Archive for March, 2015

Blackpaint 488 – Ingrid and Ingmar, Liz and Phil and Eleanor at the Tates

March 29, 2015

Marlene Dumas

OK, I know I’ve done this twice already, but I’ve got a member’s card for Tates Brit and Mod, so it feels like free when I go.  Anyway, two things – no, three – to say in addition to previous: first, the picture of the woman in tears, entitled “For Whom the Bell Tolls”; it’s not Dumas herself, as I’d thought, but Ingrid Bergman (of course, because she stars in the film, but it got past me); secondly, the paintings of her daughter Helene – the facial portrait titled “Helene’s Dream”, in which the lips, the nose and the closed eyes seem to be floating on a somehow convex surface of smooth coffee and the full-length picture of her wrapped in a bath towel, looking irritated (girl, not towel).

dumas helene's dream

dumas helene


I like the way she’s painted the hair in the top one; single, square-edged strokes of a drying brush.  And in the second one, it’s the knees – it looks rough at first, but it’s precise and subtle.  There’s a lot of “looks rough at first” in this exhibition, but it’s mostly (not always!) subtle underneath, so to speak.

And third thing is the little, quick, brush drawings; the one on the far left of that little group opposite the full-length prone body drawings – can’t find a picture of it, so go and look.

Sculpture Victorious, Tate Britain

This is interesting and funny, rather than jam-packed with great art.  The pieces on show suggested novelties turned out for Great Exhibitions, which they were in some cases.  There are miniature busts of the young queen, turned out by Chevenor’s Reducing Machine – you put a big one in and a sort of pantograph affair carves a perfect small version out of a soft -ish medium.  Ivory was good, unfortunately for “up to 6000 elephants a year”.

There’s a statue of some baron, Winchester possibly, who was at Runnymede for Magna Carta, which was coated with copper by an electro-plating process (the statue, not Magna Carta – or Runnymede); an Eleanor of Aquitaine, lying comfortably on her back, atop her tomb presumably, reading a prayer book or bible, as if she was reading “Gone Girl” on the beach; and there’s a life size piece of Elizabeth I playing naval chess – the pieces are galleons – with Philip II of Spain.

sculpture victorious


It looks like one of those clockwork – or maybe magic – pieces you get in a necromancer’s workshop in a Polish film, where the players “come to life” with a lot of clicking and whirring…  I’m thinking “Saragossa Manuscript” or maybe Bergman’s “Nicholas and Alexander”.

There are two slave women in chains; one white, one black.  The white woman, a captive of the Turks in the War of Greek Independence, is beautiful of course, with a very shapely bottom and downcast eyes and is completely naked.  The black woman, also beautiful, but with slightly odd features, the eyes I think, wears a sort of skirt.  I find this interesting, in that it is a reversal of the old National Geographic racialism; in the 1950s and before, magazines would show “native peoples”, male and female, naked, whereas white people had to be clothed, except in pornography, which was illegal anyway.  Maybe because the white slave resembles a classical Graeco-Roman statue in pose, Hiram Power thought he could get away with it.  The black woman, or American Slave, was done by John Bell in answer to Abolitionist demand; apparently, the white slave was interpreted as an attack on slavery too.  Surprising to me; it strikes me more as an opportunity for the sculptor to do a provocatively naked woman in a submissive pose and dress it up with a moral message – then, that could be said of a lot of sculpture, Victorian and earlier…

sculpture victorious white girl


White Slave

sculpture victorious black girl



Black (American) Slave

Some of the other sculpture on show – big muscles, heroic poses, firing arrows, struggling with snakes, gazing fiercely into distances – looked distinctly pre-Nazi to me; would have fitted in at Goering’s hunting lodge.

Worth a visit then, despite Richard Dorment’s blistering Telegraph review, which I recommend, online.  Dorment roundly berates the curators for lack of focus, stating the obvious and getting major things wrong; for instance, the reason why Alfred Gilbert  resigned from the Royal Academy.  He knows, because he’s written a book on Gilbert, and  catalogue notes for the RA.  it’s a pity Tate didn’t ask him to advise, before rashly going ahead with the show.  He does describe the black slave as a nude statue, however.

Other things new at the Tate, in the permanent galleries:  Phoebe Unwin, “Man with Heavy Legs” or something;  Vicken Parsons, tiny room paintings; a huge Rose Wylie pattern painting; and a new Kitaj, a man as a cat…

Next blog – two more Tate Britain shows, Salt and Silver and the Waplington/McQueen show.



Vanessa, standing and stooping





Blackpaint 487 – Diebens and Rubenkorn at the RA and Willem and Frank too

March 23, 2015

Richard Diebenkorn at the RA

Died and gone to heaven – well, very impressed anyway.  I think he’s my number 4, after Joan Mitchell, de Kooning and Peter Lanyon.  Some say he’s too easy; nice landscape-y images, pleasing, limpid palette… it’s a matter of taste, of course, but I went round and round, marvelling at one picture after another, and I’ll be going again, for sure.  Anyway, these are my highlights:

diebenkorn berkeley 57


The busiest canvas, I think; can’t stop turning to look at it wherever you are in the gallery.  It all works better than in the photo above – colours are much richer.


diebenkorn seated woman


Seated Woman (on board) 

There’s something delectable about his drawings and paintings of women – they are sometimes rough, pentimenti showing, with a sort of intentional “clumsiness” as Jane Livingstone suggests in her book.  he likes striped tops and skirts (and no clothes at all, too).

diebenkorn day at the race


A Day at the Race 

The split screen effect; you can see it too, in “Interior View of Buildings”, in which the strip of buildings itself acts as a sort of divider.  It’s the Urbana series in which he uses this effect, I believe.  Like window frames sometimes.

The Cigar Box Tops

Tiny, perfect versions of the huge ones.

Still lifes

I love the knife in a glass – that putty colour.  And the Ashtray and Doors; looks to me like he’s painted over an old canvas, or board – the striations.

The figures

I’ve talked about the women – drinking coffee, reading the newspaper – there are a few men around, including one little one (picture, that is) that looks like Picasso – him, not one of his paintings.  They remind me a lot of David Park, a Bay Area painter.

diebenkorn ocean park 79


Ocean Park #79 

The best, I think, of the Ocean Park series – like your in an ornate, slightly shabby indoor swimming pool, with the light pouring through a huge skylight.  Takes me back to Deep End again (the Skolimowski film with Jane Asher that I’ve been watching in 30 minute chunks, because the script and acting are so clunky).

If I could, I would put in every picture in this exhibition.

Rubens and his Legacy (RA)

This got a blistering review in the Guardian from Jonathan Jones. I think; not enough big paintings, he said; too many sketches, too much padding, loads of pictures by artists who aren’t Rubens, and in which the “legacy” is spurious.  There’s a lot in what he says, but it’s still a great exhibition, in the sense of containing loads of pictures that are fantastic to look at.


rubens lion hunt

 Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt

This is the poster boy of the exhibition and deservedly so – just look at it; it’s all happening, just as it would have happened in real life!  One bloke is forcing open a lion’s jaws with his hands, while a tiger’s getting stuck into green man’s shoulder; and the other tiger has cubs in her mouth…  Enough sarcasm, it’s a staggering composition and swirl of colours.  I saw it at the top of the escalator at Tooting Bec tube station (poster, not the original) when I didn’t have my glasses on, and it looks fantastic as an abstract.

There are several other lion hunts by other greats, notably Rembrandt and a great lion hunt sketch by Rubens himself – they couldn’t have known those lion hunt reliefs from Nineveh, was it, or Nimrud…

Other Rubens highlights are:

rubens charles 1 with guard


James I uniting England and Scotland 

This sketch, from Birmingham Art Gallery, I’ve included because of the guard’s incredibly muscular left leg, not really well reproduced here, but massively impressive in the flesh, so to speak… reminds me of the left leg of the grey horse in the previous picture.  I like the angle of view in these ceiling sketches.

The Abdication of Persephone

Luminous little painting, fabulous but couldn’t find a repro…

Among the other painters represented, it’s worth mentioning the Kokoschka cartoon, in which Queen Victoria sits astride a shark, feeding it seamen (I quote the caption on the wall).  Presumably its based on a Rubens painting.  There’s a great Bocklin, “Battle on the Bridge”, shades of those Degas boys riding bareback in that famous picture.  Also works by Picasso, Reynolds, Lawrence, Cezanne, Delacroix, Gericault – and in a related exhibition curated by Jenny Savile, three de Koonings, including a juicy one from 1977, in which the paint swipes are so thick that the paint has stretched and puckered into tiny holes as it dried.  There’s also one of those red/orange/pink panel size women from 1971, and a collage from earlier.  AND two colourful Auerbach portraits, brilliant obviously, and a fabulous Bacon nude, George Dyer, by the look of it.  Savile herself has a big monochrome painting,  a bit like a Kiefer, and Cicely Brown has a DK – ish picture that’s not up to her best.  I’d pay to go and see this sub-exhibition alone.

The Fall of the Obese

There is a whole room full of Falls and in Rubens’ case, the sinners going to damnation all seem to be overweight.  But then of course, so do most humans in Rubens’ works, particularly the women; I mention the wife of Captain Pugwash again, in this connection…

Anyway, too much to say for one blog, so continued next week, along with all three new exhibitions at Tate Britain.

These are the counter rhythms2

These are the Counter Rhythms (WIP)





Blackpaint 486 – What’s Left of Cork Street and Singer Sargent at the NPG

March 14, 2015

Cork Street Galleries

Arriving at the RA on Thursday for the Diebenkorn, I found that it didn’t start until the weekend, so went round the remaining Cork Street galleries to see what was to be seen:

Allen Jones 

At the Redfern Gallery, a beautiful sketch of a headless woman that sent me looking for more on the net – couldn’t find more drawings though, other than sketches of dress designs.  Also at the Redfern, some lovely Adrian Heaths, John Wells, Paul Feiler, Roger Hilton.

At Waddington’s,  great Milton Avery, Dubuffet – an enormous statue of one of his black and white men – a couple of big Rauschenbergs and a great little messy Tapies, a bit like a miniature of Gillian Ayres’ big breakfast in Tate Britain (it’s not called that, but if you see it, you’ll see what I mean).

Richard Long –  Spike Island 

At Alan Cristea, some great Longs, prints on paper with aluminium support; two red swirling lines, reminiscent a little of the Twomblys in Tate Mod, and a brown one with dirty protest overtones, as if Jasper Johns had been imprisoned in the H blocks (look it up, younger reader) and joined in.

richard long

Carole Hodgson

At Flowers, some beautiful drawings – or paintings – of hulking, indistinct human forms blending into dark backgrounds; rather like Piper’s Welsh rockscapes.  Small, interlocking sculptures and some bigger ones, rolls of some stiffened paper and sacking mixture,  in ginger and rust colours.

Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery

NOT full, as I had suspected, of loads of SS paintings normally on show in London; I only recognised Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth and the kids in the garden with the lanterns – all the rest were new to me and a good proportion were wonderful.  No-one can do white silks and satins like Sargent, with the exception of Millais maybe; Millais does a super realist rendition (see the Black Brunswicker below), Singer Sargent does a few strategic strokes.  His subjects often look as if they have turned towards a call and he has captured them with a snapshot; Madame Allouard – Jouan (below) is the best example.

sargent jouan

See also Madame Ramon Subercaseaux, turning to us from her seat at the piano, the black Franz Kline lines on her dress…

Madame Edouard Pailleron, the beautiful, but rather drained – looking redhead in the meadow (maybe its the outdoor location)…

Next to her, the staggering portrait of her children; the girl, about to step out of the canvas in her fancy white dress, the boy staring out with a strange intensity…

sargent children


The Rodin portrait – could be a Rembrandt…

sargent rodin

Vernon Lee; I know her from “the Virgin of the Seven Daggers” Corgi paperback from the early 60’s.  he did this in three hours according to the booklet…

sargent vernon lee


Robert Louis Stevenson and his Wife; Stevenson is walking out of the picture – Degas?  Sickert?

sargent stevenson


Self Portrait ; George V or maybe Tsar Nicholas II come to mind…

Edwin Booth; look at those hands! I’m always impressed by painters who give good hand.  For a laugh, I said to my partner he was John Wilkes Booth’s brother – wish I’d said it louder, it turns out he was...

sargent booth

Group with Parasols; composition like a Rubens sketch, colours totally different…

sargent parasols

And lots more – fabulous, beautiful exhibition; I’ll be going again.

This is the Millais I mentioned, by the way; check out that dress, as the young people say;

millais the black brunswicker


Deep End, Skolimowski

I know I’ve written about this before, but the swimming pool looks like something out of 1930s Yerevan (I imagine): all greens, blues and oranges that match Jane Asher’s hair…

deep end

And some life drawings to be going on with…




richard3 richard4 richard5 richard6




Blackpaint 485 – Question Time, Comedy in Auschwitz and Late de Kooning

March 8, 2015


fred and ginger swing time

Question Time (BBC1)

I try to avoid watching this as it makes me shout at the TV – Thursday night, through sheer idleness, I sat through it (couldn’t be bothered to pick up the remote) and, sure enough, was forced to comment, despite my fatigue.  It was from Glasgow and the audience was full of Scots Nats and Tories (?).  Taking their lead from the Scots Nat MSP on the panel, the questioners seemed angry, self -righteous and proudly possessed of a deep sense of grievance.  It was interesting to hear the Tory woman and Toby Young cheered loudly and the Labour woman jeered; strange, since the SNP and their followers claim to be far left of  Labour.

I was in favour of Scottish independence and probably closer to the SNP than Labour on most policies – but on last night’s showing, the SNP and their supporters are way to the left of British voters as a whole, and shaping up to dictate terms, in the event of Labour needing their support to form a government.  That could be a disaster for Labour and so I was all in favour of Ed Miliband declaring that, like the Tories, he would refuse to enter any form of pact or coalition with the SNP.  Then, Toby Young said that he should make such a declaration, and I changed my mind; Ed should avoid doing anything right-wing Tories like Young suggest.

Martin Amis, Zone of Interest

I was astounded by an article on Amis’ novel, which was about the fact that it’s going to be published in Germany – the paper said that the Germans had shied away from publishing a “comedy” set in an extermination camp.  Comedy?  In what sense?  Only in the sense of the Divine Comedy, maybe; it’s the Inferno.  I certainly don’t remember any laughs, or even wry smiles; only some unease at the process of using factual material like this to frame a plot.  I think Amis has done a good job on the whole though; wonder if he thinks of his work as a comedy…


Cross of Iron, Sam Peckinpah (1977)

Had to watch this again the other night; I love the stereotypes – tough and tender James Coburn as Steiner, correct, avuncular CO James Mason and especially chain-smoking, stooping, cynical, anti-Nazi scruff David Warner.  I love the balletic, slow motion skyward leaps of the soldiers blown up by artillery (cf. the Wild Bunch).  And Maximilian Schell as the cowardly Prussian officer who wants the cross so badly – watching him trying to be nonchalant in the dugout, as shells stalk nearer and nearer – suddenly, that fear-frozen smile brought back Peter Sellers as the mad Nazi in Doctor Strangelove…

cross of iron1



cross of iron2


De Kooning 

Reading Judith Zilczer’s book, I was surprised to find that DK’s famous “emptying out” of his paintings in the late 70s/ early 80s was partly because he was worried about the durability of his earlier work, as a result of his use of safflower oil and household emulsion mixes.  Some critic had predicted that they would degenerate, so he changed his materials and his style, which became more like his stuff from the early years, like “Pink Angels”.  Later. of course, they emptied out more….




Woman I, 1950-2




Pirate, 1981 

Still haven’t done any new paintings, so a few old ones to finish:

Blue Crouch


Blue Crouch

water engine 2a


Water Engine 2



White Line Fever 



Blackpaint 484 – Pablo, The Borderlands, and the Backs Again…

March 1, 2015

Picasso –  Love, Sex and Art, BBC4

Recounted in the usual breathless manner, a very cursory overview of PP’s serial womanising, the women (with the exception of Francoise Gilot) apparently prepared to put up with all sorts; two of them, Jacqueline Roque and Marie – Therese Walter, killing themselves after his death.  Tragic, and interesting, but as far as the painting goes, of marginal importance, I think.  Where the programme was good was the early years; they showed painting after painting that I assumed were by different artists – they were all Picasso.  Google Picasso’s early paintings and see what I mean – I’m not going to show any next to mine…  Oh all right, this is…

Picasso blue nude


“Blue Nude” (1902); another stupendous back to join Kitaj’s Smoking Woman and Ginger’s in Swingtime (see previous Blackpaints).

 The Suspended Step of the Stork, Angelopoulos, 1991

The last in my boxed set of Angelopoulos, this one also features Marcello Mastroianni, although he doesn’t get to make love to a woman one third his age, as he did in the Beekeeper – and as Picasso did, in the instance of Marie-Therese.  The story concerns a border town in Greece, populated by a shifting mix of multi-ethnic transients and refugees (Kurds, Albanians and Romanians are mentioned).  Mastroianni is a prominent Greek politician who has walked out of his life and gone AWOL for an unknown reason – he makes a living as a telephone engineer along the border, a lineman for the county.

It struck me that there are those who love or feel comfortable or stimulated in exactly those surroundings; shifting peoples, many languages, everyone on the move, passing through, accommodating to each other for the time being, bringing new things – and others who feel lost, or uncomfortable, or afraid even, in such a climate.  This film made this tangible to me, although it’s a pretty banal reflection, I suppose – never be afraid to be superficial.

There is a good example of the Angelopoulos “stop time” scene in this film; a man in a dance hall, a young woman, they catch each other’s eye and stare and stare, transfixed, while the music continues..  Where have I seen it before? Bela Tarr? No, it’s West Side Story of course, Tony and Maria at the dance…   And the end of the film, a line of telephone linemen at the top of their poles, stretching along the border/river into the distance.

Sprout Exhibition

Short blog today – and a day late – because I’ve spent most of last week in the gallery.  If you didn’t come, hard lines, it’s over now.  Below are the pictures I sold.

Here are the ones I sold



Model’s Back (obviously)



Rearview Mirror 

photo (55)


Water Engine 1




Back to normal next week.