Blackpaint 521- Mediating Between Nothingness and Being; Calder and Giacometti


Alexander Calder, Performing Sculpture,  Tate Modern

This is one of those exhibitions that you go round with a smile on your face; probably childhood associations with mobiles or, if you’re a mature adult like me, with kites and novelty items on top of the TV.  His portraits are staggeringly good, done as they are with a few lengths of wire; if you go underneath them and look up, you can see how well they work, even from below.  I loved the fish in the wire tank, too.

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Some of the works were like models of Picabia dream machines (although none of them seemed to be working when we were there;  the aerial mobiles, assembled from wire and coloured metal discs, reminded me of Chinese dragon creatures, lobsters and, oddly, of tapeworms – the segmented bodies, I suppose.  Reminders of Picasso everywhere, of course.

Antennae with Red and Blue Dots 1960 Alexander Calder 1898-1976 Purchased 1962 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00541

It’s a pleasing exhibition, but ultimately lightweight (sorry); I think Calder’s work is better seen with the work of his contemporaries, to add variety – but then, you could say that for rather a lot of artists.

Giacometti, Pure Presence, National Portrait Gallery

Rather a small exhibition to weigh in at sixteen quid odd, I thought ; we had a two-for-one from Cass Arts that eased the pain.

The title comes from something Sartre wrote; it refers to Giacometti’s practice of putting the subject right in the middle of his drawings and keeping any background confined to  a few sketchy lines, a chair or door, say, floating and fading in a corner.

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Sartre also describes Giacometti as constantly “mediating between nothingness and being”.  Not sure what he means by this; it could apply to just about any artist.  I suppose it’s something to do with this faintness of background – and with the sculptures, the rough,  finger-and thumb-worked nature of the clay from which the perfect little heads and faces emerge.  They were kneaded into being, Sartre is saying (maybe): they could just as easily be kneaded out of being.

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There is a film from 1967 of Giacometti working, with a commentary by David Sylvester.  Sylvester observes that, in the sculptures,  his women are all motionless, standing straight-legged (where they have legs) bolt upright, receiving the gaze of the sculptor and returning it impassively.  The men, however, like Giacometti himself, are “striving” – perhaps he said “striding” – restlessly.  This can’t be observed in the current exhibition, however, since only one sculpture, I think, has legs; it’s a woman, in that characteristic “one-legged” stance.

The paintings, all in that muddy ochre/grey/black/orange palette, are really drawings; thin, whippy, B&W lines delineate the figures and faces, which often have a grey-black “wash” across them.  Sylvester says that many of the sculptural portraits seem to resemble Giacometti himself; other lookalikes for me are General de Gaulle and the Queen, when she was young.

Here’s the sacrilege: I thought this exhibition was also lightweight.  The drawings looked tricksy somehow, and I missed the striders and the bigger sculptures  (I suppose because this IS the NPG, and the striders aren’t portraits).  Seen Giacometti displayed much better in,say, Louisiana near Copenhagen.

24 Hour Party People, Michael Winterbottom (2002)

Watched this brilliant film in which Steve Coogan plays Tony Wilson, the Manchester – based impresario, except that “impresario” isn’t at all the right word…club owner, record producer, visionary, idealist, loser –  the Manchester -based Tony Wilson is the best description, maybe.  Is it really true that Ian Curtis hanged himself while Werner Herzog’s “Strozzeck” was on the telly and, if so, was there some connection between the two events?

falling man

Falling Man

 

black surround

Black Work in Progress

Blackpaint

23.11.15

 

 

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