Archive for November, 2014

Blackpaint 470 – Wet Paint and Whales, Sex Dolls, the Blues and Killers

November 21, 2014

Beware Wet Paint at the ICA

Upstairs at the ICA, a small exhibition of (mostly) big paintings, the best by the following three:

Korakrit Arunanondchai  He painted two big pictures, set fire to them, photographed the burning canvases, blew up the photos and used them as an underlay to the holed and charred originals – shades of Metzger and Miro also exhibited a few burned “remnant” paintings – or at least, the Hayward did, Miro being dead at the time.

korakrit

 

Parker Ito,  who had a huge, Manga-style effort which was built around a cartoon girl eating ice cream;

 

Christopher Wool; big grey swipes and washes, black enamel paint Marden lines, from which, here and there, the central pigment had been wiped, leaving “ghost” lines – lovely painting, see below.

christopher wool

 

Leviathan, Zvyagintsev 

The director who did “the Return” 12 0r so years ago.  Town in northern Russia on the Barents Sea, rocks, cliffs, fiords, smashing waves, bleached whale skeleton.  Central character locked in legal battle with corrupt local mayor and officials, semi – gangsters; mayor wants to annex his house and land to demolish it and build on.  House-owner brings in his old army mate, who is a Moscow lawyer and comparatively honest…

More drinking even than the average Bela Tarr – although vodka rather than palinka – and/or smoking and scoffing pickled herring, sometimes all three simultaneously.  And target shooting with AK47 (I think).  The odd, oblique,  swipe at Putin, more direct fun-poking at previous leaders, both Communist and post – Soviet (but not Stalin).  A glimpse of Pussy Riot on TV; Orthodox Church shown as natural allies of the new state gangsterism.  Good, but heavy-handed with the symbolism; the bleached whale bones made a couple of predictable appearances.

Kettles Yard, Cambridge

Rather reminded me of visiting Charleston recently, although here they let you sit on the chairs in the house.  A brilliant collection of Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood – easy to mistake for early Ben, or I did anyway – David Jones, some very unusual drawings, nothing like his usual, busy, spidery style, and Gaudier-Brjeska, who has a whole storey to himself.  There’s the Ezra Pound below, the curved fish, the broad-shouldered man…  In addition, there is a great sketch of a nude woman by Brancusi over the piano and to the left, an unusual monochrome Roger Hilton.

 

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Silent Partners, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

This exhibition is about artists and their mannequins, used for artistic –  and other purposes in the case of Kokoschka and probably Bellmer – down through history.  Some highlights:

Janos Bortnyik, paintings of Adam and Eve, geometric buildings, natty man, pointy legs, tiny waist.

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Millais, the Black Brunswicker; look at that white satin dress – fantastic.  The one on the left is the Brunswicker.

millais the black brunswicker

 

Oscar Kokoschka, a selfie in garish tones with a painted life-size doll (not the Alma one).  Good likeness of Oscar, not flattering of either.  Also photos of him with the furry- legged Alma Mahler doll, and Bellmer’s sexy poupee dolls, legs splayed…

kokoschka silent partners

 

Also, a great Degas artist and mannequin, Burne-Jones Pygmalion and Galatea  – Galatea long body, bruised eyes, real Victorian beauty.

The permanent collection at the Fitzwilliam deserves some space so I’ll defer it to next blog.

The Blues and Killers

I imagine it’s a function of TV writers’and researchers’ record collections – blues and even folk music popping up all over.  In the first “Fall” series, the killer was listening to Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me” and others; the paedophile (or he’s shaping up to be) played by Ken Stott in “Missing” listens to Robert Johnson.  Johnson again, as well as the Copper Family and Karen Dalton, in “Down Terrace”, the brilliant, funny and horrifying gangster film by Ben Wheatley (although that was made in 2009).  I don’t buy it really –  can’t see blues fans as killers; anorak seekers after authenticity, more like.

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For Derrida, Blackpaint

21.11.14

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 469 – Portraits of Ladies, Lust, Murder and Mayhem by Land and Sea

November 14, 2014

de Kooning

I have finally got hold of the great Phaidon DK book, written by Judith Zilczer and with a number of paintings that didn’t find their way into John Elderfield’s Retrospective published by Thames and Hudson a couple of years ago.  The illustrations are really high quality too.  I find the sheer density of the marks, in paintings like these below, amazing when you consider how he uses so many colours, and yet manages to keep them vivid and fresh.  I love those run-downs in “Two Figures” – dense and dirty – yet bright and seething, in some way.  Anyway, no point in trying to describe them; have a look and see if you agree.

de kooning woman

de Kooning “Woman” – now, that’s what I call a portrait!

 

de kooning two figs in a landscape

DK, “Two Figures in a Landscape”

 

Queen Elizabeth 1 painting,Tate Britain

There’s a fantastic full-length portrait of Elizabeth now on display in the Tate, by Van Der Meulen.  By way of contrast to the DK above, here’s an alternative approach to the full length female portrait.  Actually, it’s much more impressive “in the flesh” so to speak; the face in the actual painting looks like a Holbein (to me, that is).

van der meulen

 

Scene from The Beggar’s Opera, Hogarth, Tate Britain

A Scene from 'The Beggar's Opera' VI 1731 by William Hogarth 1697-1764

 

Also at TB, a roomful of Hogarths, the most striking of which is above.  From John Gay’s play, two women beg two men for MacHeath’s life.  That’s him in the middle, with the manly stance; his legs are chained.  On the left, the gaoler’s daughter pleads with her father; on the right, Polly Peachum pleads with the judge.  I like that colour sequence of the dresses and the drapes – red, blue, red, white, black, red.  I’ve got to say the perspective looks a little odd to me; the gate and barred window on the right look like something out of “Doctor Caligari” and the oval window and gate in the rear wall don’t look “right” either.  Hogarth as a forerunner of the C20th German Expressionists?

The Cowards, Joseph Skvoresky

Finally got round to reading this; I’ve had it for about 30 years in Penguin Modern Classics, with a great Dix cover.  Set in a Czech country town in the closing days of WW2, it covers the retreat of the Germans, mostly SS, and the arrival of the Russians on their “liberation” drive towards Berlin.  For most of the book, the tone reminded me of “Catcher in the Rye”; the narrator, a young middle-class jazz fan and amateur musician, spends time fantasising, getting himself into and out of scrapes with the Germans and the self-appointed Czech militias seeking to fill the space between the departing invaders and the coming Soviet troops; some of these are close to being collaborators, but Smirecky, the hero is only really interested in showing off to, and lusting after, Irene, his hopeless love-object and a handful of other attractive women in the town.  Then, right at the end, it takes a very dark turn into ambush, torture, mutilation and executions – but Smirecky takes this pretty in his stride, and the tone remains, well, cheerful and optimistic….

Autumn of the Patriarch,Gabriel Garcia Marquez

And, after several months, finished this.  No paragraphs, a full stop maybe every ten pages or so, constant switching of viewpoint within the same phrase.  Will Self is like Hemingway by comparison.  It’s magic realism, with the cannibalism, mutilation, mass murder, casual rape, prostitution, disease, parrots, jungles, tropical seas that often figure in the genre.  At times, it felt like a 200 page Dylan Thomas poem with extreme violence and a reference to “general, sir…” every other line.  Thoroughly enjoyable, in tiny doses – say two pages at a time.

Leviathan, Dir. Verena Paravel, Lucien Castaing-Taylor

This is a staggering documentary, filmed aboard a fishing vessel out of Massachusetts, in the North Atlantic fisheries.  God knows how they got some of the sequences – they must have lowered cameras down with the nets, shot from the mast straight down, hung a camera low over the bow so that it took a sort of “selfie” of the ship, plunging below the water line with the rise and fall.  Gulls flying upside-down from below the sea surface (?), dozens of starfish whirling about in the discarded debris as it swirled overboard.  Most of it shot by night, blinding spotlights, livid greens, orange, blues, reds…  Fish heads sliding across the deck like jewelled gargoyles, a horrible but fascinating sequence where two fishermen chopped skate “wings” from the fishes’ bodies – one held the fish, the other whacked a hook in to steady it and hacked the wings off with a machete with two or three swipes.  It had the most uninspiring little blurb on the TV – “Experimental documentary… contains scenes of fish processing”.  Hooks, nets, knives, chains, hatches, slippery debris underfoot – many ways to have a grisly accident, even if the ship stays afloat.

leviathan

 

 

Recent Life-class effort

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Beware of too much white acrylic on backside.

 

 

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Redleg

Blackpaint

14.11.14

Blackpaint 468 – Widerberg’s Spacemen, Kirchner’s Women, Vampires and Incest

November 8, 2014

Frans Widerberg at Kings Place

Paintings that show elongated, naked humanoids with big feet, sometimes on horseback, in a circle holding hands, under the stars and heavenly lights; it’s a sort of world of aliens, faintly reminiscent of the Bowie spaceman in “the Man who Fell to Earth” (although I imagine Widerberg’s came first).  The palette is pretty much as shown below – primary, crude, a flat, poisonous yellow and violet blue the main colours.  The execution of the figures is also rough and intentionally (?) crude.

The blurb describes him as one of the most important Norwegian figurative painters since Munch – I can’t stand the colours and the spacemen, but then I hate Munch’s pictures too.  Maybe one or two might be OK, like a Kirkeby or Polke, as part of a bigger work, with a big dollop of irony (somehow, though, I don’t think Widerberg’s pictures have anything to do with irony); but dozens of them…

 

widerberg

Kirchner

I’ve said it before, but I think Kirchner’s long, elegant, insect-like women are beautiful.  I was reading the Hagens’ “What Great Paintings Say” (Taschen)  on Kirchner’s “Potsdamer Platz” and was intrigued to discover the reason for their sedate and dignified appearance: there was an ordinance in force in Berlin that prohibited prostitutes from displaying any untoward behaviour.  They could parade legally, provided they did it with decorum; presumably, the clients had to make the first move.

kirchner - berlin street scene

 

Ian McEwan – The Cement Garden and First Love, Last Rites 

Having read most of his recent books, I’ve got round to the earliest; a very different McEwan from the one who creates the middle-class professional characters of “Saturday” or “The Children Act”.  I was actually thinking  he might have trouble getting them published, if he were an unknown today.  Graphic – but not erotic –  scenes of incest and sexual abuse of a young girl by an older sibling in “Homegrown” (Last Rites)  might not make it into print, unless they were in a misery memoir.

Then I read about the attacks in the right-wing US media on Lena Dunham, for her description of examining her little sister’s vagina (as a child) and finding pebbles there.  It’s obviously supposed to be funny, but the critics call it sexual child abuse.  I wonder what they would make of McEwan’s early fiction.

Andrew Graham – Dixon’s The Art of Gothic, BBC4

AGD did Dracula this week; his thesis was that the vampire was a metaphor for burgeoning capitalism, sucking the blood of the workers of the world.  He quoted from Marx, describing capitalism in that way – but was unable to come up with a similar quotation from Bram Stoker, which might have helped his case.  He did link Stoker with the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, so Count Dracula in Transylvania, feeding parasitically on his peasant tenants, could be seen as kin to Anglo-Irish landlords – but I think this analysis is basically spurious.  AGD didn’t mention Dracula’s predilection for invading the bedrooms of young women and feasting on their blood – no, it’s not about sex, it’s about capitalism.  Not convinced.

Painting

Haven’t got a new painting to show, so a couple of life studies to go on with.

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 Sonia with a Big Ball 1 & 2

Blackpaint

8.11.14

Blackpaint 467 – Mr.Turner, Marxist Ballet and Richter’s Postcards

November 1, 2014

Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh

Timothy Spall is great, the film looks terrific – but it’s got the usual biopic problem in that it’s episodic.  The boxes are checked, I presume in correct date order – visits to Petworth, Margate, famous paintings – the slaves in the sea, Rain, Steam and Speed, the Fighting Temeraire, lashed to the mast in the storm, Norham Castle, the red blob turned into a buoy, Victoria repelled by Sea Monsters – they missed out Turner in a boat sketching the great fire at Westminster, probably too difficult to simulate convincingly; but there is no story arc; it bumps along from one scenario to the next.  And there’s the dialogue – too Dickensy for me, too many periodisms.  And there are those scenes – the Royal Academy Varnishing Days and the boat trip out to the Temeraire – where famous characters and events are identified by theatrical introductions or grand statements.

There is a great fiddler in one sequence, on a ferry boat; he is Dave Holland.  As far as I could see, he got no credit at the end.  Every bit as good as Swarbrick in “Madding Crowd”.

Turner Prize – Duncan Campbell

There are two Campbell films; the first is “Sigmar”, based on Polke works (?); points form lines and intersections, dots are joined up to a soundtrack of barked commands in funny German accents.  Brings to mind those Czech cartoons you used to get on TVin the 60’s when there was a break in schedules.

Second film starts with an academic treatment of the role of tribal art in Western culture, of the construct of “negritude”, and ponders how black people should view it and take it forward.  It shows a number of examples of mostly African art.  This is followed by a Michael Clark ballet (below) based on Marx’s equations in “Kapital”.  Then a set of scenes involving hands, table, cloth, cup, soup, pan, sugar, lighted cig, ashtray – and a commentary that sounds like a diary and notes on the development of a film about capitalism.  Then, hands shuffling photographs – station, bear, Parisian streets, a bizarre street accident, Eiffel tower struck by lightning – with a commentary of letters from Allen to Freda.  I guessed Ginsburg, but couldn’t find anything to back that up.  Then a section on the death of Joe McCann in 1970 in Northern Ireland, his funeral and his image in a poster, and how the meaning of an image changes over time…

OK, right at the end is an image that stayed with me; voice drones on about the economics of the art market and the camera pans down over the cracked, green leather spine of an old-fashioned book and it’s suddenly like woodland trees in a misty evening, like that Seurat in the Kenneth Clarke exhibition at Tate Britain.

 

duncan campbell

Beckmann – Kitaj – Chagall

Watching the  BBC1 programme “The Art the Hitler Hated” the other night, I was struck by the Beckmann painting that turned up in the Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt and how similar it is to one of Ron Kitaj’s styles (see Cecil Court; the Refugees, below).  Not an original observation; Andrew Graham – Dixon remarked that Kitaj had done a bit of “fake” Beckmann and a bit of “fake” Picasso – “but mostly just fake” – in a hostile review at the time of Kitaj’s retrospective in 1994.

Actually, while writing this, another comparison occurred to me; Chagall.  I think it’s the positioning of figures in Kitaj’s obscure narrative pictures – they lie horizontal, lean, sprawl, do odd things (although I don’t think any fly)…..

beckmann3

 

kitaj cecil

 

Gerhard Richter at Marian Goodman Gallery

Just visited this in Lower John Street, Soho.  Fabulous, huge white space.  There are several like the one below; done with lacquer, I think he places glass or perspex on top and shifts it to get the patterns – pretty much like  what Oscar Dominguez or Max Ernst – or both – called “Decalcomania”.  There are also huge linear pictures made with needle thin, dead straight, ink jet lines randomly selected by colour.  They’re novelties really; he’s playing about.  But then, a lot of art is famous artists playing about….  Best thing is a series of photos of landscapes altered by paint smudges and smears; a rockface nearly obscured and a farmer on a tractor stand out.

 

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Shark 

Why does Will Self keep italicising phrases in the text?  It reminds me of Krasnahorkai’s habit of randomly putting phrases in speech marks.

 

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DK Back

Blackpaint

01.11.14