Archive for January, 2015

Blackpaint 480 – Phallic Forests, Greek Mist and the old East End

January 29, 2015

Emily Carr, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Canadian North-West painter, died in 1945, did forests, abandoned Canadian tribal villages, totem poles, sea canoes…  She had several different styles – two  of these paintings could be Duncan Grant, a few others are close to Fauves, there’s a room of swirly treescapes that could be anthroposophical (except the colours were different), a few more that used the Van Gogh short line marks… Many of the paintings are oil on paper, which is not the best medium; they look somewhat brown and dowdy.  Canvases are better.  Oddly, she had connections with Mark Tobey, who I had always thought was a sort of abstract expressionist – his paintings are often in books on AbExes, anyway.  Turns out he was a “spiritual” painter (Baha’i faith) so they’re not really abex at all – more like visions of heaven or wherever.  The other painter mentioned in the exhibition blurb in connection with her  is the execrable Lawren Harris, member of the Seven, and painter of the white blancmange mountains (see previous Blackpaint).

Tree trunks and totem poles – bit phallic, really.  I could see her in therapy with Rebecca Front on “Psychobitches” (Sky Arts)…

emily carr1 emily carr2


London Countryway

For the last five years, a couple of friends and I have been walking in the countryside around Orpington in Kent (we only have one map) and following the various “Green” urban footpaths around London.  Judging by the following, Jonathan Meades had already done all our routes.  I came across this in his essay “Hamas and Kibbutz” – it’s pretty close to poetry:

…roads to nowhere whose gravel aggregate is that of ad hoc Second World War fighter runways, decrepit Victorian oriental pumping stations, rats, asbestos sheets piled up in what for obvious reasons  cannot be called pyres, supermarket trolleys in toxic canals, rotting foxes, used condoms,  pitta bread with green mould, ancient chevaux de frise, newish chevaux de frise, polythene bags caught on branches and billowing like windsocks, greasy carpet tiles, countless gauges of wire – sturdy strands it takes industrial kit to cut through, wire gates in metal frames, rolls of barbed wire like magnified hair curlers in an old time northern sitcom, chicken wire, rusting grids of reinforcing wire – flaking private/keep out signs that have been ignored since the day they were erected, goose grass, artificial hillocks of smelt, collapsing Nissen huts, huts full stop, shacks built out of doors and car panels, skeins of torn tights in milky puddles, metal stakes with pointed tops, burnt-out cars, burnt-out houses,  abandoned cars, abandoned chemical drums, abandoned cooking oil drums, abandoned washing machine drums, squashed feathers, tidal mud, an embanked former railway line, fences made of horizontal planks, fences made of vertical planks, a shoe, vestigial lanes lined with May bushes, a hawser, soggy burlap sacks, ground elder, a wheelless buggy, perished underlay, buddleia,  a pavement blocked by a container, cracked plastic pipes, a ceramic rheostat, a car battery warehouse constellated with CCTV cameras, a couple of scraggy horses on a patch of mud, the Germolene – pink premises of a salmon smoker, sluice gates, swarf Alps, a crumpled Portakabin, a concrete block the size of a van, bricked-up windows,  travellers’ caravans and washing lines, a ravine filled with worn car tyres, jackdaws, herons, jays, a petrol pump pitted and crisp as an overcooked biscuit, traffic cones, oxygen cylinders, a bridge made of railway sleepers across duckweed, an oasis of scrupulously tended allotments. (2008)

From “Museum Without Walls”, Jonathan Meades, Unbound pbk, £12.99

Voyage to Cythera, Theo Angelopoulos (1984)


Stern, tall, uncompromising old rebel, dancing in the mist at the top of a mountain, back home in Greece after 30 years’ exile in the Soviet Union.  Later, towed out by the police, alone on a floating platform, in sheeting rain, to international waters.  Finally, joined by his wife, having cut the rope, drifting off together into the mist.  Fantastic – and timely, with the Greek elections.  Go Tsipras! Re-negotiate those terms….  You have time, as there are another four Angelopoulos DVDs in my Xmas box set….


Nigel Henderson at Tate Britain

Free exhibition in the room to right at top of coloured stairs; it’s about the work of Paolozzi, the Smithsons, Henderson and two other photographers whose names escape me.  There’s a continually changing  triptych of slides projected on the wall,showing the very square Paolozzi – looks like a wrestler – seated amongst collections of Modernist art – think I saw an Adrian Heath – with Henderson’s fabulous photos of the old East End popping up right and left.  Old shops, markets, bombed-out waste land, coronation celebrations, cranes, under floor central heating… I’ll stop now, before this becomes another Meades – style list.




water engine 2a

Water Engine 2 






Blackpaint 479 – Birdman, Auerbach and Cat Strangling

January 24, 2015


I think this is the best American film I have seen for years. I was about to say because the others are all superhero crap – but then so is this, in a way;  not crap, but superhero.  Michael Keaton is an ageing ex-superhero, Birdman, who is directing and leading in a Broadway version of a Ray Carver story, “What we talk about when we talk about love”.  The preview stage has been reached and Keaton is struggling with self-doubt and contempt, an egomaniac co-star (Edward Norton, magnificent), a disaffected daughter recently in “rehab” (Emma Stone, also brilliant, below) …. and so on, can’t bother with all this exposition.

Anyway, the dialogue crackles, as does the jazz drum accompaniment, the story is absorbing and funny, sentimentality is kept in check (though not absent) and the acting is great, as are the long takes following the actors’ tracks backstage and out of the theatre in one memorable scene.

I can’t resist the urge to spot resemblances that has often (always?) been a feature of this blog;  I glimpsed Gene Hackman in Keaton, Helen Mirren in Naomi Watts, Matthew McConnaughey in Edward Norton, Richard Dreyfuss in Zach Galifianakis – and in the huge-eyed Emma Stone, Lucian Freud’s painting of Kitty Garman strangling the kitten, below.  Well, just the eyes really – and Kitty is just holding the kitty….


emma stone

Girl with a Kitten 1947 by Lucian Freud 1922-2011


London Art Fair, Islington Business Centre

Unfortunately, this is only on for another day, but I daresay that some of the paintings below will still be unsold, if you want to buy them (although the first four are not for sale, being part of the Chichester Pallant House Gallery’s exhibition-within-the exhibition, so to speak).


auerbach gerda boehm

 Frank Auerbach, Reclining Head of Gerda Boehm – the best painting in the building, a more intense blue than appears here


sickert jack ashore


Walter Sickert, Jack Ashore – you can see Jack in the background, but he’s not the main focus really – look at her left thigh; it’s made up entirely of loose dabs and strokes of white.  I’m not sure why this is good, but it is.

artfair lanyon

 Peter Lanyon – didn’t get the title;


artfair denny


Robyn Denny – again, no title, and I’m not sure that this is the right way up.  It’s great though, from when he was doing AbEx stuff before going geometric and minimal.

The following were from various galleries showing at the fair:


artfair vaughan2


 Keith Vaughan



artfair vaughan1

 Keith Vaughan again – Two Figures

artfair mellis

Margaret Mellis – love that red


artfair cadell



Cadell – Ben More and Mull

artfair fergusson


Fergusson – Still Life with Fruit – I love these Scottish Colourists; there’s also a Melville, the Glasgow Boy, in the same display.

artfair gear


William Gear – Two landscapes, 1947 and 1948 

artfair kinley


Peter Kinley, Figure on a Bed, 1975

…and, as usual, several great Roger Hiltons, Allan Daveys, Gaudier-Brjeska figure drawings, Prunella Clough, John Golding – great stuff.

Conflict Time Photography, Tate Modern

Revisited this (see previous blog) and found a couple of things I missed last time:

  • The collection of photos of Northern Ireland – irritatingly, these go up the wall too high to see them all properly (they are small), but there are some interesting ones low down – a couple of men or boys, tied up and covered with whitewash (?) wearing placards; one proclaims him to be a drug dealer to “underage children”).  Also, the huge photo of a riot which seems to involve throwing of milk cartons – what does the big red circle indicate?
  • The series of photographs of relics of Hiroshima.  The lunchbox of a schoolgirl, contents carbonised; no sign of the girl.  The uniform tunic, discovered in branches of a tree, of a schoolboy; no trace of boy.  Single lens of eyeglass of a housewife; piece of skull found some weeks later.
  • The odd, but fascinating jumble of photos and memorabilia contained in the little sub-exhibition of “the Archive of Modern Conflict”.


Still haven’t done any proper painting for a while, so some life drawings to fill the gap.

life drawing 1

life drawing 3

life drawing 4

life drawing 2

Life Drawings






Blackpaint 478 – Just a Quick One

January 15, 2015

Slate Projects; Demimonde at 17 Thurloe Place, opposite V&A

Great exhibition in a derelict house (once Margot Fonteyn’s); the paintings and sculptures hang and lurk amongst bare plaster and boards, baths, sinks and toilets, rickety staircases and holes in the walls.  There are abominable snowmen, lifesize figures in some lead- like material with heads encased in Monopoly boards and more conventional painting, examples below.  I like the big ones by James Collins and the slightly Chantal Joffe-ish one below (didn’t get the artist’s name).  It’s only on until the 18th January and it’s free, so must be seen.  The venue is unheated, so gloves and woolly hat required.

james collins

James Collins

slate unknown


Demimonde, ??? is this your picture??? 

Adventures of the Black Square, Whitechapel Gallery

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the private view for this survey of geometric abstraction 1915 – present and so was able to see the works in the context of their natural Fellini-esque audience.  Several retro figures who looked to have arrived from the set of la Dolce Vita, with accents to boot.  Favourites as follows:

Clay Ketter

The wall cracks are photographic, not actual.  Like the last standing wall of a demolished house, with the “ghosts ” of rooms, doors, joists left sketched on it.

Sophie Tauber-Arp

Love that blue – it’s a tapestry, by the way.

tauber arp

Ivan Kliun

Associate of Malevich, obviously.

Jenny Holzer

A touch of Oiticica (who is also here).


Liu Wei

Like a gigantic barcode, in red and turquoise.

Loads of delicious stuff, and assistants patrolling about wearing giant circular and triangular mirrors.  Famous names: Oroszco, Palermo, Alys, el Lissitsky,  Trockel, Pape, Clark, Moholy -Nagy, Malevich (of course) and plenty of others.  Now, what is needed is a parallel exhibition of expressionist abstraction.

The Poetry of John Cooper Clarke – Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt

It’s up there with Ginsburg, Auden and Plath.  Although Cooper Clarke lacks the unique perspective on nature of  Ted Hughes or the erudition (and casual anti-semitism) of Eliot, he has his own kingdom of the urban back-street:

The fucking pies are fucking old

the fucking chips are fucking cold

the fucking beer is fucking flat

the fucking flats have fucking rats

the fucking clocks are fucking wrong

the fucking days are fucking long

it fucking  gets you fucking down

evidently chicken town

With beautiful illustrations by Steve Maguire, Vintage pbk, £7.99.

Three liquitex on card life drawings to finish:








Blackpaint 477 – Stockings, Skeletons and Sharks

January 11, 2015

Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA

Another great little exhibition of young artists, only on until 25th January; only a quid to get in.  I liked Athena Papadopoulos (below), with a blue-based collage of stained, spotted and holed fabrics…

athena papadopoulos

Athena Papadopoulos

…and Yi Dai, with the three pieces below.  Those are stretched stockings around the edges and there are tiny hairs in the centre cracks.  Strangely repellent and yet somehow erotic…  perhaps I should get out more, as they say.

yi dai

Yi Dai

Additionally, there was a piece painted on thick cardboard that had to do with meat being minced and obesity(?) – but I’ve lost my notes and can’t remember the artist’s name.  I’ll drop in the ICA tomorrow and check.

There’s a roomful of  videos constantly playing upstairs, one of which appears to be a man in a covered market, straining pints of  thick yellow liquid through a hanging linen bag and then drinking it.  I thought it was paint until he started to drink; my partner thinks it was mango juice.  Not sure of the message – which is not a worry for me, as long as the images are arresting.

Conflict Time Photography, Tate Modern

This is on until March.  Photographs from various war zones, taken at the time of the conflict, then maybe ten years, thirty years, fifty years later.  A huge exhibition; lots of conflicts:

  • Iraq Desert Storm, 1991 – aerial colour shots of the desert, the blitzed convoy remains of the famous “turkey shoot”, dead tanks, a child’s shoes, half-buried in sand..
  • nuclear test site in Kazakhstan, towers like those you get in fire stations for the firefighters to practise on, stairs to nowhere – reminiscent of the Kiefer towers..
  • Hiroshima – distorted bottle, shadow of the ladder man, skullbone fused in helmet, billowing fire and smoke cloud, radiation scars..
  • McCullin’s Berlin photos – US soldiers, standing like saints or angels in the empty statue alcoves of a church..
  • uprooted WW11 bunkers on the French coast (the photos taken by the Wilsons for “Ruin Lust”)..
  • Spain – skeletons disinterred from the Civil War, one with hands crossed over ribs, resembling a mediaeval plague pit; for me, the most powerful visual in the exhibition..
  • Congo, Vietnam, Nicaragua..
  • Nazi party headquarters, Berlin bunkers and the Wolf’s Lair (Rastenburg)
  • strange photos of little wooden model houses, that turn out to be “torture houses” of the Communist regime in Latvia or Lithuania..


Nebraska, Alexander Payne (Dir)

My Christmas DVD, featuring the great Bruce Dern as an irascible old git convinced he has won millions in a lottery, who keeps setting out to travel to Nebraska from Montana to collect the prize.  The landscapes are bleak and beautiful; it looks a lot like the Last Picture Show.  It’s funny and not too sentimental and if there were still such a thing, it would make a great double bill with King of Marvin Gardens, in which Dern starred with Jack Nicholson back in the 70s; come to think of it, there are similarities between the young and the old Dern and the long-suffering, protective roles of Nicholson and Will Forte, respectively Dern’s brother in Marvin Gardens and son in Nebraska (if that all makes sense).

Shark, Will Self

Finished this and grew to love it by the end.  The last section, which is fragmented and seems to involve several different voices, smacks strongly of Ulysses – at first I thought of Molly’s bit, but that’s more coherent, so maybe the hospital sequence or the Ormond…  Anyway, got to read it again to try and sort it out…


 Phil Seated




Phil Again 



Sonia Seated 


Amanda’s Back



Je Suis Charlie