Archive for June, 2015

Blackpaint 501- Dress Like Hepworth, Swear like Swearengen

June 28, 2015

Barbara Hepworth; Sculpture for a Modern World. Tate Britain 

The first thing to say about this is how small it feels.  There are seven areas shown in the map of the exhibition, but it actually feels like about four rooms.  In the first, there are a number of small works by her contemporaries as well as Hepworth ; John Skeaping, Epstein, Gaudier – Brzeska, Eric Gill, some of which are as good or better than hers.  I love the larger pair of doves by Epstein, with their deadpan expressions and pointed bills; then there’s the yellow cats, Skeaping I think, and Gill’s “Eve”.  There are also a number of beautifully smooth eggs and cylinders, assemblages of spheres and cuboids that cry out to be felt – which is, no doubt, why they are under glass.

 

Doves 1914-15 Sir Jacob Epstein 1880-1959 Purchased 1973 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01820

Epstein’s Doves

There is a room which is dominated by the paintings of Ben Nicholson, a succession of dreary Picasso-like black heads – maybe I’ve seen too much Nicholson of late – and those works of Hepworth’s that are strung with wires, like the ones by Naum Gabo (and I think Henry Moore did some too – did they all have the same idea at the same time?).

Then, there are the interlocking segments of burnished wood, like so many pieces of classy furniture from the 50s; you wouldn’t be surprised to find the nutty wood cocooning a radio or radiogram.  A couple of breeze block walls  with greening metal pieces hidden round corners, as if reproducing the effect of the pieces in her garden at St Ives.

The exhibition ends rather suddenly – it took us about 40 minutes to go round the lot.

Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) 1940 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03133

Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) Hepworth

There are a number of purchasing opportunities, prints, scarves, pottery and a range of Hepworth-inspired clothing: a duffle jacket and a sort of canvas/linen shirt for sculpting in, so you can dress like her as you hack at the marble in your back garden, cigarette in mouth, drink on the table.

RA Summer Show (again)

A few more names and works to look out for:

Phyllida Barlow – a sculpture actually made of wood, that looks like rough old square-cut concrete conduit chunks stuck together; looks great in the context of more refined pieces, shying away from it in horror.

John Carter – brightly coloured plaques with small window-like notches cut into them; like walls of some North African fortress.

Phillip King – two small, colourful abstract drawings, in the corner next to his sculptural assemblage (I think the lop-sided window shape with the neon would make a good piece on its own, separated from the rest of the dreck he has attached it to; it would be like an early Martial Raysse).

 

Guston at Timothy Taylor Gallery

guston tt

Near the taxi-polluted Berkeley Square (the nightingale would have died choking), a prime collection of Gustons, ranging from unfamiliar free line drawings, through the big pink, red, green black and grey abstracts – only one, I think – to the cartoons.  Yes, I know they are more profound and painterly, not really cartoons but ironic appropriations of the form, look at the way he uses paint, and so on… but they still look like cartoons to me and he was a big fan (obviously) of the stupendous Robert Crumb.

There is a Nixon Phlebitis and a picture in which he lays out his motifs – bloodshot eyeballs, lit fags, various detritus – as if preparing to stick them into a picture.

The paint actually is worth a mention; it’s oily and thick and greasy in places, looking still wet and viscous – and dirty.  Lovely.

Deadwood, the box set

Saving the last episode for tomorrow night.  They could never make this series now, could they?  I think it was made 2005 – 6.  Non-stop obscene language, constant racial epithets – there’s a character called the Nigger General –  casual sex and sexual violence, heroic drinking, drug use, throat cutting, eye gouging…  I’ve enjoyed every episode immensely and the music over the end credits is stunning – Bukka White, Memphis Slim,  Keb Mo’.  Ian McShane as Al Swearengen certainly laid Lovejoy to rest.

Three of mine to finish-

 

amanda in red and black

Amanda in Black and Red

sonia blurred

Sonia, Blurred (the model was pissed when I did this one)

red and blue canals1

Seagulls over Sorrento

Blackpaint

28.06.15

 

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Blackpaint 500 – Sinful Sculptor, False Memories, Orgreave and the Flood

June 21, 2015

How to be Bohemian with Victoria Coren Mitchell, BBC4

After my partner’s RA picture got a split second exposure on TV last week, it was my turn; a glimpse of my grizzled head, appearing like a growth on another artist’s shoulder for a whole second, left of screen.  BUT – later in the programme, my hands drawing in close-up for about five whole seconds.  Fortunately, they didn’t show the drawing.

As to the programme’s content, Eric Gill was the most interesting topic; as well as being a stunning artist and craftsman, he had sexual intercourse with two daughters, his sisters – and his dog.  He recorded, or alluded to, all these exploits in his diaries.  The obvious question is: does the awareness of this depravity undermine the art?  VCM said it did for her – but she may have been playing angel’s advocate.  Fiona MacCarthy said, what about Wagner?  Well known anti-semitic views – do you listen to the music or turn it off?  VCM went for the latter.

No-one mentioned timing in this;  Gill’s criminal habits weren’t known when he was alive and producing fantastic work, such as Prospero and Ariel; his biographer, MacCarthy, revealed them in 1989, a previous biographer having omitted any reference.

Gill1

 

Prospero and Ariel, Eric Gill

 

False Memory Syndrome

Last week, I walked half the Ridgeway long-distance path, from Avebury in Wiltshire to Goring on Thames in Berkshire – around 40 miles.  I first did it 30 or so years ago, with a tent, and camped beside the path – this time, we got B and B.

I had vivid “memories” of being under the stars next to the path, by my tent, opposite the 3000 year old White Horse at Uffington, fully visible across the way on the flank of the down.  When we arrived at the horse this time, I was astonished to find that you can’t see it from the path – you have to go a hundred yards or so, maybe more, across a stretch of lush grass and psychedelic buttercups.  Then, you are just above the head and can see just a few dazzling white lines in the downside (it was made by being dug out and filled with chalk).  You can’t see it properly from below either – apparently, the only good view is from a car on the B4507. And yet, I could have sworn that I’d looked at it by starlight all those years ago.

uffington

Uffington White Horse

So what’s the significance of all this?  Last week, I wrote about a “circular” joke in the Polish film, “The Saragossa Manuscript”, in which someone inexplicably falls from height into a laundry basket, an incident which is explained later in the film.  But I was only halfway through the DVD – it’s 180 mins long.  It transpires there are no laundry baskets; the circular joke involves a voice, supposedly from Purgatory and a fall into a barrel.  It’s far too complex to explain in detail.  And yet, I could have sworn…  Maybe the laundry basket thing is some corruption of the Merry Wives of Windsor, where Falstaff hides in the dirty laundry and gets chucked into the ditch (reference to same in “Breaking Bad” – I think – can’t be sure of anything any more).

Fighting History at Tate Britain

A review, or random selection of “history” works old and new. panned as “moronic” and overly left-wing by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian.  I suppose the inclusion of memorabilia and filmed reminiscence of Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave reconstruction is a bit lefty – here are some of the other works:

  • “The Battle of Hastings” by Allen Jones – nice painting, Pop Art style, impenetrable.

The Battle of Hastings 1961-2 Allen Jones born 1937 Presented by E.J. Power through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03090

  • “A Visit to Aesculapius” by Poynter – group of beautiful women, no pubic hair, was “the chief centre of attention” at the RA in 1880.

A Visit to Aesculapius 1880 Sir Edward Poynter 1836-1919 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1880 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01586

  • A Flood by Dexter Dalwood, containing a quotation from a nearby (awful) Turner Flood, a Guston head, a Lichtenstein wave and a pile of swiss rolls.
  • Another Flood, by Danby; I like the terrified lion, clinging to the tree.
  • A huge King Lear, Fuseli eyes and a fleshy dead Cordelia, by James Barry.
  • The battle at Jersey, by Copley, the one with the dead officer and the black servant firing at the French; there are some Rubens/Pugwash women fleeing on the right.
  • Zoffany’s “Death of Captain Cook” – a very brown painting, compared with his famous one of the Indian Governor and the Cockfight.  Jones likes this one because the feather headdresses have been accurately rendered.

Go and see it; it’s not that bad and the Deller stuff won’t turn you left-wing if you’re not that way already.

A life drawing and a work in ?Progress? to finish with:

amanda face down2

Amanda on her Front

geometry4

Work in Progress

Blackpaint

21.06.15

Blackpaint 499 – The RA, the Internationale, Milk Cartons and Laundry Baskets

June 14, 2015

The Royal Academy Summer Show

Last blog, I identified the best picture in the show, which happened to be that of my partner, Marion Jones (Bars and Triangles, sold already).  It had a fleeting appearance on the Kirsty Wark BBC programme about the exhibition last night; about half a second, I think, so here’s another chance to see it:

marion RA

However, I feel I should I should mention some other pictures on display, so here goes:

Rose Hilton – Red Studio

rose

 

Hughie O’ Donoghue – Animal Farm

hughie

 

Frank Bowling – Pickerslift

frank

(It’s much bigger than this)

Christopher le Brun – Can’t or Won’t?

chris

(and so is this)

These are all big nobs; of the non – RAs and unknowns (to me, anyway) these two are the ones I liked best:

Arthur Neal – Studio and Garden

arthur

 

John O’Donnell – Winter

john

 

The BBC at War, BBC1

Just watched the first episode of this; interesting that William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) had a British audience estimated at six million for his propaganda broadcasts from Germany; the JB Priestley broadcasts were set up by the BBC in competition.  Also, When the Germans invaded Russia, Churchill forbade, for a time, the playing of the Internationale as one of the anthems of the Allied nations; the music played on the programme to illustrate the eventual rescinding of the ban was NOT the Internationale, however, but the Soviet National Anthem.  Maybe the BBC doesn’t know the difference.

The Saragossa Manuscript, Wojciech Has (1965)

This Polish film is pure Bunuel, which perhaps explains Bunuel’s approving comment on the DVD box.  I think it contains the original delayed -action joke, where something happens mysteriously in one scene – and then is explained much later.  Guy Ritchie did it in “Snatch”, when a milk carton inexplicably explodes on a car windscreen and gets then chucked at the car later in the film.  In “Manuscript”, it involves a laundry basket.

Jonathan Jones

Another VERY definitive position adopted by Jones, this time regarding Bridget Riley.  Apparently, she’s more important than the figurative masters Bacon, Freud and Hockney because she provided the public with a new reality, based on a “scientific” approach to optical effect.  Only Howard Hodgkin is as important – his approach is poetic, though, whereas hers is (sort of) scientific.  The approach is quite reminiscent of Brian Sewell; black and white.  Anything reviewed is either brilliant and exposes the shoddiness and the bogus nature of some other artists – or it’s bogus and “silly” like Bacon at the Sainsbury Centre and is exposed as such by the brilliance of some other artists.

I’ve just seen “Fighting History” at Tate Britain, a show panned by Jonathan Jones as “moronic” in the Guardian the other day.  He’s right that it’s not great, but it’s nowhere near as bad as he says; my take on it next week.

 

geometry1

Geometry 2

Blackpaint

14.06.15

Blackpaint 498 – Ice Cream at Tate Modern, Breasts at the RA

June 7, 2015

Agnes Martin (Tate Modern)

Happy Holiday 1999 Agnes Martin 1912-2004 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00179

Happy Holiday

This is the new exhibition at Tate Modern – those familiar with Martin’s work will know what to expect: the palest “ice cream” pastels (Neapolitan) , vanishing into near invisibility, stripes, huge grids done in faint graphite with tiny squares, a roomful of a dozen white canvases, occasionally, background fields varied by tiny, pale, differently coloured blobs…  Her early work, influenced to a degree by other abstractionists, resembles Pasmore somewhat.  Strangely, her later work appears, to a dissenter like me, to have more going on – a coloured stripe through the centre, a blue square, two black triangles with the tops snipped off.  This seems the “wrong” way round, somehow.  Still, if you emptied out your pictures early on, I suppose you start putting things in again, if you live long enough.

Like Rothko’s Seagram pictures, this is art that I think requires a contemplative attitude in the viewer that I am unable to sustain.  I hope one day to be able to appreciate them more fully.

My Blake Calendar

Below is the picture for June.  It shows Oberon, Titania and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I find it enormously encouraging that even artists of William Blake’s taste and ability are capable of turning out crappy pictures occasionally.

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing circa 1786 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02686

National Portrait Gallery

I wrote about this beautiful little portrait of Hardy a few months ago.

hardy strang

 Thomas Hardy, William Strang

A little while later, I bought a 70s Penguin paperback of EM Forster’s “The Longest Journey”; on the cover was this picture, also by Strang, called “Bank Holiday”.

Bank Holiday 1912 William Strang 1859-1921 Presented by F. Howard through the National Loan Exhibitions Committee 1922 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03036

I think it’s great – totally unlike the Hardy; for some reason, it makes me think of Norman Rockwell.

Forster and Woolf

While I’m on the subject of Forster and the above novel, I found it interesting that he, like Virginia Woolf (Lighthouse, Jacob’s Room, The Voyage Out), occasionally kills his characters off with quite brutal suddenness.  He does in this, anyway; I wonder if there was any influence, and if so, in which direction?

 Back to the NPG

Below are two more arresting paintings, both by John Collier.  The first is, of course, Charles Darwin; the second, the Labour and later, Liberal, politician, John Burns.  I suppose it’s partly the full square stance of both subjects and Burns’ hands on hips – defiance? frankness?  I have to say that Darwin’s picture reminds me faintly of an orang utan – in a good way – but I think that may be because it was parodied in a cartoon and I “see” the parody…

collier darwin

Darwin, John Collier 

by John Collier, oil on canvas, 1889

 

John Burns, John Collier

RA Summer Exhibition 

Proper review of this next week, but in the meantime, here is by far the best painting in the exhibition – the fact that Marion Jones is my partner has no bearing, obviously, on my opinion.

marion RA

 

Bars and Triangles, Marion Jones

Diebenkorn, RA

I made my third visit to the brilliant Diebenkorn exhibition after the RA Summer Show – I started seeing great little paintings within paintings in the earlier abstracts, Albuquerque and Urbana series; little sections that would make paintings in themselves.  I started to see slight parallels with some of Nicolas de Stael’s landscapes, especially “Sea Wall”.  But most startlingly, I saw breasts everywhere.  In “Albuquerque 57”  (below) for instance, there is a very clear sketch of a pair of breasts that I hadn’t noticed before.  After that, I saw them everywhere in these abstracts, mostly in the shape of the lobes.

diebenkorn berkeley 57

 

Just above the green and yellow rectangular shapes.

To finish, here is a minimalist work of mine, in homage to Agnes Martin:

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

6.6.15