Archive for April, 2015

Blackpaint 492 – The Three (or Four) D’s and Art House Sleaze

April 24, 2015

Sonia Delaunay, Tate Modern

delaunay black snake

A stunningly beautiful exhibition, cousin to the recent Matisse cut-outs and the Paul Klee show;  I was interested to see that the paintings got more vivid as she got older – in the earlier ones, the colours are more “muddied”, as can clearly be seen in the two examples below.  Another thing I liked was the rough edges, as if she’d cut out the shapes and stuck them on; gives the earlier works a pleasing wobbliness, somehow.  Like most – all? – artists, she has limits; there’s little texture or spontaneity and she recycles a number of devices: squares, triangles, circles, “S” shapes.  But then, that’s probably enough for one life-time, if you take the costume- and textile design, mosaic, tapestry and book/magazine covers into consideration…

Anyway, here are some things to look for:

  • Tchouiko (1907-8) – portrait; check out the droopy, Nosferatu fingers.
  • Binding of “der Sturm”, in the cabinet.
  • Young Finnish Girl – that blue (and red/pink).
  • Box (1913) – I’m sure that’s a painted button on the lid.
  • Bal Ballier, on mattress ticking – the women reminiscent of August Macke, I think.
  • The two on the end wall that are like knots, or skeins of coloured wiring.
  • The switch – or diversification – into fabric and costume design; hilarious film of lovely 20s and 30s models posturing and the huge, perpetually rolling fabric machine; dresses, ballet/theatre costume, fashion drawings and photos.
  • THEN – in the late 30s and 40s, back to painting.  I’m not sure if that corresponds with a real change, or if it’s just the effect of the way the exhibition is set out.  Vivid, sharper-edged paintings reminiscent of watch movements (see Rhythm Colour 1076, below)
  • The 1937 Paris exhibition room, with the huge, Gris-like murals of the propeller, the steam engine and the control panel.
  • “Coloured Rhythm 52” – my pick of the exhibition (can’t find a picture of it), along with “Black Snake”, just about the last painting in the show.

Great to see her separated out from Robert for once – as soon as I publish, I’m going to Google him to see if I can discern a clear difference between them; I seem to remember a shape or motif one used, but not the other.  Apart from Robert, the only other artists that popped into my mind going round this were El Lissitsky and Malevich – not that similar, but passing resemblances..

Delaunary 2

1914

 

delaunay 1

Rhythm Colour 1939

As my regular reader will know, I am a connoisseur and originator of Fortean-type theories – see, for example, Blackpaint 217, in which I prove that Shakespeare was a reincarnation of Michelangelo.  I cannot be alone in wondering about the cosmic significance of  three great “D”s in modern painting, all on exhibition in London at the same time – Diebenkorn (RA), Dumas and Delaunay (TM).  Actually, it’s four, if you count the De Koonings that are part of the Jenny Savile– selected group at the RA.

Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan (2006)

Following on from last week’s “flawed male characters” feature, Ceylan himself appears in this with his wife, playing the sleazest, most self-regarding male lead I can think of in modern cinema; he hangs around hidden in a doorway, waiting for a target woman to come home alone, then lets her spot him – and of course, she lets him in and ends up rolling about underneath him on the carpet as he pulls her clothes off and… cut away.

His wife, a TV producer, leaves him – actually, she sticks her hands over his eyes while riding pillion on his scooter, causing him to crash, so she must have been desperate.  He pursues her to a remote location in a permanent blizzard, waylays her in the company bus, tells her he’s changed – he’s ready to marry her and “give” her kids, so she should pack up her job and report to his hotel for sex forthwith… And, yes, she’s there waiting for him, on the bed (still dressed, but not for long).

I won’t spoil the surprise ending; presumably, Ceylan would argue that the film critiques the sexism of the sophisticated Turkish male – but the women are shown as vamps or victims.  Great cinematography and locations, of course.

 

Down Dog

 

Down Dog.  I think this is my best for ages.

Blackpaint

24.04.15

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Blackpaint 491- Witches, Flawed Males and Barry Island

April 20, 2015

History is Now , Hayward Gallery (cont.)

Went back for my second view – you get two visits for the price of one, because there are several films to watch, too long for one trip.  Great photos in the Hannah Starkey section, including the Hurn one below; look at the depth of field.  Also, the Penelope Slinger film on the back wall is worth a good look, if only to work out why it’s more than outdated but agreeable soft porn.

david hurn

David Hurn, Barry Island

Of the films playing on the TV sets, the most interesting was the selection of excerpts of Jeff Keens films.  The high speed succession of images, gone before you have a chance to register them, the roughly drawn surrounds, collaging, burning photos, wax figures that melt instantly, comics, adverts, newsreel(!) – all familiar techniques and almost quaint now.  Took me back to the Venice Biennale 2013, where there was a similar, but huge, film playing in one of the pavilions (see Blackpaint, October 2013).

There was also the Stephen Dwoskin film of Bill Brandt images: Francis Bacon on Hampstead Heath with the lamppost, the silhouette of the cow on the hillside over the valley, the urn on the balustrade… and another great back for my collection (see several previous Blackpaints).

 

bill brandt

 Bill Brandt

 

Goya drawings and etchings, Courtauld Gallery

There are a few etchings – the one below, “Ridiculous Folly”, is the best; many more done with brush and ink – “Mirth”, second below – and some lithographs.  They mostly consist of his witch drawings, although some concern madness. vanity and old age in particular.

There is no doubting the genius of these little pictures; they border on caricature, but you get the feeling that he hasn’t exaggerated features that much – just put the women in nightmares and “funny” situations.  And they are nearly all women; I can only think of one male character, in restraints,  representing Madness.

I found them brilliant, but cruel and often sneering – he was obviously not keen on old women.  Furthermore, I couldn’t see the point of them; they are described as his private works, done for his own purposes, not for publicatioon.  Most artists would stick to sketches to amuse themselves or practise technique.

 

goya1

 

goya mirth

One other character in the Goya drawings was Celestina, who was apparently a stock figure in Spanish literature, an old procuress; reminded me of the famous Blue Period Picasso, “Celestine”, and provides an excuse to reproduce it.

picasso la Celestine

 

Flawed Male Characters

As are all male characters, of course; but recent re-watching brought to mind the three below in particular:

The ratty, porn-watching, intellectually snobbish poseur Mahmut (Muzaffer Ozdemir) in Ceylan’s “Uzak”;

his country cousin, the inarticulate, unsophisticated, lumpish, lonely Yusuf (Mehmet Emin Toprak) in the same film; “Have a sailor’s cigarette…”

uzak1

uzak2

 

And in Michael Handke’s “Hidden”, Daniel Autueil’s TV interviewer who has committed a secret act of betrayal at the age of six and whose wife, Juliette Binoche, regards him with a blaze of righteous contempt and accusation throughout, whilst backing him up dutifully to the denouement.  Three great male cinema heroes for the current age…

Three lifies to finish, Vanessa on the Couch 1,2 and 3.

 

vanessa couch1

 

vanessa couch2

 

vanessa couch3

 

Blackpaint

20.04.15

Blackpaint 490 – Geometrics in Fulham, History at the Hayward, Missile on the Verandah

April 12, 2015

Remembering Poetry

I’ve been reading the Four Quartets for the first time (why did Eliot call them that?  They’re each in five parts.  Is it that there are four of them and they go together to make a whole?  But then they would be one quartet, surely…).

Anyway, after reading them through a couple of times with the assistance of the notes of Hermann Servotte and then reading them again right through, I set out to write down what I remembered.  It went something like this:

The briar and the rose….brown edges of swimming pool….wounded surgeon….ruined millionaire…..dove…..Pentecostal fire…….frost and fire……”Yet being someone Other”……..broken king…….”Zero summer”…..blah, blah, blah….brown baked face…..jaws of sea……tin leaves……winter lightning….. You get the point; what you remember in the first instance is concrete images, plus a few memorable phrases (which might stick, like “zero summer”, because you’ve no idea what they mean).

I should say I loved the poems and thoroughly recommend them – I’m sure this TS Eliot will go far.

“From Centre”; Loud and Western building, 65 Broughton Road, London SW6, until 26th April

A pop-up exhibition of clean-cut, texture-free geometric abstract painting and sculpture.  The great venue, an old works of some sort, being converted into flats, I should think; very white, wooden staircases, lovely balcony and some great abstracts.

 

from centre 1

No.317, Fold, 2012 – Rana Begum 

Paint on powder-coated mild steel.

 

from centre 2

 Polymorph, 2013 – Natalie Dower

For some reason, I thought these were young artists; then I checked the biogs.  Natalie Dower is 84; others include Tess Jaray (b.1937), Trevor Sutton (b.1948), Peter Lowe (b.1938)… Begum (b.1977) is a mere child.  Some fantastic work from major artists, and free.  We paid a voluntary fiver for the excellent booklet.

“History is Now: 7 Artists Take on Britain (Hayward Gallery)

Actually, six different takes, since the Wilson sisters go together.  It’s really more like journalism or history with a lot of art objects, than an art exhibition.  There’s a Bristol Bloodhound surface-to-air missile on the verandah, for instance; where would you see something like that in an art exhibition?  Well, there were Fiona Banner’s planes in the Tate a couple of years ago…

The artists are Simon Fujiwara – a group of objects of significance to the artist, including a huge slice of coal, Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher costume from a film, a Hockney Ipad enlargement;

The Wilsons – political conflicts, including Greenham Women, Northern Ireland, social and political movements – look out for Penelope Slinger’s surrealist feminist photos, Stuart Brisley’s cage of gloves (looks like it should be about Auschwitz – actually, each glove represents 66,000- odd unemployed) and the Pasmores;

stuart brisley

Stuart Brisley

Roger Hioorn – BSE/CJD and Scrapie; horrifying subject, mostly film and newspaper reports, with some rather tangential stuff, for example, a Lygia Clark sculpture that just happens to resemble a prion;

John Akomfrah – film, including Gilbert and George, Francis Bacon and Barbara Hepworth;

Hannah Starkey – photographs, notably Chris Killip, Bill Brandt, Martin Parr.

Richard Wentworth – great wartime, Festival of Britain, 50s and 60s stuff – Paul Nash, Paolozzi, Ben Nicholson, Tony Cragg, Eagle Annuals, early Penguins and Pelicans.

tony cragg

 Tony Cragg

Britain from the North

 

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)

OK, I understand she (Scarlett Johansson) is an alien lifeform, acquiring skins from unwary Scottish blokes; but who is the motorcyclist and how did the Tesco man escape, if only temporarily? and why did she have to kill the Czech man in the wetsuit?  Horrible attempted rape scene.

 

Painting

Getting nowhere except the Slough of Despond with my current effort – maybe I’ll chuck some bright paint on the canvas and ride my bike over it, and call it Aphrodite at the Waterhole…except Tony Hancock’s already used that (see “The Rebel” – essential viewing for artists).

work in prog 1

Work in progress???

Blackpaint

12.4.15

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 489 – Slagging Tate Britain, Rain in Hong Kong and Rioters on the Roof

April 4, 2015

Penelope Curtis Leaves Tate Britain

I’ve been rather taken aback at the vehemence with which the Guardian critics, Jones or Searle or both, have attacked the regime of this person at TB; you would think the place was devoid of visitors, who have taken their business elsewhere, alienated by a succession of misconceived, dull or just plain bad exhibitions.  In fact, it’s always busy, thronged with school parties, parents with buggies and kids called Oliver and Rosie, and old gits in jeans with white hair and day bags (like me). Like most visitors, no doubt, I’d never heard of Penelope Curtis – I love Tate Britain, however, and much prefer the light, white galleries to the stuffiness of the Royal Academy and the gloom of the V&A.  I sort of resent the slagging off that the critics feel entitled to dish out; I hope no-one takes any notice of it.

Recent good or great things at Tate Britain – Deller’s Folk Art; the Turner exhibition; the Paolozzi and Henderson stuff; the fabulous Auerbachs of the Freud bequest; the Phyllida Barlow thing in the main hall; the Frank Bowling pictures; the life drawings in the Archive Room; the permanent collection, of course.  I think the Sculpture Victorious exhibition is interesting and funny, although not necessarily stuffed with great art.  I suppose a punter is satisfied if there’s something good to look at – s/he is not always worried if the focus isn’t sharp enough, or it’s got too much or too little stuff in it, etc., etc….

auerbach

 

barlow2

Salt and Silver, Tate Britain

Early photos, on now.  In the architectural ones and some of the landscapes, a little figure present, presumably for scale or maybe it wasn’t a proper picture without a human presence.  By 1860s, that seemed to have changed.  I was surprised to see an Indian rowing team, apparently about to plunge  their oars simultaneously into the water; I thought you needed a long exposure.  Then it was pointed out to me that the surface of the water was unbroken – they must have been frozen in the pose.  Some treasures here – but rather a lot of buildings and ruins…

salt and silver

 

Nick Waplington and Alexander McQueen,  Working Process, Tate Britain

Third TB exhibition; the fashions are extreme and interesting – some of the dresses recall Dubuffet – but for me, the real interest lies in Waplington’s huge, sharply focused rubbish photographs (i.e. photos of rubbish).  From the distance of the next room, they look to me just like de Koonings;  go and see.

I’m in the Mood for Love, Wong Kar -wai

The real interest of this hypnotic film is threefold:  first, the seemingly endless series of high necked dresses Maggie Cheung wears – I think she only wears one twice; second, the torrential rain storms that beat down on the dark alleys; third, and most important, the haunting theme tune.

in the mood for love

Strangeways: Britain’s Toughest Prison Riot (BBC2)

There was some fascinating film here of the rioting prisoners on the smashed up roof, wearing balaclavas, captured prison officers’ caps and various pieces of fancy dress, dancing to a loudspeaker and waving wooden clubs at the helicopter buzzing them: the footage reminded me of film of the miners’ strike (no, I’m not equating the miners with the prisoners, neither with regard to the cause or the behaviour – just the carnival atmosphere and the defiance).  There were chilling accounts from one of the prisoners of assaults and near-murders of sex offenders, who were dragged from their cells and injuries inflicted on guards with scaffold poles and slates hurled from the roof.

It was instructive to hear from the reforming governor of the prison, Brendan O’Friel, who seemed an enlightened soul (he introduced women prison officers to the Strangeways, stopped the officers wearing racist golliwog badges and actually spoke to the prisoners informally on occasion).  He recognised the acute problem of overcrowding in the prison; yet when the riot broke out and the occupation of the prison by the rioters became prolonged – I think it lasted 25 days – he seemed to lose his liberal attitude; he described it as “pure evil”.  This sounds a bit extreme to me, in the era of Islamic State and al-Shabaab and Boko Haram…

John Renbourn

Hero 60s guitarist, up there with Davy and Bert and Roy Harper.  I have a tape somewhere of him backing Doris Henderson on TV, doing “the Leaves that are Green”  – trouble is, I haven’t got a tape recorder any more.  RIP.

Albert Irvin

One of the greatest, and an untimely death – he was only in his early 90s.

irvin empress

One of mine, to finish:

burnt norton

Burnt Norton

Blackpaint

4.04.15