Archive for January, 2014

Blackpaint 432 – The Scots, the Rollers and the Beast with Two Backs

January 30, 2014

The Scottish Colourists 

I got a cheap little book of postcards from Tate Britain of the paintings of the above – great, I think.  Cadell has three styles at least; cartoon, a sort of lush Singer Sargent/William Nicholson blend and a simplified representation of colour and shape that looks almost like Pop Art.

cadell1

Cadell, Blue Fan

Peploe is more like Cezanne, with a heavy black outline:

peploe1

I love them.  Why should the Scots have such good painters?  The earlier Glasgow Boys, Arthur Melville and his mates, were fantastic too (see earlier Blackpaints).

Guildhall

A few great paintings in this free collection in the City, near St.Pauls.  Two beautiful drawings of bishops’ heads by William Dring – couldn’t find them online – and several portraits of women in red flowery dresses by Matthew Smith; the best is a small three quarters portrait, tucked away round a corner.  And one big painting of the river and St. Pauls by John Virtue, black and imposing, that reminded me a bit of Opdahl at Kings Place.

john virtue

It’s much bigger than this.

Bay Area Painters

The figurative paintings of this school are very impressive, particularly those of Nathan Oliveira, Joan Brown and of course, David Park.  The furious row between them and the abstract painters seems very odd in retrospect; it’s not as if they are radical realists.

nathan oliveira

 

Nathan Oliveira

The Bay Area painters, of course, were commemorated in the 70s by the Scottish band the Bay City Rollers, who were great fans of the San Francisco artists.   I have nicked Hassel Smith’s great “shithouse wall” remark as the title for my paintings on Twitter; better alternate them with Smith’s.

Inside Llewyn Davis

The new Coen Brothers’ film about a loser singer on the nascent US singer/songwriter scene in 1961.  Black and white, looks great, Oscar Isaac the lead has a great deadpan stare; he’s also a very pleasing singer and guitarist.  For some reason, it’s attracting a lot of criticism for not being political enough; Dave Van Ronk, the artist who provided a sort of starting place for the character, was a socialist like many of the other singers on the circuit.  I think the film is OK as it stands; maybe now someone will make a movie about Pete Seeger.  I suspect it would be too worthy for me.

John Goodman’s character seemed superfluous to me; it did allow Davis to come out with that line about the walking stick, though.

Almayer’s Folly

I have finally finished this, Conrad’s first novel, and I realise why it took me four weeks to get through “Heart of Darkness” (great and important and thin book though it is).  He can’t write “the canoe came to a bend in the river” without describing the river, the sky, the banks, the jungle and the action of the canoe.  Three or four pages, maybe.  It’s great literary, descriptive writing but too much of it.

The Seven Samurai

One of those long, long films that you (or rather I) have to watch whenever it’s on TV.  Just a few seconds of Mifune’s antics and I’m hooked.  But then there is that samurai, the small, skinny one who stands stock still with his sword pointing forward until the enemy charges at him screaming; then, a very slight movement….

 

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Beast with Two Backs

Blackpaint

30.01.14

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Blackpaint 431- Coalhouse Walker and the Shithouse Wall

January 23, 2014

More from London Art Fair

Three more delights from the above show at the Angel:

Peter Kinley

art fair kinley

Bruce McLean

art fair bruce McLean

Reg Butler

art fair butler

Generally speaking, a great fair this year for abstract work of the 50s and 60s, but some current delights too, in the form of prints by Albert Irvin and Anthony Frost et al.

The Bay Area Painters by Thomas Williams

The bay in the title is San Francisco Bay.  Finally bought this book after lusting and pawing over it in Foyles for weeks; I was freshly astounded by the acrimony engendered by the decision of David Park, then Bischoff, then Diebenkorn to “go figurative”.  they were accused of cowardice, apostasy and treachery by Hassel Smith, Clifford Still and others. It sort of mirrors the “Judas” cries when Dylan went electric, or the earlier mutual contempt of the “mouldy fig” trad jazz fans and the be-boppers.  Perhaps an indication of the depth of feeling was that Park not only renounced abstraction, but deposited all his abstract work at the local dump.

I also find it fascinating and amusing that the critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg thought Abstract Expressionism the correct form for Marxists – the prevailing form of “Marxist” art in the Soviet Union being Socialist Realism, about as far from AbEx, and indeed, from the figuration of Park and Bischoff (and de Kooning, who was getting anti-figuration flak for his “Woman” series) as it is possible to imagine.

I love the machismo of these painters, both abstract and figurative; the greatest compliment paid by Douglas MacAgy, the Principal, to a student was “You paint with your cock”!  Clifford Still, on receiving praise for a canvas, would describe it as OK “to wipe his my ass on”; Hassel Smith said he wanted people to say of his paintings, “I wouldn’t hang that on my shithouse wall”.  I like this comment so much that I am putting a series of Shithouse Wall paintings – mine, not Smith’s – on Twitter.

Heaven’s Gate DVD

This is the Michael Cimino cut, the one which is supposed to be a masterpiece, NOT the hatchet job that was the original release.  there are, however, some real problems.  The sound is terrible; Kris Kristofferson swallows his words after speaking them into his beard.  The script alternates between mumbled, earnest exchanges and collective shouting and screaming, often in – Polish? Latvian?  Isabelle Huppert seems strangely unmoved by the slaughter of her girls in the brothel; granted she has just been raped and the rapists killed in front of her by Kristofferson – but you’d think she would show some dismay at the girls’ murders.

Ragtime, EL Doctorow

I watched them filming this in New York in 1980, but never saw the finished film (James Cagney’s last film, I think).  Got it for Christmas and enjoying it greatly.  It’s a mix of real historical characters and fictional ones – Coalhouse Walker Jr., the ragtime pianist and revolutionary, is fictional but Jim Europe’s band, in which he plays, was real.  I looked up Coalhouse to see if he was real; it reminded me of looking up the vignettes in My Winnipeg a few weeks ago.

Finally, look for more Shithouse Wall pictures on Twitter.

No new paintings this month, so here’s an old one.

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Atlantic Bar

Blackpaint

23.01.14

Blackpaint 430 – Abstraction at the Fair; Murder in the Mountains

January 18, 2014

London Art Fair

Some stunning paintings at the above – well worth a visit.  Three fantastic Lanyons to start with. all from the early 60s:

art fair lanyon 1

art fair lanyon 2

art fair lanyon 3

This one is “Pony” – didn’t get the other names.

The fair’s on for a while, so I’ll just put in a couple more of my favourites, these ones by the Scots painter Philip Reeves:

art fair philip reeves 1

art fair philip reeves 2

Rather like John Golding, I thought – until I saw the large number of Goldings at the fair, none of which were like the Reeves, or indeed, the Golding that was shown at the Tate in the 80th birthday slot a while ago, and that I featured in an earlier blog.

The fair has, as usual, loads of great Alan Davies, Keith Vaughans, blinding prints by Bert Irvin and Anthony Frost and a big Kazua Shiraga; heavy, dense -coloured ropes and splodges of deep paint, no doubt hurled in handfuls at the canvas and swept through with a broom.  You might not like it but it’s definitely there.  More pictures (Peter Kinley, Bruce McLean, William Gear) next blog.

Ornulf Opdahl

I think it’s spelt right – Norwegian painter of large, dark sea and mountain-scapes, with cracks and shafts of light penetrating the murk, back at Kings Place; they are really impressive when seen in the round on vast white walls.  He must get through gallons of Prussian Blue.

opdahl

 

The Reconstruction, Angelopoulos

His first film, 1970, set in a bleak mountain village, all stone houses and stone wall  mazes – reminded me of Aran Isles – rain, mud, snow, crisp black and white; the murder of a husband, returning from work in Germany, by his wife and her brutal lover.  They turn on each other – who was the instigator, who the follower? Wild Greek songs, villagers bent with labour, narrative in series of flashbacks – first in a box set.

Heaven’s Gate – Director’s Cut

Complete contrast, the Cimino film a series of big set pieces, beginning with a spectacular waltz scene and riotous college graduation ceremony and shifting to a murderous war on immigrants waged by hired guns in Wyoming.  Kristofferson, Bridges, Hurt, Walken, Huppert… wage bill must have been huge.  The “operatic” style I associate more with the Angelopoulos of “Weeping Meadows” period.  Maybe a touch of “1900” in there, too.

Mrs.Dalloway

The experimental stuff I’ve been discussing seemed to dwindle away in the latter stages of the book, as Woolf focuses on the decline and suicide of Septimus, the ramblings of Peter Walsh and the bringing together of these strands at Clarissa’s party.  I found Walsh’s habit of opening and closing the blade of his pocket knife rather disconcerting.  It has, perhaps, a different resonance for those of us who watch Silent Witness, The Fall et al.  I’m going to the lighthouse next.

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Laurels

Blackpaint

18.01.14

Blackpaint 429 – Four Cities; Paris, Rio, Hiroshima, Nagasaki

January 11, 2014

Toulouse- Lautrec

I have acquired Patrick O’Connor’s “Toulouse-Lautrec – The Nightlife of Paris” (Phaidon Books) which confirms me in my opinion that TL was every bit as good as Degas; a few pictures below to back that up:

Lautrec - the englishman

The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge

lautrec5

Caudieux

rue des moulins

Rue des Moulins

I think the only real difference is the element of caricature in TL’s work, absent from Degas; maybe also the penchant for swirling, vibrant backgrounds as above, more reminiscent of Van Gogh than Degas.

Vitamin D2

Another Phaidon book, this one the latest in their Vitamin series of drawings.   My favourites:

Moshekwa Langa

moshekwa langa

A Turn in the South

and J Valentine Parker

J Parker Valentine

Untitled 2012

Langa’s highly colourful, Parker’s in that lovely, scrapey, rough, Diebenkorn-ish charcoal.  Nothing new, I know, but great.

Flying down to Rio

Fred and Ginger’s first film together, hard to get hold of as a DVD; my copy is Spanish and I have to watch it in English with Spanish subtitles.  The usual ridiculous plot, not enough dancing from F and G – but it’s worth getting hold of for the fantastic aerial sequence at the end.  Dozens of beautiful girls dancing, posing, stripping off (only to the swimsuits; this was 1933), on the wings of planes – to an orchestra conducted by Fred, playing in a hotel courtyard thousands of feet below.  I can’t watch any Fred and Ginger film without finding a foolish smile on my face at the end.

Command and Control, Eric Schlosser

Another Christmas present, this one containing some staggering facts.  here’s a sample:

The Little Boy atom bomb – the Hiroshima one – had a firing mechanism that included bags of gunpowder;

Nagasaki was an alternative target for the Fat Boy bomb – the first target was Kokura, but it was too cloudy to attack (only visual contact was good enough for the command structure) and the bomber went instead for Nagasaki, almost out of fuel;

No blueprints were kept for the Hiroshima bomb, so when the US government wanted to manufacture more, they had to reassemble the team and start more or less from scratch;

Most startling of all, Schlosser says that Bertrand Russell favoured a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the USSR in the time before Russia acquired its own bomb.  I’m only a hundred-odd pages in, so no doubt there will be more “would you believe it?” stuff.

New Colours

New paints for Christmas, as requested, some decent earth colours; when I use them, however, I tend to bottle out and revert to whites and greys and paint the same pictures over and over again.  Got to make that break…

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Work in Progress

Blackpaint

10.01.14

Blackpaint 428 – Light, Frozen Horses, Murder in England

January 3, 2014

Sources of Light (cont.)

I was pursuing Morton Feldman’s schema last week, in which he says that the light in Rembrandt’s pictures is “without source”, Caravaggio’s “raking light”, etc.  Here’s another couple of examples:

caravaggio st paul

Caravaggio, St.Paul

Light from above and front right?

night watch

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Light from the front?  I can’t really see any real difference in the approach to lighting of these two artists.   Feldman might mean that there is no obvious source of light in the picture, window or candle, say – but its the same for Caravaggio surely….

Amy Sillman – One Lump or Two

My partner got this fantastic book for Christmas; I’ve written about her once before, but then I think I’d only seen a couple of her paintings.  She reminds me a bit of Brett Whiteley or Albert Oehlen, in that she often mixes up figurative with abstract; her drawing line is a little like Whiteley’s, too and hence like Roger Hilton.  But the colours are very distinctive – the reds, oranges and greens.,

My favourite paintings in the book are Birdwatcher (below) and A long Drawing, again reminiscent of Whiteley.

amy sillman birdwatcher

Birdwatcher

So, I strongly recommend that you buy this book – my partner tells me the text is not great; that thing where critics can’t resist telling you what pictures they can see in abstracts – but the pictures make up for it.

My Winnipeg

Guy Maddin’s 2007 fantasy biography of his snowbound, sleepwalking hometown, where in 1942, fake German soldiers invaded the town to promote the sale of (Allied) war bonds – true – and racehorses escaped from a stable fire to plunge into a local river and be instantly frozen, with their heads and necks poking up through the ice – legend.

winnipeg

Sightseers

On TV over Christmas, Ben Wheatley’s uncomfortable comedy murder spree around the blue john mines and the pencil museum.  A while through it, I realised it was a sort of twisted (per)version of Mike Leigh’s “Nuts in May” – in this version however, the self-righteous countryside guardians are brained or run over by Wheatley’s even more self-righteous anti-hero.  He also kills litter louts, though.  Seen three of his now; A Field in England, Sightseers and Kill List – all worth watching, if you like the English countryside as a backdrop to quite serious, nasty violence with a touch of paganism.

One more film – an old one, Chabrol’s Les Noces Rouges (1973)

Michel Piccoli and Stephane Audran as the lovers who murder her husband in a Postman Always Rings Twice burning car set-up.  As soon as these two come on screen, it conjures Bunuel, of course; Discreet Charm and Belle de Jour, and is the better for it.  Not really obvious why they murder the husband, since he is willing to ignore their affair in exchange for Piccoli’s collusion in some mildly dodgy land deal; maybe Audran couldn’t accept her husband’s acquiescence.  seems psychologically plausible, anyway.

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In The Studio

Cap Frehel

Cap Frehel – an old one, but no new ones painted yet

Blackpaint

2.01.13