Archive for April, 2016

Blackpaint 543 – The oranges are not the only fruit…

April 30, 2016

Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art at the National Gallery

Gauguin still life

Gauguin, Still Life with a Delacroix

I have to say that I thought the Delacroixs (is that the proper plural?) were awful, on the whole.  They were melodramatic, exotic in a bad way and somehow dowdy; the brushwork looked dry and the colours lurid.  Then I looked at the work online and it was brilliant – luscious brushwork, fervid energy, piercing colour.  Just shows how photography has a glamorising effect on paintings, something I’ve noted before.

Then again, it could be I’ve been corrupted by all those repros you used to get in furniture shops in the 50s and 60s; Arab boys, Spanish flamenco dancers, harbour scenes – Delacroix is just too exotic for me.

The stunning Gauguin still life above is, for my money, the best thing on show, but there are great paintings by Degas, Redon, Moreau (not so great), Cezanne, two more Gauguins (one brilliant, the other terrible) and some awful Renoirs – but I have a blind spot about the latter, can’t stand his work.

Better show a Delacroix, after all, it’s his show, so:

delacroix algerian women

Algerian Women in their Apartments

See, it looks great as a photo.

Making your Ears Tingle

I’m reading Kings II in the King James Bible at the moment and here are three quotations that made me sit up:

Hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you? (2 Kings 18, 27)

Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. (2 Kings 21, 12)

…and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. (2 Kings 22, 13).

Pithy, eh?

The Hollow Crown – Richard II

hollow crown

Ben Whishaw perfectly cast, in my view; not an easy play to make work with all that rhyming verse – brilliant poetry, but it can sound quaint as dialogue, which it never does in this version.

The director does three art things in the murder scene at the end:

He has Richard, naked except for a loincloth, clamber to his feet, first sticking his rear high in the air in a direct echo of the Bacon/Muybridge boy;

Richard is slaughtered by crossbow arrows – up to now, he’s been Christ, now he’s St. Sebastian;

His body is dragged in a coffin before the usurper, Henry IV.  The corpse is twisted in the manner of those curving Christs on the crucifix by Cimabue et al.

 

Conceptual Art in Britain 1964 – 1979 (Tate Britain)

keith arnatt

I was determined to go round this without spending hours reading.  Consequently, I was round it in about fifteen minutes; there’s not much to look at apart from words.

A pyramid of oranges by Roeloff Louw from which you are supposed to help yourself (I presume they replace them);

oranges

A photo sequence of Keith Arnatt eating his own words (above);

A photo sequence of KA gradually disappearing into a hole in the ground;

Bruce McLean (in a photo sequence), performing contortions in spaces between plinths;

Michael Craig – Martin‘s glass of water/oak tree;

A long rolled-up fabric “machine” in the colours of the stars and stripes by John Latham – didn’t find out what it did;

A heap of builder’s sand by Barry Flanagan;

Some vitrines with magazines in them, some about the Singing Sculpture by Gilbert and George, in which they painted themselves gold – very influential maybe, given the resemblance to the living sculptures outside the National Gallery.

The rest was writing, including much work by Art & Language – strong on the latter, not much of the former.  Some quite turgid Marxism on one wall – turned out to be Trotsky.  I don’t scorn conceptual work, I should say; I just don’t see it as useful for me to speculate on the concepts which may or may not be involved; probably get them wrong, anyway.

Two of mine, to finish:

St.George

St.George Death Stroke (WIP from last blog)

And my attempt at a still life, in homage to Gauguin:

still life

Still Life with Pomegranate 

Blackpaint 

30.04.16

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 542 – The Milk Jug, the Swan and the Devil’s Arse

April 23, 2016

Rijksmuseum

vermeer milkjug

Distant view over the heads of dozens of Dutch school students of the fabulous milk jug Vermeer and a number of Rembrandts, notably the turbaned self portrait and the young self portrait with the wiry hair and round eyes – and of course, the Night Watch, guns at the ready, about to accidentally shoot each other if not careful.  Also the Jewish Wedding and several others – fabulous, if you can get near them.

 

Rembrandt turban

From these galleries, only the huge swan taking off straight at you grabbed my attention.

swan

Jan Asselijn

There was a great exhibition of Breitners, however (see Blackpaint 341), picture after picture of Geesje Kwak, androgynous figure in a series of lush kimonos and in the nude.  He was clearly seriously obsessed.

breitner kimono

breitner nude

Little like Uglow, this one, I think.

In the 1100 – 1600 bit, there were these two highlights:

gerini

Altarpiece by Gerini – the reds and orange with that gold.

terracotta girl

Terracotta Girl – could be the BVM but no halo – maybe a saint,  couldn’t find a label so I don’t know.

And, tucked away upstairs, some lovely Appels, this one in particular:

Appel rijks

Stadelijk Museum

Stunning discovery for me – two favourite de Koonings and a huge, trickled – down Asger Jorn all in the same room:

asger jorn

Asger Jorn – didn’t get the title; something about swan’s wings beating, I think (that swan again…)

 

dk rosy

Rosy Fingered Dawn at Louse Point, de Kooning

dk north

North Atlantic Light, de Kooning

 

 

beanery

The Beanery, Ed Keinholz

The notice over the bar warns “Fagots” to keep out; all the customers (slumped over tables, propped up at the bar) have clock heads; a soundtrack of “Macnamara’s Band” with a hubbub of voices plays on a loop (Keinholz recorded it at the bar).  It’s funny, grubby and creepy and you queue to go in one at a time, admitted by a solemn museum guard.

The Canterbury Tales, dir. Pasolini (1972)

Cruder, but to my mind, every bit as good as Pasolini’s “Decameron”.  Several well-known British character actors in there – Hugh Griffiths as a lecherous old Sir January to Josephine Chaplin’s beautiful and – to put it mildly – disengaged May; Robin Askwith, in a break from the “Confessions” series, screwing away upstairs in a brothel and emerging to piss liberally over the amused clientele below.  In one scene, there as many naked women as there are on the cover of the celebrated Jimi Hendrix LP.  Pasolini smiling thinly to himself as Chaucer, recording the stories ( the one where the friars emerge from the Devil’s arse in Hell is perhaps the best).  And a great soundtrack mainly from Topic Records, especially Frank McPeak’s “The Auld Piper” from the “Jack of All Trades ” LP.

devils arse

Devil’s Arse with emerging friar – actually, maybe it’s a demon’s arse , because the Devil is played by the great, menacing Pasolini actor Franco Citti and he is showing the new arrival around Hell.

Also making a brief appearance at the start of the film is the wrestler Adrian Street, familiar from Jeremy Deller’s work.

Next time, CoBrA in Amstelveen and Delacroix at the National Gallery.

wip1

Work in Progress – St. George, of course (who else could it be, today?  Shakespeare, I suppose…)

Blackpaint

23.04.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 541- Bosch to CoBrA and thence to Berlin

April 17, 2016

Hieronymus Bosch at s’Hertogenbosch – where else?

Well, also at the Prado, where the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych lives and the London National Gallery, where Christ Mocked (the Crowning with Thorns)  lives –

bosch natgal

and at Lisbon, where the Temptation of St. Anthony triptych lives – although this last has apparently been demoted to “follower of ” status, despite containing several of the best known “monsters” (see below).  The saddled fish, the little bird thing in the red tunic and funnel helmet….

bosch triptych-the-temptation-of-st-anthony-1516

Although these three works are missing for some reason, the exhibition is still fantastic in every sense and the town is making the most of it, quite rightly.

The paintings have lights within the frames and so look like slide projections in the darkened galleries.  The weirdness of Bosch’s figures and landscapes, I think, have distracted viewers from the sheer quality of the painting; the colours are beautifully subtle.  The Death of a Miser, for example, is in that Duccio pink/brown/Venetian red palette.

There are several similarities to Bruegel, of course; There’s a “Dulle Griet” character dragging a cart, angels with long trumpets, just like those in Bruegel’s “Fall”, crows on bare tree branches, distant gallows and wheels on top of poles (Bruegel’s “Triumph of Death”), street cripples with similar aids (maybe these are stock figures).

I noticed the same model cropping up in several paintings; the old geezer with the white hair, tooth stumps and inane, cruel grin shows up in two versions of “Ecce Homo”, one by Bosch himself, another by a follower  and the NG “Christ Mocked” (above); the man on the left.

eccehomo1

That’s him, in the white robe, isn’t it?

The little armoured character in the St. John of Patmos (below) is a self-portrait of Bosch; why the arrow through his torso – something that crops up in many Bosch paintings?

bosch patmos

I like the monsters in the workshop drawings; “OK fellows, today we’re going to have a competition to see who can draw the best monster…”.  No picture, unfortunately.

Some other highlights for me:

The red/black background in the boy with the walker;

bosch little boy

St. Jerome, lying down with that fish-like tree trunk behind him, and that doggy lion;

bosch st jerome

St. Christopher, with the bear hanging going on behind;

bosch st christopher

St.John the Baptist, or “Doper”, as it is – appropriately? –  in Dutch, looking bored, waiting for TV to be invented, maybe;

bosch john the baptist

The tunnel, or sewer in the sky route to Paradise – is it based on a local canal?

The Disneyland pink tower things in “Garden of Earthly Delights” – sadly, only a copy in the exhibition.

Finally, the workshop painting of Noah’s Ark, grounded after the Flood.

s'hertogenbosch

Me on the left, next to a Bosch “monster” in the town.  I managed to get dressed before the police arrived.

Karel Appel’s animals and settings for “The Magic Flute” and “Noach”

I’ll be blogging about the fabulous Appel and the other CoBrA artists next time, but I’m including these pieces, from the CoBrA Museum in Amstelveen, because they seem to me to relate in some way to Bosch’s flying fish and other weirdnesses – rougher and “childlike”, sort of, but definitely related.

appel - flute1

 

appel flute2

Victoria, dir. Sebastian Schipper (2015)

Victoria

German film, set in Berlin, famously done in a single take, like “Russian Ark”.  A happy-go-lucky (she even looks a bit like Sally Hawkins) Spanish girl takes up with a goonish bunch of Berliners one night  and gets involved (predictably) in serious complications.  I found the first half hour or so irritating and tedious as the Berlin lads clown around and say “fuck” a lot – this sent several of the ICA audience into fits of excited laughter.  It has a definite “Euro” feel about it; could have been set in any Eurocity.  Story was cliched and implausible.  This one take thing has a sort of fetish feel for me – why is it better to do things in one take?

OK, other Dutch museums next time.

life drawings in pastel

Life Drawings in pencil and pastel

On the Rocks

On The Rocks

Blackpaint

17.04.16

 

Blackpaint 540 – Bacon, Bela, Berlin and Dental Horror

April 9, 2016

Russian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Went to this again last Wednesday and it was thronged; while I was standing looking at the Vrubel portrait of Mamontov (see below), one of the two women in front of me declared “It’s just like a Francis Bacon!”  This seems to be a common observation to make about anything which isn’t a straightforward “realistic” representation – bit of smudging round the features? “Just like Bacon”; limbs a bit oddly positioned? “He’s doing a Francis Bacon”.

Russia Vrubel

It’s not like Francis Bacon, is it?  Or maybe I’m missing something…

bacon nude 2

This is like Francis Bacon.

My partner, however, says that I’m just as wrong in comparing, as I did last week,  the Vrubel to Sickert or to Ruskin Spear – she says it’s more like Braque.

Whoever, if anyone, is right, it’s a brilliant exhibition.  A painting I didn’t mention last time is Repin’s Rimsky Korsakov; the hands again and that “fleshy” paper (can’t see it properly below – you need to go to the exhibition).

Repin Rimsky

Repin is like Adolph Menzel, the painter who nearly fills the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin (Blackpaint 473) ; history scenes, portraits, pastorals, scenes from plays, Repin does it all, much more than competently.

Autumn Almanac (DVD), Bela Tarr (1984)

bela tarr

The melancholy Miklos Szekely (tight-lipped, sour featured) is present, on the right in the photo above.  It’s claustrophobic, intense, violent – a man gets a beating (actually, nothing by today’s standards; more like a roughing up) which is filmed from below, through a glass floor, like that film of Pollock painting.  Like other Tarr pictures, notably Damnation, the characters speak to each other in undertones, smiling all the time even when angry, abusive or threatening; in one scene, the two women in the film fight, each smiling into the other’s face the whole time.

It strikes me that, unlike the great Tarr  films based on the books of Krasnahorkai ( Satantango and The Werckmeister Harmonies), and even The Man from London (taken from a Simenon story), Autumn Almanac shows violence and corruption developing out of the situation itself, with no need of an outside catalyst – in this, it resembles Damnation.  In Werckmeister, the cataclysmic violence arrives with the travelling show, the Prince and the whale; in Satantango, the “community”, such as it is, is destroyed by the arrival of the satanic pair, Irimias and Petrina.  In “London”, the agent of disturbance is the case of money which Maloin sees flung into the harbour when the murder takes place.

I’m not absolutely sure about this; you could argue that the schoolmaster in “Almanac” is an outsider and his ejection allows the others to achieve a sort of twisted, corrupt equilibrium.. or maybe not.  It’s Tarr anyway, so worth seeing, and uniquely for him, in colour (pretty dark, though).

Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women, Selected Stories (Picador)

First heard of this book when it was reviewed before Christmas; her stories were compared to those of Raymond Carver and you can see why.  There’s a similar economy (she often dispenses with verbs), a conversational tone and the settings and subject matter are “dirty”, as in Dirty Realism; alcoholism, abortion, dysfunctional families.  The second story, “Dr. H.A.Moynihan”, is a groin-shrivelling tale of manic dentistry that is the most horrific piece of fiction I’ve ever read – that’s if it IS fiction.  The stories appear to be strongly autobiographical.  I think she differs from Carver, in that he is maybe more experimental with point of view.  he writes as a female character in several stories, “Fat”, for example, and successfully, I think.

Anyway, the blurb on the front says her stories “are electric, they buzz and crackle”.  They don’t, but they are a great, if occasionally gruelling, read.

Actually, I’ve just thought of a piece nearly as physically wrenching (literally) as Berlin’s story – Ted Hughes’ poem about de-horning bulls.

I’ve done no new paintings since last time, so here’s an old one for now, appropriate to Berlin and Hughes perhaps;

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

9.4.16

 

Blackpaint 539 – the Firm of Repin, Serov, Vrubel, Astrup, and Vinyl

April 2, 2016

Russia and the Arts: the age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky ( National Portrait Gallery)

Lovely show.  I’ve started with Repin, who is the most famous, but I think Serov and Vrubel run him pretty close.

russia turgenev

Repin, Turgenev – great hands, aren’t they?

 

russia repin stasov

Repin, Stasov – surely Michael Gambon in a Russian shirt..

russia countess.

Repin, Baroness Hildebrandt – love the red star hat; probably not a revolutionary though…

Serov, Madame Ermolova – Really impressive full-length painting of this theatrical woman in a jet-black dress; I thought Singer Sargent at first, but now I think maybe more like Toulouse-Lautrec in execution.  However, can’t find a picture, so you will have to go see.

Russia Vrubel

Vrubel, Mamontov – Jonathan Jones reckons it’s sort of pre-Cubist, the angles and especially the shirtfront.  I think it looks like a Sickert, or maybe even Ruskin Spear.

 

Russia Morozov

Serov again, Morozov – reminds me of a Scottish Colourist, Fergusson or Cadell, with those flowers behind.

Nightcrawler (2013), Dan Gilroy

Gyllenhaal’s eyes must surely have been “enhanced”; They looked too big to be real to me.  He reminded me of a meerkat.  Obvious comparisons: Jim Carrey in “Cable Guy” and maybe Robin Williams in “One Hour Photo”.  I’d be interested to know just how far they were pushing it; are there really TV stations in LA that would show footage of murder victims in a private house, filmed before the arrival of the police (even with faces and wounds pixillated)?

Vinyl

I liked the comment about Elvis, singing Polk Salad Annie in Vegas: “He’s singing about lettuce…”.  It’s way by far the best thing on TV at the moment.  The man who played Elvis in the white- suited Vegas era was brilliant.

Art of Scandinavia, BBC4

What happened to the 20th century?  The Denmark episode dealt with LEGO and furniture and the Danes’ supposed love for cosy miniaturism in architecture – no mention of Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, CoBrA…

Swedish episode was better;  Zorn, Gan(?) – but then, more furniture and design, model housing for 30’s factory workers…  The only 21st century art mentioned was the graffiti artist who covers everything in black swirls.  More painting in future, please (and sculpture, I suppose).

Nikolai Astrup (Dulwich Picture Gallery

Norwegian painter, died 1928.

astrup woodcut

My first impression on entering the gallery was green – and brown and blue, but mostly green.  The canvases are nearly all landscapes, or lakescapes, with trees and they are  crowded.  There are blossoms that recall Hockney’s “maggot” hawthorns from his huge show a few years ago; there is a breast-shaped dark mountain that pops up in several pictures.  Where there are people, they are mostly women or girls in long peasant dresses that remind me of Munch’s figures.  In the last room, the green is relieved a little by yellow, in a series of pictures depicting enormous bonfires in the dusk.  His brushwork is somewhat rough and blurry – one of the most effective pictures was of Monet-like blurred trees in twilight with a couple of lanterns glowing in the background.

He also did woodcuts, which show a distinct Japanese influence (and a much lighter green), like the one above.

 

St. Anthony 1

St. Anthony and his Pig

Blackpaint

02.04.16