Archive for March, 2014

Blackpaint 439 – Michelangelo, the Saints and the Black Snake Moan

March 27, 2014

Last Week in Rome…

..to which “all roads lead”, according to the 20th Rome Marathon T shirt and day sac which I earned with my sweat and stiff legs – along with a heavy, rather Futurist/Fascist style medal, pictured below.

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Before and after the run, we queued and filed past/through all the compulsory tourist sites, starting with the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo

I’ve written many times about Michelangelo in this blog, notably my theory that Shakespeare was his reincarnation (conclusive proof in Blackpaint 217) and, perhaps less controversial, the fact that “Michelangelo doesn’t do trees” (Blackpaint 112).  The tree in the pic below is pretty much the sole exception.  The ceiling, lower than I expected, was, of course, fabulous; but it was amusing to see the two opportunities for censorship that had been missed by the various popes and officials down through the ages – especially since some loincloths were added to male figures:

Briefly, there is the famous proximity of Eve’s face to Adam’s penis in the Temptation panel-

eve sistine

And the snake sucking – or eating -Minos’ penis in the bottom right of the altar piece (shades of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan”).  Minos was a portrait of Biagio, the Papal master of ceremonies, who had been rude about the “lascivious” paintings, so the snake was Mick’s revenge.

penis sistine

 

While I was pointing these features out to my companions, a grey-suited official continually repeated, in an irritated, but defeated tone, “No Talking!! No Photo!! SHH! SHH!”, occasionally lunging forward to try to block some miscreant taking a photo on his mobile phone.

Bought a 10 Euro poster of the Delphic Sybil and noted again the decisively male musculature of those arms, which in no way detracts from the beauty of the face:

sybil sistine

St.Peter’s

Apart from the Michelangelo Pieta, which is now behind glass, there is some great statuary that I was unable to find much about on web:

There is a standing saint, pointing a finger in the manner of a Parmagianino painting, with that crook in the middle and the long neck – it’s St.Elijah, by one Agostino Cornacchini

st elijah

There is a fantastic St.Andrew, bearing a rough old saltire on his muscular back, by Francois Duquesnoy

st andrew

St. Bruno, not filling his pipe, but recoiling inexplicably from a child reaching up towards him; it’s by Michelangelo Slodtz (?)

st bruno

 

A tableau from which the figure of Time, a skeleton with an hourglass, emerges – or rather, is slipping out from under a sheet.  Couldn’t find this one.

OK, enough from Rome for now; more next blog.

The Great War in Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Free exhibition, about 30 – 40 minutes worth; several good paintings, among them this Sickert

sickert

 

which has a coruscating surface, impossible to see in the above – and the well-known yellow Kirchner, with the imaginary severed hand.  There is that great Isaac Rosenberg self-portrait

rosenberg

and a drawing by Max Beckmann, very much in the Grosz street mode.  Some fascinating photographs too.

Coming Up for Air

I can’t read enough Orwell at the moment, having plunged in with Burmese Days a few weeks ago; I’ve read everything he wrote and everything about him (apart from the Taylor biog), some of it three or four times, but I’m still getting the odd surprise.  I’d forgotten, for example, that “Air” contains a dry run for the Two Minute Hate in “1984”; Orwell’s protagonist George Bowling is attending an talk by a well-known “anti – fascist”, as the speaker is introduced.  Interesting that the tirade of hate-filled cliches is being delivered by an ANTI -fascist, given Orwell’s politics…

Italian TV

We could do with the “Singing and Dancing” channels over here, to dilute the endless flow of high level intellectual and cultural output we are subject to in the UK; I blame the BBC.  Also, we need more shopping channels and spy films from the 60s.  There was one British film, in which Peter Sellers starred as a priest who went up in a rocket ship – I think he hijacked it – must look it up.

No proper paintings done in last few weeks, so a couple of life studies to compare with the Michelangelos above:

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Blackpaint

27.03.14

 

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Blackpaint 438 – Hop Picking in Orwell, Sudden Death in Woolf, Lurking in Sprout

March 14, 2014

Orwell – A Clergyman’s Daughter

Re-read Burmese Days and of course, was immediately hooked again by Britain’s most readable author, journalist and writer in general; so now I’m on Clergyman’s Daughter, racing through.  Some terrible stereotypes and dodgy dialogue, it’s true; but the scenes in the hop-picking areas of Kent are memorable and visual and strike one as accurate.  The section in Trafalgar Square and the cafe in Charing Cross Road, which Orwell has done as a play is clearly inspired by the Night Town sequence in Ulysses; the character of Mr. Tallboys, the unfrocked parson, continually reciting and distorting biblical passages and prayers, for example, is very reminiscent of Joyce.  At one point, Orwell seems about to tip over into surreal fantasy like Night Town –  but draws back at the last moment, and turns it into a dream.

To the Lighthouse

Suddenly, after a hundred pages or so (maybe – I’m reading it on a Kindle, so can’t tell exactly), Woolf starts killing off the characters in a line or so each, as if bored with them; first, Mrs Ramsay, then Andrew (blown up by a shell on the Western Front), then Prue  (in childbirth)… all three within a few pages.  Reminded me oddly of BS Johnson’s Christy Malry – Johnson gives him cancer and kills him quite suddenly, ending the book in what feels like midstream.  Like real life, I suppose, which was Johnson’s point.  Now I think, sudden death has happened in all the Woolf books I’ve read so far – The Voyage Out, Jacob’s Room, Mrs Dalloway, Lighthouse – the only exception is Night and Day.

Bay Area Painters

I know I’ve written about them before, but must mention Frank Lobdell, Nathan Oliveira and Joan Brown, who took part in life drawing sessions with Diebenkorn in his figurative period.

oliveira

 

Oliveira

lobdell

 

Lobdell

Sprout Exhibition  

Haven’t been to any exhibitions for the last two weeks, having been stuck in the Sprout Gallery, trying to lure rare passers-by in to sell them paintings.  Sold three; here are two – can’t find photo of the other.

the young horseman

The Young Horseman

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Oxlade Nude

The Family Friend, Sorrentino

This film contains the most disgusting anti-hero in cinema – he’s an old gangster, money lender, hypochondriac, wears an anti-migraine bandage on his head, a dirty old plaster cast on one arm, gobbles chocolates greedily, lives in a dark, stinking flat with his incontinent, invalid mother; he forces himself on a beautiful young bride on her wedding day…. and she (apparently) becomes fixated on him and comes back asking for more…  Like all Sorrentino films, it features old men dancing; this time, country and western dancing, with big stetsons and fringed jackets.  All it lacks is Tony Servillo.

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And here’s the latest painting – Blackfriars to Nine Elms

Blackpaint

14.03.14

Blackpaint 437 – Platypus, Nest Eggs, Algerians, Burmese Days

March 7, 2014

Brett Whiteley

I’ve been looking at this artist’s work again, and I must say I love the way he draws – sometimes!  he has a bold, clean line when he wants, and it mixes with areas of tangled line that have been erased and sometimes picked out with ink or pencil.  He’ll elongate and distort as the fancy takes him, like a cartoonist, Scarfe maybe.

whiteley1

A lot of his work is in dubious taste (I don’t mean porny, that’s fine as far as I’m concerned); for instance, the Christie drawings and paintings, based on the 10 Rillington Place murders, that he actually mixed with zoo drawings, for example “a Cheetah at Ten Rillington Place” – good painting, though.

I love some of his Lavender Bay verandah-scapes and the series of landscapes he did with an “S” shaped river included.  he’s also notable for the number of different objects he stuck on his canvases; birds’ eggs (often in nests), birds, his own ginger hair on a self-portrait, coins, a brain, a duck-billed platypus (stuffed)…..

The boxing and cricket paintings reminded me of Francis Bacon, as did the Zoo paintings.

whiteley 2

The Brits Who Built the Modern World (Rogers, Foster, Shuttleworth etc.) BBC4

TV progs about these; thought some of their stuff was brilliant, for example, the Pompidou Centre, for which they claimed there wasn’t even an overall drawing existing when they excavated the vast hole in the middle of Paris for the building – yeah, hippy architects, cool…  They, well, Rogers anyway, claim to have been lefties in the 60’s, building workers’ recreation projects and the like.  Now, however, they do prestige airports and such for the Chinese, which is much better in many ways, because they carry long-term projects through, being a dictatorship.  Over here, you have to worry about democracy; governments, and hence plans changing, unions being a pain, people refusing to move….  The Chinese can guarantee you a cleared site for your shiny project, no problem.  And they’re communists, Chinese gov. that is, so it’s all in the Peoples’ interest.

Good Men (Ismael Ferroukhi)

Great film (2011) set in WW2 Paris, concerning Algerians.  It stars Tahoor Rahim, the young gangster in Audiard’s “A Prophet”, doing a similar turn; he’s a black marketeer and informer, naive, poorly educated, amoral (to start with), ducking and weaving, an eye to the main chance; slowly, he acquires a conscience and a loyalty to his compatriots.  There’s something of Pontecorvo’s “Battle for Algiers” to it – I suppose it’s the similarity of Rahim’s character to that of Ali la Pointe, and their “journey” towards activism.

The music in the film is staggering; I had the volume low on the the first song and couldn’t hear the words – it sounded like a ballad done by the Watersons or Martin Carthy.

Burmese Days

Just finished the Orwell book and of course, now I’m going to have to read the lot again – Clergyman’s Daughter next.  I thought it a much cruder portrayal than Passage to India, but of course, Orwell was an officer in the Burmese police while Forster was a visitor to India, so maybe Orwell’s first-hand knowledge of the Burmese and the ex-pats was superior.  I thought the characters of Verrall, and Elizabeth were beautifully drawn.  From reading the Crick biography, it appears that the incident in which Ellis attacks the students with his stick might have been suggested by a similar incident in which Orwell, or Blair, himself laid into a Burmese youth at a railway station.

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RK Back – An old one, I’m afraid.

Blackpaint

07.03.14