Blackpaint 453 – Making Colour, Orwell and Kafka, Rolf Harris


Making Colour, National Gallery

Exhibition of works taken from the permanent collection – nothing new here – illustrating various points about, unsurprisingly, the history of colour use in art.  The technicalities are interesting and some good pictures (see below):

 

caracci

 

Caracci – similar colours in the Veronese exhibition recently.  Love the gesture: “Yeah, straight on down and take a left – can’t miss it.”

stamina

 

Stamina – St. Margaret’ s execution.  It’s the executioner’s purple robe that is the focus for this painting.

Masaccio_StGeromeAndStJohnTheBaptist

 

Masaccio – Sts. Jerome and John.  The colours, the facial expressions and the little lion.

Thomas_Gainsborough_015

 

Gainsborough – Mrs.Siddons.  I think there’s another Mrs Siddons by G in Dulwich Picture Gallery; looks like the same dress.

 

 George Orwell – Taylor’s biography

The Bernard Crick bio is still the one of choice for me, but Taylor’s has the odd illuminating detail missing from Crick.  For example, late in his life when a collected works was being contemplated, Orwell had no personal copies of Burmese Days or Clergyman’s Daughter – he had to do a JR Hartley to get copies.  Can you imagine a modern author without at least one copy of every single edition of his/her work?  Neither can I.

Finished Nineteen Eighty – Four again; I’d forgotten what a gruelling experience the last section was.  Apparently, some prospective reviewers were unable to sleep after reading it.  I wouldn’t go that far, but its certainly depressing.  Taylor discusses the similarities to Murray Constantine’s  “Swastika Night”, and, rightly in my view, dismisses the on-line view that Orwell nicked the plot.

A faint echo that sounded for me was the story “In the Penal Colony” by Kafka.  It will be remembered that an officer of the colony has inherited from his governor an execution machine that kills by repeatedly penetrating, ever deeper, the flesh with needles that write out the “crime” on the body until the condemned is dead.  The point (excuse pun) is that the prisoner comes to some higher understanding of the nature of his crime as he dies.

This is akin to the need of Ingsoc to go beyond just killing malcontents like Winston; first, they must be remade, by torture and brainwashing,  to see their previous ideas as errors and to love “Big Brother”.  this is a real need; to simply dispose of opposition by murder is not sufficient.  It undermines the whole point of totalitarian society to tolerate the existence of opposition, even passive dissent, even in the past.  Dissent must be changed to acceptance and the past must be restructured.

The officer of Kafka’s penal colony himself submits to the machine, because the new governor is against him and  the unnamed observer fails to see a reason for the machine and disapproves on humanitarian grounds.  In this absolutism, the officer resembles the Party in Orwell’s novel.

Jonathan Jones on Rolf Harris

In today’s Guardian, Jones (an art critic) recounts an anecdote in which he” saw Harris’ s dark side years ago” .  At the unveiling in 2005 of Harris’s portrait of the queen, Jones asked him if he seriously believed that “his portrait was a good work of art”.  This brought out the Dark Side, apparently; “anger suddenly crossed his previously beaming face”.  Well, what did Jones expect?  In my experience, creative people are narcissistic through and through and anything less than 100% adulation is unbearable – unless they’re going for shock effect, of course.  If you publicly insult someone in front of the assembled media, I would have thought it quite likely you’ll see an angry expression pass over their features.

He goes on to draw a parallel between Harris’s “determinedly inoffensive daubs” and the “banality of evil”, famously, Hannah Arendt’s phrase describing the Nazis.  “The middlebrow is inherently corrupt”, perhaps, says Jones; “Chocolate box art is a lie”.

What complete nonsense this is.  I would guess that there are some, maybe even many, conventional, inoffensive, “chocolate box” painters who don’t have Harris’s predatory sexual habits.  Some of them might even be decent citizens.  Same goes for the fans and punters – too stupid to recognise the banality of evil, maybe, but not necessarily perverts.

 

 

 

??????????

 

Blackpaint – St. Clement’s

7.04.14

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2 Responses to “Blackpaint 453 – Making Colour, Orwell and Kafka, Rolf Harris”

  1. Jon Hensher Says:

    Hi,

    I just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading the blog and looking at your pictures – judging from the photos, it looks like they’ve got a real sense of scale and the colours certainly seem to be enjoying themselves! I’d like to see them in the flesh one day…

    Just in case you hadn’t heard, there’s a De Stael exhibition on in Le Havre at the moment (I haven’t seen any mention of it in the British press…):

    http://www.muma-lehavre.fr/en/exhibitions/nicolas-de-stael-lumieres-du-nord-lumieres-du-sud

    Worth a look, as is the town despite its somewhat gloomy reputation!

    Keep up the good work

    Jon

    • blackpaint Says:

      Thanks for the comments Jon; much appreciated. I love De Stael; have bad memories of missing a ferry at le Havre and having an extra 400 ks to drive as a consequence – but that’s neither here nor there. Keep reading please.

      Chris (Blackpaint)

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