Archive for October, 2014

Blackpaint 466 – Sigmar’s Laundry, Egon’s frogs, Will’s Erection

October 26, 2014

Sigmar Polke at Tate Modern;

Some small paintings and collages, but a lot of huge ones.  Generally, dull but intense colours; sounds like a contradiction, but what I mean is that the colours are deep but they don’t glow – they’re deadened, somehow and many are on browning paper or newsprint.  Deep blues, reds and greens, several deep dark violet/indigo paintings that change as you move in relation to them (Chris Ofili maybe saw them).  The dots are there, as you can see below, often splotchy and uneven, intentionally so, of course.

sigmar polke 1

Several of the collages are composed of pretty tame cut-outs from old soft porn magazines and there are a couple of big “sex” paintings – two women wringing out a huge, towel – like, limp penis and another of a man giving rear action to a face- down woman in a laundry room.

There is  a room of Auschwitz/Berlin Wall watchtowers against banal, wallpaper backgrounds; this one against a flock of geese.

 

sigmar polke 2

There is a big print-like painting with a horned devil, amongst many other things; and some Richter-y  “Nazi family” type photoprints with the dots – and the old resin covered pictures… and much more.  Somehow, not as playful as previous Polke shows I remember…

Schiele at the Courtauld

William Boyd was right about the quality of these drawings and paintings.  They are all pretty small, mostly A2 or less, I think.   However, they are staggeringly assured, varied in execution and full of little presentational devices like the white border around the picture below and the strange positions of the figures on the page.  Some of them lie forming an inner frame to the picture, or are tucked in a corner, or have feet or head cut off by the edge of the page.  You get the impression that he drew fast and aggressively, making no errors (bet that’s wrong).  The first couple, of a young girl and a small child look like Marlene Dumas without the blurring.  The child is podgy – but there’s not much podge around in the rest of the exhibition.  The males, particularly, are stick-thin and flayed, with thick bristles on their legs and around their penises – they brought to my mind frogs, pinned out on a dissection table.  the legs look sort of crunchy…

Euan Uglow and maybe Jenny Savile were the other artists that occurred to me, from the purple, brown and green colours used on the torsos and limbs; like maps, sometimes.  Fabulous, strange, explicit drawings – I wonder what he would have gone on to do if he hadn’t been killed by the flu epidemic.

schiele2.

Also at the Courtauld – 

In the Medieval Room, a predella by Borghese di Piero, one of which see below; glowing reds, orange and carmine maybe – I’m hopeless on colours – used in a strange representation of the trial of Sts. Julitta and Quiricus.  Up there with Duccio, we think.

 

borghese

 

Shark, Will Self 

I’m starting to like the challenge; Self has just brought Ulysses in, in the form of an erection he characterises as stately, plump Buck Mulligan (not his own erection, by the way, but one of his character’s).  You don’t get that in Proust – or not so far (10% now).

 

 

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Target for Tonight

Blackpaint

26.10.14

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Blackpaint 465 – Boyd’s Law, Nazis, Eyeballs and Ticky Tacky

October 17, 2014

William Boyd on Schiele

Boyd, writing in  last Saturday’s Guardian Review, praises  Egon Schiele (Courtauld Gallery exhibition opening on 23rd October) as a “phenomenal draughtsman”; fair enough, but he then goes on to revisit his argument that only great draughtsmen – there are only men in his list – can be “truly great”  painters:  “I believe that you can’t be a truly great painter if you’re not an excellent draughtsman.”  He cites Robert Hughes in support of this proposition: “..the naked figure, male and female (is) the ultimate test and validation, so the critic Robert Hughes has stated, of any artist.s merit and painterly ability.”   He (Boyd) goes on to single out Pollock: “Jackson Pollock, to name but one giant of modernism, is a pre-eminent example – he was a shockingly inept draughtsman – but there are dozens of others.” From the work of Pollock and these others, Boyd can tell – and so can we, he says –  that there is something “fundamentally lacking”.

Surely, this is nonsense.  How can you tell from Pollock’s “Lavender Mist” that he was a bad draughtsman?  Bridget Riley?  John Hoyland?  Joan Mitchell?  Gillian Ayres?  Rothko? All great painters, I would argue – but I’ve no idea if they could do a good figure drawing (apart from Rothko, who was no great shakes, I know).

To drag in Hughes is misleading, too, if you are going to have a go at Jackson – Hughes leaves little doubt in his essay on Pollock in “Nothing if not Critical”, that he regarded him as a true great, in spite of his limitations as a “draftsman”: “When he set up a repeated frieze of drawn motifs, as he did for Peggy Guggenheim in 1943, the result – as drawing – was rather monotonous.  But when he found he could throw lines of paint in the air, the laws of energy and fluid motion made up for the awkwardness of his fist, and from then on, there was no grace that he could not claim.  Compared with his paintings, the myth of Pollock hardly matters”.

The Schiele looks good, though; but a bit freaky, as if made for repro as posters for student bedrooms.  I think you’d soon get sick of them, despite the “phenomenal” skill involved.

schiele

 

 

Richard Tuttle at the Whitechapel Gallery

I went to the private view, sunk the regulation three glasses of fizzy wine, and now I’m going to be ungrateful;  I found this exhibition of the US minimalist to be very disappointing.  There are some beautiful prints, lithographs, or maybe monoprints, reproduced below; didn’t like the rest.  Tiny wall plaques with ticky-tacky little constructions stuck to them – one looked like a bed of cress; a sort of Schwitters construction like a giant mousetrap; bits of string in shapes on the floor; a few paintings combining blue and red marks on a white background with a lower section in black, oil stick maybe; sagging lumps of fabric, cut into odd shapes; some pieces that looked broken or collapsing on themselves (someone did similar stuff in a Turner Prize exhibition some years ago-can’t remember the name).  And poems, I think, on the walls, to go with the exhibits.  Didn’t read them.

richard tuttle

Sculpture at the Whitechapel

Don’t miss this.  There’s a de Kooning mud figure, a Schutte head on a tripod, some flayed figures by the Polish guy who was at the Biennale last year, a Louise Bourgeois that looks like a sawfish blade, a Henry Moore reclining figure…

Downfall

Had to watch it when it was on last week; third time, I think.  Goebbels and Magda are terrifying, Mohnke is great (the actor, not the real man; implicated in murder of British POWs at Wormhoudt) – and Traudl looks lovely in the German helmet…

downfall

Julia’s Eyes

Del Toro film, with some ludicrous bits, strongly relying on three “horrific” scenes: a knife through the mouth, a needle through the eye and a throat- cutting suicide (not as shocking as the one in “Hidden”).  Below, for your pleasure, I reproduce the needle moment and the eyeball cutting from Un Chien Andalou, by way of comparison.

julias eyes

un chien andalou

I think Chien still has the edge (pardon the pun).

Shark, Will Self

So, you’re reading away, inside someone’s head, hanging on and understanding maybe 70% – then, it all goes pear-shaped.  You’ve gone into someone else’s head without a signal and you might go a page or two without realising.  Then, you go back to look for the bit where it changed…  most annoying, but that’s experimental writing for you.

 

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Samonas

Blackpaint

11.10.14

 

 

Blackpaint 464 – Ponds and White Beards, Ennui, Clowns and World War I

October 10, 2014

Turner Prize

I’ve only really seen the first two candidates, James Richards and Tris Vonna – Marshall, properly; need to go back for Ciara Phillips and Duncan Campbell.  However, I was surprised that Laura Cummings panned the first two in the Observer on Sunday – I thought they were both great.  Both were video- based.

First, James Richards.  He has a series of developing images – insects on and just below the surface of a pond, a budgerigar, heavily censored “explicit” photographs by Man Ray and Mapplethorpe from Japanese library books.  The latter are censored by scribbles from a white pencil so that in one, a man on top of another appears to have an untidy white beard hanging down over the belly of the man beneath, as he stoops towards it ( no prizes).  All these various images are accompanied by a variety of soundtracks that have nothing to do with the images, so its about the subversion of understanding by incongruity.  It took me about half a minute, for example, to make sense of the budgie, even though it was quite clear.  The pond images are stunning and I found the censorship scratches aesthetically pleasing too – bit like white paint swatches on a Rauschenberg.

Tris Vonna-Marshall kicks off with a panning landscape shot of the Essex marshes apparently; curlews on the soundtrack, a fat brown chain in a sump, the links looking just like bulbous, slimy sausage, washed green, drained red buildings, a Turner/Britten feel to it – Cummings describes it as “rigidly indifferent….. could have been filmed by a robot”.  He then changes to black and white interiors and a bunch of disparate objects like boxes, photos and accompanies it with a frantic, stream -of -consciousness soundtrack in which he seems to be presenting a sort of bi-polar, wired inventory of things and actions, as if trying desperately to fix them in his mind.  Sounds terrible; I liked it.  His next video, with a soundtrack in which he is pursuing several rather obscure anecdotes with family members, contains a series of images which reminded me of Prunella Clough; for example,  a grass -covered manhole cover, slightly opened.  Don’t know what it all means; liked it all the same.

A common factor shared by Richards and Vonna-Marshall is Germany; Richards is based in Berlin, Vonna-Marshall has German parentage.  Phillips and Campbell in next blog.

Hopper and Sickert

There was a programme on Edward Hopper on Sky Arts during which I was struck by the similarity of two of his themes with those of Walter Sickert; alienation between partners and theatres.  Below are two examples: the styles are very different, of course, but the themes are the same.

 

hopper - couple

Edward Hopper – Room in New York

 

 

sickert ennui

Walter Sickert – Ennui

 

hopper clowns

Edward Hopper – Two Comedians 

 

sickert brighton pierrots

Walter Sickert – Brighton Pierrots

I’ve no idea if Hopper knew Sickert’s work , or vice versa; the only artist that Robert Hughes mentions in his essay on Hopper is de Chirico; Hughes detects an echo of him in Hopper’s scenarios.  I thought maybe a touch of Diebenkorn in his bathing- suited women…

Imperial War Museum

Now re-opened, the exhibits much thinned down and put into context with AV presentations.  All is explained; great bottlenecks of greyhairs and tourists reading and watching, like those punters with walkie talkies who stand in front of paintings for ten minutes, until the WT tells them to move on – and kids (at whom all this is presumably aimed) charging about, looking at not much.  I prefer to read about it at home and look at objects (trench clubs, McCudden’s smashed windscreen) with little labels in the museum.  Only managed WWI this time.

A new (or newly exhibited) painting below, by the Scottish Colourist Fergusson;

fergusson -dockyard portsmouth

JD Fergusson – Portsmouth Harbour

 

kennington - the Kensingtons at

Eric Kennington – The Kensingtons at Laventie

This was on display prior to the closure of the museum, and is still on show. Although Kennington did it from life apparently, I was struck by the Renaissance “feel” of it.  the soldiers look like figures at the base of the Cross, maybe – or a Della Francesca (none of them are connecting with each other, all in their private worlds).

All the President’s Men

Best film I saw last week (Clooney’s “The Descendants” a disappointment); there were some brilliant aerial shots of cars entering and leaving car parks (no, really) – all those different styles and colours!  Very tense, Hoffman, Redford and Robards all brilliant.  it was just a pity that it all got telescoped at the end, with the arrests and prosecutions and impeachment and resignation of Nixon just listed.  Still, it would have been about five hours long…

 

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Scraping the Surface 1 and 2

Blackpaint

10.10.14