A Short Film about Killing”; only an hour long, I think, but it lingers.  A youth in 80s Poland strangles and beats a taxi driver to death in a protracted sequence, is condemned to death and hanged on screen.  The hanging takes place in the execution shed, there is a drop of only a couple of feet, a tray has been placed at the bottom of the pit to catch urine; the hangman’s assistant shouts and yells repeatedly in the seconds before the lever is pulled, presumably to confuse and distract the victim.  The taxi driver is portrayed as sleazy; he propositions a young girl.  He avoids picking up customers he doesn’t fancy taking; if he’d done his job properly, he wouldn’t have picked up the murderer…


And another hanging.  I must admit I was surprised, shocked even, when Brody was hanged on a crane in Tehran.  Even though the execution was public, I was expecting some ruse by which he survived and escaped – such is the conditioning of TV.




On the Way to Somewhere


Boxing Day, 26th December 2013.


Blackpaint 426 – Wishbones, Hair Gel, Bergman and Buttock

December 20, 2013

Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA

Some interesting stuff to see, some of which I recognise from degree shows at Chelsea:

Martin van den Bos, paintings in acrylic, emulsion and pencil resembling putty grey images slightly reminiscent of de Kooning women in monochrome – one called “Pear shaped Woman”.  I like these, probably because they are old-fashioned Ab Ex type images.

Catherine Hughes does window frames, which lean against the wall, with fluorescent lights loosely attached to their sides, “curtains” made from large digital prints.

Laura O’ Neill, “Boney P”, a large sculpture roughly in the form of a wishbone with feet – again, rather recalling de Kooning.  Nothing like the Clamdiggers really, but made me think of them…

Lauren Cohen, “Lunchbox”, a great little animation, roughly drawn figures morphing into fruits etc,; I love roughness and texture in drawing and painting, would like to see the original stills for these.

Yves Scherer, a plaque of fake grass, thickened and erected with hair gel, under glass – why is that good?  Who knows?

Adam Hogarth, another animation, the memorable feature of which is a doll’s anus apparently addressing the audience…

Joanna Piotrowska, three photos from FROWST (?); really striking, especially the one of the two girls in similar dresses, one gazing frankly at the viewer with her boyish face.  Best thing on show.


There are a number of videos on show upstairs; the one I saw was by Fatma Busak, titled “Blessed are those who Come”, and shows a group of elderly Turkish men, grouped around a ruined temple (?) on the Turkish-Armenian border, so say the notes.  They are rather bemused by the attentions of a woman, her face veiled but her long black dress revealing a bare shoulder, who gives them each a piece of bread (although apparently it is a fast day) and cavorts around them as they discuss whether to stay there as asked and be filmed – or to go home.

In addition to the Bloomberg exhibition, there is a work by Zhang Enlai, who has done a painting which completely covers a large hall – you couldn’t call it a room, it’s more like a vault – and which consists of blue, green, cream, brown patches and smears of paint connected by lines and coils in an abstract pattern – or rather, no discernible pattern at all.  What interested me was that it looked great from outside the room, framed in the entrance; inside, it was rather underwhelming, although all-enveloping.


Ingmar Bergman’s famous film from 1966 featuring Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann; I sat watching it, predicting what would happen next – she’ll tear the photo in half, she’ll slap her face, she’ll step on the glass – then realised that this film was the origin of the cliches.  Anyway, seen it before, in 66 or 67, so I might even have buried memories.  You can’t miss the influence on Tarkovsky; the lingering close-ups on faces, the music, the landscape, the flashes of old film, the bits of newsreel…

Citizen Kane

Watched this again and was rather hard put to see why it is rated so highly by film buffs; great film, staggering set of Xanadu – but surely Vertov and Eisenstein and Gance were more technically innovative earlier.  I actually think Welles’ “The Trial” was more impressive.  Kane would be in my top 20, probably around 20.



Woman with Red Buttock



Happy Christmas to all readers who celebrate it.

Blackpaint 425 – Dreams, Mary Poppins and Chicken Sex

December 12, 2013

Tate Britain – Five Painters (again)

On second viewing, I saw something I’d missed, or hadn’t fully got, in Simon Ling’s paintings – the dream-like quality.  There’s a particular light, or maybe dullness, in the colours, as if it’s always late afternoon, gloomy, cloudy or actually more than that; sort of drained of light.  Don’t know what the lighting is like in your dreams, but the Ling quality certainly matches mine.

simon ling

I also liked the Storey monolith drawings more this time; not the paintings, but the ones on baking paper.  Definitely something Rachel Whiteread about them.

As for Lucy McKenzie, still can’t understand how she does her trompe l’oeil stuff, but neither can I see haw it relates to Fascism, as suggested in the leaflet, apart from the Lempicka-like figures and the Art Deco interiors… maybe something to do with facades, artificiality, make-believe; Fascisms are surely based on fantasy, after all.

“Stressed” photos by Henderson (forgot his first name), elsewhere in the gallery; one of a boy on bike, wobbly at edges, and one of a man striding across a road, apparently several feet off the ground.  Also, that fantastic photo by Don McCullin of the tramp, which has the quality, somehow, of a sunflower.

Sculptures in niches on stairway: one by Michael Sandle, “Drummer”, a life-size black robot-like figure which I was sure was a Philip King, until I saw the plaque; a William Turnbull, “Idol 2”, like a flatfish with a single large foot, as if fused; and Reg Butler’s brilliant grasshopper/mantis armed with a spear, which is actually called “Woman”, I believe.  Great, memorable image.

reg butler


Padre Padrone

I saw this film, directed by the Taviani brothers, many years ago; recently got it on DVD.  What I remembered, apart from the general brutality of the father in the Sardinian shepherd family, was  the boy learning to “hear” in the rural silence; particularly the rustling of the distant trees and the sound of the stream.

What I had forgotten was the scene in which a boy climbed on a box in order to sexually abuse an unfortunate donkey and several of his friends did the same (although not needing boxes) with chickens…  The father, on seeing this disturbing scene from the top of a hill, spurred his donkey on, not to rush down and put a stop to the abuse, but to pay an urgent visit to his wife…

Mrs. Dalloway

I’m finding this book rather less experimental than Jacob’s Room, or perhaps it’s because it is less episodic than that novel, staying with a particular character that little bit longer.  My partner was re-reading it, but stopped in annoyance, saying it reminded her of Mary Poppins (the film I think, not the book).  I was surprised, but I see what she means: the scenes in Regent’s Park, nannies with kids, an aeroplane sky writing, gentlemen with nothing to do sauntering around, observing – you could slot Dick Van Dyke in without great difficulty.  No animal abuse so far.

A Young Doctor’s Notebook (Sky Arts)

This has been going from strength to strength each week; Radcliffe and Hamm are an inspired combination.  Can’t think of any other series like it, off hand.



Dark Glacier



Blackpaint 424 – Lanyon Sketches, Guston, Borgen and Sharks

December 6, 2013

Lanyon Sketches at Gimpel Fils

A fantastic exhibition for Lanyon fans at the above gallery in Davies Street W1, off Oxford Street by Bond Street tube.  There are sketches for the murals at Birmingham and Liverpool Universities and some other studies, all in gouache on thick paper, sometimes several layers.


This is the sketch for the Liverpool work, titled, rather portentously, “The Conflict of Man with Tides and Sands”, done over eight panels of paper; the washed-out colours, white, slate grey shading to blue, ochre, are typical of Lanyon, as is the drawing in heavy black line and sometimes wispy sketchiness, as if done with a nearly dry brush twirled against the surface.

In the Birmingham sketch, Lanyon uses much brighter colours, salmon pink, a bright, almost leaf green, a more vivid blue, a richer ochre; no title for this one.


Those black markings look like calligraphy, like Kline a bit – or maybe mathematical symbols; not sure which faculty the mural was for.  One other example – this one’s called “Yellow Middle”, but it looks like a plough to me.


Morton Feldman, “Give My Regards to Eighth Street”

A very abstruse collection of writings by the avant-garde composer, in which he frequently draws comparisons between music and painting, with particular regard to his favourite trio, Mondrian, Rothko and Guston.  In each little segment, there is maybe one paragraph that I understand.  here he is on finishing a painting:  “Guston tells us he does not finish a painting, but “abandons it”.  At what point does he abandon it?   Is it perhaps the moment when it might become a “painting”?  After all, it’s not a “painting” that the artist really wanted…..Completion is not in tying things up, not in “giving one’s feelings” or “telling a truth”.  Completion is simply the perennial death of the artist.  Isn’t any masterpiece a death scene?  Isn’t that why we want to remember it, because the artist is looking back on something when it’s too late, when it’s all over, when we see it finally, as something we have lost?”  I think he (Feldman) is on to something, but I’m not sure I understand it fully…


Guston, in abstract mode.


I thought the episode about criminalising prostitutes’ clients in Denmark and the conflation of prostitution and trafficking was particularly good.  I was astounded to read that Hollande’s government is bringing in similar legislation.  On the characters, I like the way that Birgitte is becoming colder, harder, more pragmatic.  The only way, really, since her new party doesn’t seem to have any policies of its own; on the other hand, it’s not real, is it?


When she splashed down, and sank, and then emerged from the capsule and began fighting her way to the surface, did you also think “Shark!” followed closely by, “No, surely they wouldn’t…?”


In Progress