Blackpaint 456 – Malevich, Bohemia and Bloomsbury


Among the Bohemians, Virginia Nicholson

Just finished this rambling, but most enjoyable tour of “Bohemia” by Vanessa Bell’s granddaughter.  It suffers from jumping up and down the decades within themes, often without giving dates, but a good episodic read all the same.  I was astonished to read that Dora Carrington, whose appearance and paintings  give one an impression of strength and intelligence, shot herself after the death of Lytton Strachey.  Bohemia was about drink, drugs, sex and all that – but also about free thinking, freedom from convention, the use of the intellect; pity to read of a great woman artist destroying herself over the loss of a companion (Strachey was homosexual).

Nicholson seems to me rather reticent about Eric Gill, given his unconventional home life and the current climate of opinion in the UK about child abuse; since the word “Bohemian” denotes, among other things, unconventional behaviour, I expected to read more about Gill than was there.  She describes Gill’s behaviour as “preposterous”.

The Art of Bloomsbury, Richard Shone

This book was published in conjunction with a Tate exhibition of 2000; I’ve only just got round to reading it.  The painters it deals with are Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry.  I was surprised by the colour, beauty, variety and technique displayed by all three artists,,  having always thought of them as a bit “brown” and boringly British.  Just flicking through, there are works that resemble Lautrec (Grant’s Virginia Woolf), the Scottish Colourists (Fry’s Blythburgh and Studland Bay), William Nicholson (Bell’s Iceland Poppies), Bonnard (Bell’s The Open Door and Grant’s Window, South of France and the Doorway); there are fabulous abstracts by Bell that look like Winifred Nicholson, more by Grant and luscious still lifes by both Bell and Grant, the best of which is Grant’s Omega Paper Flowers on the Mantelpiece.  A lovely book and I’m off to Charleston as soon as poss.

grant vanessa

Grant

bell the open door

Bell

grant omega

Grant

bell abstract

 

Bell

 

Malevich, Tate Modern 

So, enough of all this Bloomsbury and Bohemia stuff – off to TM, where proper theoretical painting is on display.  that is to say, it’s underpinned and driven by theory, a good analysis of which can be found in Boris Groys’ “The Total Art of Stalinism”.

In the first room, there is all sorts, as Malevich casts around for a style – some of it looked to me like German Expressionism, nudes surrounded by heavy black lines; Seurat – style landscapes; little collections of figures with Toulouse Lautrec figures; Munch/Nolde – like paintings; a strange, frog-like “dancer” with huge, clubbed hands and feet.

Next, Larionov/ Goncharova influenced peasants, growing more abstract, peasants with metallic, Leger like bodies; Theatre costumes like later Bauhaus efforts; the famous Black Square.

Malevich,-The-Woodcutter,-1912_original

Next, floating, coloured geometric shapes on white, the Suprematist paintings, seeming to be in the process of flying apart or coming together and, in one or two cases, resembling abstractified figures, despite the fact that Malevich gives one or two ironic “realist” titles when they clearly don’t represent the indicated “real” thing at all.

malevich

There is a room of drawings arranged by decade, often showing rough, freehand sketches of the geometric paintings; then, back towards figuration, with highly stylised peasants, metallic, harlequin, clown-like figures that wouldn’t have been nearly realist enough for the regime and finally Social Realist portraits that show the final capitulation of any independence or experimentation.

Malevich died of cancer in 1935, not in the gulag (although he had been imprisoned).  If he’d lived, I’m sure he would have been shot at some stage, despite the SR stuff.

Orlando, book and film

Back to Bloomsbury for a moment; I’ve started Woolf’s book and watched Sally Potter’s film of the same.  There are big differences in the narratives, but they are each great works in their own right.  It’s fascinating to read Woolf’s work in chronological order and see how she changes; this novel is certainly the easiest read yet (not quite Stephen King, but getting there) and the most visual.

The Potter film has strong resemblances to Greenaway’s style, in the use of location and music; the violence and grossness are missing, but it does have Tilda Swinton.

Big Painting

I’m trying to go big by sticking two canvases side by side and painting one image across them.  Results below  – the second image is  the painting as it stands now, but no doubt it will change.  It’s called, for obvious reasons, “Critical Theory – a Guide”.

 

 

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First Version

 

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Current Version

Blackpaint

22.07.14 

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