Archive for August, 2014

Blackpaint 460 – Saatchi Abstracts, Auerbach at the Tate and Cotillard at the ICA

August 29, 2014

Saatchi Gallery – Pangaea: New Art from Latin America

Three striking painters in this exhibition:

Aboudia, from the Ivory Coast – graffiti style conglomerations with the usual features; smears, splatters, cartoon characters, slogans, livid colours.  I’ve a penchant for this sort of art, even though it’s hardly original (Rauschenberg through Basquiat) and the recent Saatchi exhibition “Body Language” had strikingly similar work from Eddie Martinez.

aboudia

Antonio Molta Campos, from Brazil – My favourite; huge, vivid, curving jigsaws of paint, blue, black, pink, that appear to form into giant heads and torsos.  Lovely, clean lines forming a contrast with the street jumble of Aboudia…..

antonio

….and the scruffy, filthy assemblages of brown card and other scraps of the Columbian artist, Oscar Murillo.  He lists “dirt” among his materials and from his picture on the gallery wall, appears to be an elderly woman.

murillo

 

Saatchi Gallery – Abstract America Today 

The other Saatchi exhibition, in the top floor galleries; here. there are four painters whose work I liked:

Cullen Washington Jr. – big, black, white and brown paintings and assemblages with fluorescent bits of tape holding them together, or more probably, just stuck on.  These had an immediate impact, but faded somewhat after the first contact.

washington

Paul Bloodgood – reminded me oddly of a tube map somehow; don’t know why.  Liked them, apart from that insipid cream colour…

bloodgood

Jackie Saccoccio – I liked the “net” of paint she cast over the surfaces…

saccoccio

 

And Keltie Ferris – blurred lower layers, sharp uppers, those blasting diagonals…

ferris

 Tate Britain – Frank Auerbach; the Lucian Freud Bequest

auerbach

One room of Auerbach paintings and drawings, including some brilliant life drawings from his college days; striking cityscapes of Mornington Crescent and Primrose Hill in winter; and some staggering (running out of superlatives) portraits, notably three (at least) of “E.O.W.”  I thought I knew Auerbach’s work pretty well, but am about to reveal great ignorance.  When you look at these portraits close up, they are a mass of thick, intertwining worms of paint, rising in thickness from maybe half an inch at the perimeter to three inches maybe at the centre.  You are aware of a head, a sort of expressionist explosion of features, but nothing from which you could identify the sitter, beyond maybe a long head, or chin – if you knew what the sitter looked like.

But if you stand back 10 or 12 feet and look again, a surprisingly precise and identifiable image of the sitter’s face appears in the middle of the mass of worms, as if swimming to the surface.  Maybe everybody else knows this, or sees it straight away – revelation to me, though.

A beautiful exhibition, and free – as are the Saatchis, of course.

“Two Days, One Night” at the ICA

Dardenne Brothers film. featuring Marion Cotillard.  Apparently hard realism, set in dreary, half-built housing estates in Belgium, strongly resembling Britain.  She’s a factory worker, voted out of her job by her “mates” after being off with a nervous breakdown.  The boss, through the foreman,  has put it to the vote; do they want their bonuses or for her to be kept on?  Bonuses, apparently.  She has the weekend to go round to all their houses and try to get them to change their minds, in the re-vote the boss has conceded on the coming Monday.

It got five stars from Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian; easy to see why; theme and politics are right (the unspoken message is pro-union), beautifully acted, convincing – superficially, anyway.  I thought it was lacking in dramatic tension, however, in that you knew you were in for a dozen or so doorstep encounters right from the beginning.  She attempts suicide (not a spoiler this, since the opening certificate warns you that there is a suicide attempt), recovers, changes her mind, and gets back on the doorbells, within a couple of hours.

No reason why a film should have everything, but this could have easily been a TV play; no visual stimulation at all.  The same night, I saw Bigelow’s “Point Break” again on TV.  Ridiculous story and dialogue, cartoon acting, blatant steals from “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” and “Straight Time” but fantastic surfing and skydiving.  Supposing you transposed the directors…

 

003

 

Minden

Blackpaint, 29.08.14

Advertisements

Blackpaint 459 – Martial, Andre and Oscar at the Pompidou

August 22, 2014

Martial Raysse at the Pompidou Centre

I’d never heard of this artist until now; I suppose he’s a sort of Richard Hamilton – pop art, ideas man, always changing, cutting edge.  His early stuff is a combination of the matt face portraits along the lines of Warhol, often combined with neon bits (see below).  He also did a lot of neon sculptures;   A painting with the corner missing, replaced with a piece of neon that makes a corner frame.  the colours are vivid, the pictures striking and witty.

Then, paintings with additions, such as a set of antlers, becoming more extensive, until at least half sculpture – Stella, or maybe Bill Woodrow.

raysse2

raysse3

Later, he did massive canvases, peopled by partying mobs of strange, incongruous people in bright, almost painfully bright colours.  This phase reminds me of the sort of paintings that appeared in the recent Saatchi exhibition; strange groups doing strange, suggestive things (see previous Blackpaint).  A completely bonkers short film called “Jesus Cola”, in which a professor is a sort of quiz contestant, answering questions, usually with an emphatic “NON!”  Cut to youths playing at cowboys, one “shooting” all the others with a toy pistol, to what sounded like Dylan’s “Oxford Town” speeded up to the Nth degree.

raysse4

Some ceramics, mobiles made from clothes pegs etc., like sinister charms hung from trees in “Blair Witch” or “True Detective” and the odd painting of banal, everyday articles like the basket of fruit above.  And then the stranger and stranger ensemble paintings in vile colours.

He’s the most expensive French living artist, apparently; a real find for me.

Pompidou permanent collection

Some real beauties in the permanent collection –   my favourites are:

Andre Kertesz photos of New York

kertesz1

That’s a pigeon taking off.

kertesz2

Reminds me of Brueghel.

Marc Chagall’s bride and groom.

chagall pomp

Asger Jorn (of course)

jorn pomp

 

Karel Appel (of course)

appel pomp

 

And this fantastic portrait of Brancusi by Kokoschka.

kok pomp

 

OK, enough Pompidou for now; more next blog.

A Separation (cont.)

I was halfway through when I wrote about this film last week; it got even better in the second half, with a potential murder accusation (of an unborn child, under Iranian law).  Ended inconclusively, I think without a taking of sides; could be wrong though – I’d need a rigorous feminist analysis to be sure.

Like Someone in Love

Kiarostami film, set in Japan, concerning an odd triangle of young student/prostitute, elderly professor/client and boyfriend/mechanic/thug.  The last is unaware of his girlfriend’s job; the film concerns the attempts of the girl and the client to keep it that way.  Like “a Separation”, it ends inconclusively – but no other similarities, apart from the nationality of the directors.

The tone of the film is indeterminate; at times, I thought I was watching a gentle comedy – the elderly client is a benign grandfatherly type, who only wants company for dinner and someone to listen to Ella Fitzgerald with him.  He eschews the opportunity to sleep with the girl.   Then it gets darker as he loses control of the situation with the boyfriend.

The night scenes from a taxi in the Japanese city – Tokyo? – are beautifully photographed but it’s not breathtaking, like “The Wind Will Carry Us”, for example; the only other Kiarostami film I know.  Reminded me of “I’m in the Mood for Love”, maybe, but probably its just the use of a torch song title.

 

006

 

Theory Split 2

 

 

??????????

 

Theory Split 2 

Blackpaint, 22.08.14

 

 

 

Blackpaint 458 – Braque, Yoko and Johnny at Bilbao

August 15, 2014

Braque at the Guggenheim, Bilbao

First, a full-size ballet stage set; very rough-cut “curtains and crooked arches, roughly-painted houses, windows of a “working class section” of an Italian town – I didn’t record the name of the ballet. Quite strong resemblance to a de Chirico.

Next, his Fauvist pictures.  One or two look like the Soutine paintings at the Ashmolean exhibition, but without the Expressionist writhing intensity.

Early Cubist stuff – guitars, mandolins, Sacre-Coueur, a port scene – very familiar and formulaic, they appear to my jaded eyes; the usual greys and browns.  Then, the ones that Patrick Heron “borrowed”, only done about thirty years earlier – white outlines round black lines, black, brown, blue, green, yellow, flowers, jugs, interiors.

One beautiful, dark salmon-based one with sand mixed into the paint, looking great from a distance.  Ditto the pink tablecloth one.

braque red tablecloth

I wasn’t keen on the silhouettes of women at card tables, against large lemon-green patches.

Several of the paintings are on black, brown or maybe navy blue backgrounds; the best is the Packing Case.

braque the packing case

Then, there is the Billiard Table, with mysterious white lines binding it, or in which it appears suspended.

braque billiard table

There is a tiny “Basket of Fruit” that looks just like a Winifred Nicholson.  Lots of masks and fishes (black, red, spotted), newsprint, Picasso -like skulls and women – one, greeny yellow with a huge single breast rising from her stomach.

There are some statuesque, brawny women, reminiscent of those Matisse reliefs, with stylised brown breasts and a repeated stomach design like an X ray of the kidneys.

The final room has a series of tiny landscapes, several of which had a touch of Van Gogh – stormy skies, “V” shaped birds.  They (the paintings) are narrow and stretched, as if through the viewing slot of a bird hide.  Interesting that de Stael apparently loved these; I can only think it was the stripe layers that resemble his own late sea and harbour scapes (see last blog).  The last painting is very like Van Gogh’s crows over the cornfield, but with a big, black plough lying detached and still in the foreground.  Suddenly reminded me of the Lanyon sketches on paper, displayed at Gimpel Fils recently and reviewed elsewhere in this blog.

A brilliant show; I’m looking forward to trying painting on dark backgrounds.

Yoko Ono at Bilbao

Most of the stuff on show here is the same or similar to the Serpentine Gallery show reviewed a while back in this blog – the stepladder and magnifying glass, photos of the clothes cutting happenings around the world, a series of bottles of water, each labelled with a famous person’s name; a couple of condoms, half filled with water (I presume) and suspended; a joky room with a huge magnet attached to one wall, pulling kitchen furniture and implements off kilter; a load of furniture sawn in half.

yoko furniture

 

There is, however, a wall of meticulous ink drawings, done with thousands of dots, of intricate abstract geometric shapes, showing real skill.  That was a surprise to me (not the skill, but the anomaly of the drawings amongst the conceptual stuff).

yoko drawing

De Stael

At the Le Havre exhibition (see last blog) I got a DVD about the painter which is in French.  I can just about understand most of it, but was intrigued that they kept returning to the same picture, the giant one reproduced below.  It turns out it was the one he was working on when he killed himself.

de stael the grand concert

 

A Separation 

Riveting Iranian film, directed by Ashgar Farhadi in 2011; I’m still halfway through, but  it concerns the trials of a man and his daughter trying to get help to look after his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and the crises that arise from this in their lives and that of the pregnant woman they hire.  Not a happy film, but compelling, I suppose, is the word I’d go for.

Johnny Winter

Saddened to read of the death of this blues colossus the other week; the only way to negotiate the Scalextrix – style motorways before Bilbao is to put on Winter’s “Scorching Blues” and join in the mayhem to the appropriate sounds.

“…So much shit in Texas,

Bound to step in some”

(Dallas)

Next blog: Pompidou Centre and Martial Reysse.

175

Blackpaint

15.08.14

 

Blackpaint 457 – de Stael at le Havre, Perfect Backs and Zola

August 7, 2014

Nicolas de Stael at le Havre – Lumieres du Nord, lumieres du Sud

I’m deeply indebted to Jon Hensher for commenting on 453 and letting me know about this stunning exhibition of de Stael’s late sea-and landscapes, mostly from 1951 – 55 (the year in which he killed himself by jumping from his studio window in Antibes).  Wikipedia gives his place of death as Paris – this must surely be an error, as he jumped from the 11th storey.  Why?  he was very successful and producing fantastic work.  Apparently, he suffered from recurring depression and had had an “unsatisfactory” meeting with an art critic.

Although the exhibition contains only one or two paintings that approach real abstraction, his work throughout is concerned with shape and colour rather than the accurate depiction of reality.  Sea and shoreline are represented by bands or stripes of colour, detail of ships or buildings by his familiar dabs or “tiles” of paint.  On the whole, the textures lack the thickness and crustiness of his earlier large abstracts, apart from one or two, such as “Landscape, Agrigente”,  which are scraped or scratched into (these are, to my eye, among the best).

What I hadn’t appreciated was his mastery of colour.  A few examples below:

de stael paysage sicily

Paysage, Sicile 1953

de Stael lemon

Landscape 1952

de Stael big red

Figures by the Sea (I think – my notes are very scrappy)

de stael bell

Calais – this is the exhibition poster; shades of Vanessa Bell’s “Studland Beach”?

I could rhapsodise about these pictures for some time, but that would be tedious, so I urge all my readers to drop everything, go to France and see for yourselves.  Incidentally, Wikipedia mentions the Bay Area painters as a point of comparison, in that NdS returned to figurative painting after abstraction; there is however a quotation from the artist on the wall of the museum, indicating that he himself made no distinction between abstraction and figuration.

Wim Oepts

Dutch painter, died 1988, who came to mind when I saw the more intense de Staels:

oepts

Also Anthony Frost, a bit – those ones he does with sacking.

Tate Britain Archive Room – “The Model and the Life Room”

This is easy to miss, as its down in the basement, at the bottom of the Fred and Ginger stairs.  it’s a collection of life drawings and sketches by the likes of Gaudier- Brzeska, Hilda Carline, Keith Vaughan, Augustus John, Michael Ayrton and Ithell Colquhoun.  There is a drawing by Alfred Stevens called “Seated Woman Gazing at Magog”, which is another in my Perfect Backs series:

alfred stevens

It goes with the likes of Kitaj’s smoking woman

kitaj

 

 

and the back of the real Ginger, dancing with Fred at the end of “Swing Time” (buy the DVD to see what I mean).

fred and ginger swing time

 

Here’s my own best effort, not in the same league, I know:

??????????

Zola; Rougon – Macquart cycle

Started the 20 novel cycle on my Kindle, having downloaded the complete works for £1.99.  What it demonstrates to me is the importance of the translation.  I read “Germinal” and “The Debacle” (or The Downfall, as it is called in the Collected Works) in the 60s Penguin Classics versions; I remember a racy,modern,  brutal, colourful prose style.  The style here is archaic and sentimental – the word “damsel” cropped up early on, used by the narrator, not a character.  Not sure I’ll be able to last the whole twenty – easier than Proust, though, and more happens.

 Next blog: Braque and Yoko at Bilbao, Martial Raysse at the Pompidou.

001

 Sonia “on the beach”

Or maybe she should be on her side?

??????????

 Blackpaint

7.08.14