Archive for September, 2016

Blackpaint 570 – AbExes at the RA and the Thin Man in the City

September 30, 2016

Abstract Expressionism at the RA

Fantastic, of course; the best show in London since the RA’s Diebenkorn, which was not that long ago (OK, Auerbach at Tate Britain was also great, but I think the Diebenkorn had the edge, with the three distinct styles/periods/modes, whatever you wish to call them).  Back to AbExes – I went on Saturday when it opened; queued for only 10 minutes and for once, it wasn’t throgged with immovable punters, walkie-talkies clapped to their ears, so you could see some of the paintings.. and sculptures, mustn’t forget David Smith and a few Barnett Newmans.

I’ll be going again and again, for sure, so this is nowhere near exhaustive:

  • The Guston and Mitchell paintings made Frankenthaler’s “Europa” look rather dowdy, on the far right of the wall.

guston-prague

Guston, Prague

  • The stunning Mitchell “Salut Tom”; four huge panels of white, blue and yellow, Monet of course and a little bit Cy Twombly, those panels of the seasons that were in the Tate Modern a while back.

salut-tom

  • When you look through the archway at the two small pink, green and yellow de Koonings, they look like Toulouse Lautrecs.
  • The Clyfford Stills, most of them, are great on their own but as Laura Cummings says in the Observer, putting them all in one room next to each other, they tend to drain the others’ glory.

still

 

  • This is NOT the case with the de Koonings, however, before which you can only – well, I can only stand in awe.  Sorry, hyperbole creeping in – I could do lots of things, ONE of them being to stand in awe.  A couple of fantastic Women, “Whose name was writ on water”, “Villa Borghese” with its green sweeps, the yellow and grey one with its yellow sweeps, that juicy red one, the collage with the tin tacks…  He’s the guv’nor, no question.

dk-water

de Kooning  – Whose name Was Writ on Water

  • Pollock’s not bad either.  I’m quite familiar with Pollock’s work, so the one enjoyed most was the 1943 “Mural” with the repeated green figures.

pollock-mural

Pollock, Mural

  • Can’t get on with Barnett Newman, sorry to say; I don’t like that liverish red/brown he uses, or the orange zips.
  • Rothko – an unusual, scrapy, scrappy blue and yellow panel on paper.
  • Lovely, punchy B&W Klines and an unusual wobbly one.

kline

Franz Kline – Zinc Door

  • Ad Reinhardt, pursuing his obsessions to their black ends – one of his, with spidery lines and figures, just like a Constant.
  • Guston’s paint, especially on the cartoon one (yes I know, but they DO look like cartoons) is greasy, dobby and looks moist.
  • And then there’s Jack Tworkov, with the diagonal slashes of colour.

Enough for now.  I’ve been reading “Anti-Matter” by Ben Jeffries, an extended essay about Houellebecq and “Depressive Realism” in which there is a discussion of Faking It – the idea that all works of art are “fake”, even when they are avowedly realist.  I think that’s right in a sense, and particularly right for the AbExes; once you are putting paint on a support, brushing, dripping, blading, flicking, you are faking it, unless it’s a real action picture and even then, you choose the paint, so there is a gap.  Rothko is not in some transcendant state when he paints, at least not most of the time; he’s thinking how to portray his feelings/revelations – the ones he’s already had, that is.  He’s faking it.

Doesn’t matter – they’re fantastic anyway, faking it or not.

Metropolis, dir. Fritz Lang (1927) 

metropolis

I’ve been watching the print found in Buenos Aires, and shown on BBC, in 30 minute chunks – I have a short attention span.  Once you get past the hero’s make-up, curly hair and jodphurs, it’s full of influence: so far, I’ve got montage scenes recalling Grosz; Rotwang the inventor’s false hand in leather glove (Dr.Strangelove);  Frankenstein, of course; the downtrodden, Zombie-like workers have offspring in the Wizard of Oz, Popeye cartoons and  – zombie films; all films with an underground or hi-tec citadel – Indiana Jones, James Bond films, Wallis and Gromit..  No doubt, there will be many more.  And it has another memorable villain to add to the gallery: Fritz Rasp as the “Thin Man”.

rasp

Fritz Rasp – watch the film, you’ll laugh – but he’ll come to you in your dreams….

islares-2

Islares under Cloud

Blackpaint

30.09.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 569 – Vikings, Toby and Wifredo Lam

September 23, 2016

Oslo –  Astrup Fearnley Museum

Why was Blackpaint in Norway?  For the Oslo Marathon, of course.  Since you ask, it was hot, hilly like Helsinki last year and there are roadworks everywhere.  At one point, the route went over a cinder track through a huge building site and into and round a container park – and then back again for another interesting visit, later in the run.

Anyway, the Astrup Fearnley is a private museum on the quayside. very swish area, big sports cars around; two floors of stuff, downstairs Hirst’s bisected cow and calf under glass – made me think of Skip James’ Little Cow and Calf Blues – an Emin tapestry with words, a Rachel Whiteread, a blue Malcolm Morley poster painting, a great, smeary grey Christopher Wool, a Kitaj and a couple of Helen Martins and a Sibony as a reminder of the Venice Biennale.

Upstairs,  80’s German Expressionists, as below:

 

kippenberger

Martin Kippenberger – Sick Egg Boy

 

sigmar-polke

Sigmar Polke – 3 Apparitions.  These are huge, whole wall size.  There are others by Lupertz, Eichendorff and especially Kiefer – a shelf of huge, grey leaden “books” and one of those lead plaques with little girl’s dress and shoes embedded.

 

mystery1

Knut Rose – I Kulturlandskap

 

mystery2

Bjorn Carlsen – Suicide.

Locals, I guess, from the names; I just like the colours, really.  The Carlsen strikes me as a cross between Matisse and Kitaj’s cartoon style.   Great modern building, an hour’s visit to see the lot.

Toby Young 

For some reason, a large number of (male) Oslo residents strongly resemble the Tory “free school” activist; not, perhaps, the stereotype which springs to mind when we think of the Norse Sagas…

young

Young

viking

Viking

 

Wifredo Lam, the EY Exhibition, Tate Modern

Yes, I always thought it was Wilfredo – and so it should have been, but it was misspelt when his birth was registered, it appears.

lam

I found the Lam to be a disappointment.  Very strong Picasso influence, especially Minotaur and Guernica; very colourless – where colour used to any extent, sort of all colours, as if random and pastel-y; almost an anthroposophical look, in loose, slanting strokes.  Overwhelmingly black, white, beige; spiky (like Sutherland), fork tines, wheels, swords, knives, ploughshares, small round heads/faces, physical discombobulation.  Lots of ritual figures, Santoria, Yoruba.  It livened up for me a bit when he stayed with Jorn at Albissola – I liked “The Brush” – totally uncharacteristic, spatters all over it.  A setof smaller framed works, on paper I think, figures in which recall Bruegel and Bosch.

In the first room, a couple of peasant portraits and a self portrait show what a fabulous draughstman he was.  So, influences and resemblances: Picasso overwhelmingly, Sutherland, Picabia maybe, Bruegel, Jorn…

yellow one 2

Yellow Runner

I know, it’s an old one.

Blackpaint

23.9.16

Blackpaint 568 – Terry and Julie, Little Fascists, Ghost Cities

September 12, 2016

Photographer’s Gallery – Terence Donovan and “Made you Look”

julie

In amongst the hard-faced young James Bond types in belted raincoats and beautiful, tubular, posing women, this captivating shot of Julie Christie, looking groomed but feral; there’s that smudge or graze near her elbow – bit more dirt and you could see it as a Don McCullin job.  This, and the famous close-up of Terence Stamp are the stand-outs, but it’s all good.

 

made-you-look

This is the other exhibition on at the PG; New York, London, Senegal; especially good, the ones of Senegal dandies in 1904.  The man on the poster in the plaid trousers is from New York in the 80s, I think.

Childhood of a Leader (dir. Brady Corbet, 2015)

leader

I expected the Omen after the trailer, with the ominous, crashing, pulsing electro-classical score (Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers – remember?); set in France or Belgium (filmed in Hungary) at the end of WWI, as the Treaty of Versailles was evolving.  It starts with footage of the fighting and the Versailles cavalcade – dozens of cars in convoy through the streets.  The countryside is dark, distressed, the trees and the chateaux and houses distressed and damaged; the winter landscape, black trees, black clothes, black cars – the lighting in the picture is typical.

The film is constructed in three “Tantrums” and an Epilogue, showing the boy as an adult dictator, reviewing his troops before cheering crowds.  There is a Sun emblem with wiggly rays, I think… Who is he supposed to represent?  It’s based on a combination of a Sartre short story of the same name with a section of John Fowles’ “The Magus”.  I haven’t got to the bit in the Magus yet, but the Sartre story has the boy growing up to be a member of a fascist group and taking part in the murder of a Jew.  Bit of a stretch to becoming a dictator.

There’s nothing here that shows any insight into how a dictator might gain – as opposed to inherit – power.  Where are we in the final section: America?  Central Europe?  The child is close by birth to influence and power, but nothing here really suggests an interest in it, beyond the exercise of his immediate will.  The tantrums are not that dramatic; chucking stones at churchgoers, self-starving, refusing to dress, manipulating servants, embarrassing Mother, defying Father… Next thing, he’s dictating…

The music and visuals promise much – lots of Metropolis, a circular dome against the sky, black coats, white blouses, distressed walls, Hammershoi, Manet, a desolate winter field with a figure in the distance – but the story is paper-thin.  The boy reminded me a little of Mark Lester in “Oliver” – but much more, the little girl in “Outnumbered”.

Behemoth (dir. Zhao Liang, 2015)

behemoth

 

behemoth-2

A nude, prone, rear view of a male torso against the grey/brown, scarred – too weak a word – devastated landscape of open cast mining, fields of green weeds before scores of massive, identical tower blocks.  In such shots, triangular, straight-sided layering as of glass panes.  Poetry read over shots.  Coal mines, steel works, quarries, “ghost cities”, truck ballets (nose to tail, as they crawl up slag heaps to vertiginous drops and shed their loads), fire dragons blasting through the air, sparks, puddles of molten metal and clinker in the foundries.  The lung patients in hospital and dying at home, the grey/black liquid from their chests filling jars.  The empty cities, apartment blocks all the same, no cars on the roads, but the traffic lights operating…

It’s a rare thing; an art film and social documentary interwoven perfectly.  Nearest thing I can think of would be “Leviathan”, the fishing doc.

 

 

Nicolas de Stael, Etel Adnan, Wim Oepts

No particular reason for linking these three, except that, at different times, in different places (France, Holland, Israel)  they seem to have seen the world similarly

ds.

De Stael

 

wo

Oepts

 

adnan2

Adnan

 

holy-stone-and-sand

Holy Stone and Sand – WIP

Blackpaint

12.09.16

Blackpaint 567 – Fred in his Coffin, Julieta and the Deluge

September 4, 2016

William Eggleston, Portraits, NPG

Brilliant exhibition.  We were put off a little by the title, thinking of a series of head and shoulders photos – should have known better.  They are in context, of course – the context being the American southern states, mostly Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee from the 50s through to the 80s.  They have the air of snapshots; the subjects sometimes look startled, or mildly annoyed, or are in mid action, stepping off a kerb, say.  In that respect, they provide a contrast to the great photos of Saul Leiter, recently displayed at the Photographers Gallery (see previous Blackpaint).  A few favourites below:

egglestone 1

Self Portrait

 

eggleston 2

Touch of Psycho here?

 

eggleston 3

Stephen King, maybe – Firestarter?

In one or two pictures, you are reminded (slightly) of Diane Arbus – but without the sense that the grotesque has been consciously sought out.  Rather, challenge, vulnerability, self-consciousness, especially in the Disco series.  A few celebrities – Joe Strummer, blues singer Mississippi Fred McDowell (well, he’s a celebrity to me) in his coffin.. there’s context for you.

Julieta, Pedro Almodovar, 2015

julieta2

The latest Almodovar, and it has been received with reverence by film critics, notably Mark Kermode.  I think it’s great, but the reverence is misplaced.  It’s based on three Alice Munro stories, a heroine played by a young and older actress – sorry, actor, for Guardian readers – who transforms from one to the other during a hair-washing sequence.

As often happens in Almodovar films, women brightly and loudly tell each other outlandish and unlikely things in series, and the other just…accepts.  Also, there is the thing where a woman (usually) makes a completely unreasonable and inexplicable decision and demands that others simply accept without question – which they do.

Another Almodovar thing – women in comas, disabled by MS, dementia, weakened by nervous collapse.  There is a sort of soap opera feel to the plots, intentionally I’m sure; you could imagine them turning up in “Neighbours”.  Almodovar mixes in a bit of surrealism and surprising, unconventional sexual behaviour – rather like Bunuel’s realist brother.

As to visuals, the film is billed as “ravishing” and “gorgeous”.  It has its moments; the stag running with the train, stormy cloud- and sea shots, beautiful female actors, Julieta’s Klimt dressing gown.

julieta1

The plot hinges on the disappearance of Julieta’s daughter.  Without revealing the end, I thought Bunuel would have handled it differently; I’m thinking of “Exterminating Angel”.

Winifred Knights, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The drawings are impressive, especially the nude life drawing; there’s a pen and ink that’s just like the sculptor Flaxman – however, they are really static.  There are several scenes with multiple figures, with no movement at all.  Some like those medieval style Victorian tableaux.  Some nice coloured drawings or watercolours of Cuckmere and mountain scapes.  A group of pilgrims, sleeping amongst tit-shaped haycocks; another drawing of women sitting and lying that look just like flints from a couple of feet away.

knights1

The presiding influence in her work is a combination of the Vorticists and Della Francesca (static, statuesque, isolation of each figure in the picture – eg the Marriage at Cana).

knights2

Her masterpiece is “The Deluge” – massive, absurd, dramatic gesturing, static.  There are a number of precision sketches of the same, showing the preparation that went into the final work.  There’s a bit of Stanley Spencer in the colours; the shapes vaguely reminded me of the silhouettes on road traffic signs, for some reason.

The Deluge 1920 Winifred Knights 1899-1947 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1989 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05532

 

the sea of marmara

The Sea of Marmara

Blackpaint

September 2016