Archive for September, 2014

Blackpaint 463 – Awkward English Painters, Campion and Amis

September 30, 2014

The Later Turner, Tate Britain

Well, all the usual suspects are there; the Slave Ship, Sea Monsters, Burial at Sea, Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth,  Parliament burning,  Rain Steam and Speed, Exile and the Limpet, the whaling pictures – and some of the most hideous gold frames you could imagine.  Apart from those paintings listed, the sketches of Venice and elsewhere in Italy and Switzerland are, of course, fantastic.  Maybe I’m Turnered out, though; I’ll go again this week and see if there’s anything new to say.

turner

 

Storm at Sea; Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth  

Sickert and Bomberg on BBC4

Two great programmes (I missed the one on Paul Nash).  The Sickert one showed direct lines back to Degas and TL, and forward to Auerbach and even Bacon (the self-portrait).  The paintings from photographs – Edward VIII and the Italian Count (didn’t get the name) after the conference – were linked by Andrew Graham – Dixon to Warhol.  This was not such a radical idea; I came across the suggestion in Robert Hughes’ “Nothing if not Critical” the next day.

sickert1

The Bomberg prog did justice to the variety of his styles during his career and showed how his “Sappers” painting – is it still on exhibition in Tate Modern? – was based on the Caravaggio Crucufixion of St.Peter.  There’s an exhibition of Dorothy Mead, one of his best disciples, on in London at the moment.

bomberg sappers

 Bomberg, Sappers Under Hill 60

caravaggio st peter

 Caravaggio, Crucifixion of St.Peter 

Portrait of a Lady, Jane Campion

Watched a DVD of this film starring Kidman and Malkovich, and I was astounded to see a sequence in sepia straight out of Fellini – like “The Ship Sailed On”.  Moments later, it turned into Bunuel, when a plateful of ravioli pockets, I think, developed mouths and started speaking to Kidman.  Then it was gone and we were back to relative naturalism.

Zone of Interest, Martin Amis

This is the first Martin Amis I’ve read; it is gripping, and Amis has done the research on Auschwitz and the Holocaust that the subject requires.  He does, however, use the camps as the setting for a story about the commandant and his wife; not sure about this.  Maybe the only story should be the story OF the camps. He has a Jewish girl point at herself before her murder and say “Eighteen years old”.  I came across the source of this in “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, in the evidence of a German civilian who saw the incident at a massacre by an einsatzgruppe at Dubno in Ukraine, not in Auschwitz.  She was 23, not eighteen.  Still, there’s a good essay by Amis at the end and I don’t think it insults the memory of the victims.  Probably more on this next blog.

 

crete5

Cretan Plants (a Figurative Interlude)

Blackpaint

30.09.14

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Blackpaint 462 – Constable, John and Albert, Turtle Burners’ Best

September 18, 2014

Alastair Sooke on Constable

Two things surprised me in this programme:  first, the fact that Turner was established as a Royal Academy member before Constable; I’d always thought it was the other way round (I suppose because Turner strikes me as the more “modern” of the two); second, the great enthusiasm for Constable in France.  Delacroix apparently repainted one of his own works after seeing a Constable.  The latter treated this adulation with contempt and steadfastly refused to go to France to promote his work.

Still not convinced by Sooke’s case that Constable was a revolutionary figure in the art world, however.

Programmes on Abstract Art, BBC4

I found the Matthew Collings prog great – an hour and a half on abstract art, what could be wrong? – but inevitably, some omissions.  Nothing, I think, on Lanyon, Frost, Hilton, Blow or any of the other St.Ives painters.  Hoyland was there, but not enough and the fabulous Albert Irvin surely was worth another ten minutes.  I like Collings’ own paintings – they always remind me of Festival of Britain motifs – but they don’t look much fun to produce.

High time Hoyland and Irvin had books on them produced by Tate.

hoyland

 

 

Hoyland

irvin empress

 Irvin

Virginia Woolf at the National Portrait Gallery

Not that many paintings – lots of photos, diary extracts etc. – but the few that are there are great.  There’s the Duncan Grant portrait of Virginia that looks like a Toulouse Lautrec, the Vanessa Bell portrait of her with the features practically omitted, except for the mouth and the Grant portrait of a Strachey (I think), sprawled along or across a red sofa.  The best to my mind though, is the little Bell portrait of Saxon at the piano; looks like a Gwen John to me.

vanessa bell saxon

BP Portrait Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery

The two paintings that I thought stood out at the Turtle Burners’ prize this year were by Richard Twoze and William Kloze – I hope I have spelt them correctly.  I didn’t pick them because the names rhyme; didn’t even notice until later.

Twoze painting of Jean Clark got second prize; the Kloze one, of his wife at home in Thailand, has that thing that Freud was so keen on – everything in picture is given equal attention (almost); the metal lamp, the copper-lit doorway; the rendition of the wife has something of Euan Uglow.

richard twose jean woods

 

Twoze

william klose

 

Klose

 

I am in Crete at the moment, but back next week.  Until then, old ones will have to suffice.

001

 

 

Blackpaint

18.09.14

 

 

Blackpaint 461- Pablo and Francis, Will and George and Gustav

September 7, 2014

Bacon and Picasso

It occurred to me while looking at Picasso in Tate Modern that the shapes of some of Bacon’s nudes are very much like those of Picasso – that is, you could paint out the flesh in the Bacons and substitute a matt cream, or light green or blue and you’d have a Picasso.. sort of…  Take a look below, to see what I mean:

bacon nude 1

picasso nude 1

 

bacon nude 3

 

 

0picasso nude 2

 

You could “Picasso” the Bacons and “Bacon” the Picassos, so to speak.  So what? you might ask – and you’d be right.  Incidentally, if you Google “Bacon Nudes”, the selection of pictures you get is much more varied and interesting than “Picasso Nudes”…

Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds (BBC4)

I watched the James Fox prog on Vienna last night (on Catch Up); he mentioned the high suicide rate amongst young Viennese intellectuals in the pre-WW1 years – the programme centred on the year 1908 – which reminded me of the recent RA exhibition “Making Faces”, on the same place and general period.  Neither the exhibition, as I recall it, nor Fox, offered any explanation of this phenomenon, however.

One picture that cropped up in the Fox programme was the stupendous Klimt below:

klimt 2

Portrait of Fritza Riedler, Gustav Klimt

Will Self on Orwell

I have to say I think Self is right about Orwell’s rules on good writing; they are ridiculously restrictive and would exclude Joyce, Woolf and DH Lawrence for a start.  Probably Self too, but I haven’t read anything of his, apart from a couple of articles in the Observer; I can’t be bothered to be looking up every tenth word.  Is Orwell’s writing “mediocre”?  Surely not; he’s always a positive pleasure to read (except for the Goldstein document in Nineteen Eighty-Four and a couple of other stretches of politics, in “Homage to Catalonia” for instance) and even where there are weaknesses, they don’t strike you while you are reading.  For my money, “Burmese Days” and “Coming up for Air” are excellent,”A Clergyman’s Daughter” and “Aspidistra” are at least very good, with brilliant bits (the hop picking in “Daughter”, for instance).  “Animal Farm” is just about perfect as allegory, notwithstanding TS Eliot’s remarks about the pigs; and “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is a tightly written, thrilling and absorbing novel, quite apart from its importance as a critique of totalitarianism.  I’ve read it three or four times, like all of Orwell’s published novels and essays, and still found it gripping.  I can’t say that for any other writers, except Joyce.

I referred to “Homage to Catalonia” – there’s a point in that book where Orwell says he’s about to launch into a chapter on the details of Spanish politics and tells the reader that he can skip to the next chapter if he wishes, without loss of continuity.  I realised with amusement that I read a similar directive years ago – in “The Ka of Gifford Hillary”, a supernatural thriller set in WW2, by Dennis Wheatley.  Wheatley does a 40 -or -so page  detour into the world of British Intelligence, telling the reader, like Orwell, to skip.  I think their politics differed more than slightly, however.

Far From the Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger, 1967)

I watched this again, over a couple of late nights, and I have to say, like Ken Russell’s “Women in Love”, it’s just about perfect; the cast (Stamp, Bates, Christie, Finch), location, adaptation, music, that staggering Dick Turpin performance in the circus ring…

 

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Derby Ram

Blackpaint,

7.09.14