Archive for October, 2016

Blackpaint 573 – Imperfect Artspeak, Hughes and Narcos

October 25, 2016

Imperfect Reverse, Camberwell College of Arts

Some beautiful geometric abstracts on display here, some of them from the 60s and 70s Systems Group, some from younger artists working now.  I quote from the notes: “The term “imperfect reverse” intimates a move towards a structural logic, generative grammar, allowing an outside system or set of rules to drive the making of a series of works….This exhibition questions that transformation through a coercion that is both temporal and aspectual.  Examining an operational shift in working process towards a synthesis of experience.”

So there you are.  Whatever it means, there’s no doubt that the pictures are good; a selection of the best below:


Sharon Hall



Andrew Bick



Richard Caldicott



Natalie Dower



Laurence Noga

The exhibition is at Camberwell until November, when it moves to Ruskin University Cambridge on the 23rd.

The Shock of the New

I’ve been watching Robert Hughes’ great series again – I recorded it ages ago, don’t know if it’s on DVD or some other source, but if so, it should be got hold of.  Apart from Hughes’ unmatched portentous delivery, the close-ups of the artworks struck me as the best I’ve seen – particularly Cezanne, Matisse and Bonnard.  Next to them, the dreary horror of Munch is fully exposed.  I know, he was doing something else – but he’s still a most depressing painter.


Matisse, the Red Studio



Cezanne, Basket of Apples




I rest my case.  Hughes describes Matisse as the painter of the “Great Indoors” and that sounds about right to me; his landscapes are usually seen through a window frame.  Munch is often outdoors – but his skies are always dark, or lurid, weighing down upon humanity, as in the Ensor-ish group of walking dead above.  One of the world’s great painters obviously, but I just can’t be doing with him.

It’s always interesting to watch programmes from decades ago, to see how times and tastes have altered.  Hughes gives a great deal of prominence to Claes Oldenburg, for example, an artist who seems to me to be much less fashionable now; although perhaps I’m underestimating the influence of his giant soft sculptures.  Also, not enough de Kooning and no Joan Mitchell in there…..



The Netflix series based on the life of Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar, it seems to me to have a touch of Sorrentino about it – in several scenes I was reminded of Il Divo.  Multiple killings of course, and I’ve only seen the first episode of series one.  The box of the DVD says it’s a blend of “The Wire” and “Goodfellas” – I thought “Gomorrah”, but then it’s early days for me.

I’ve been trying to do something different in my painting, having realised some time ago that I’m doing the same images over and over (even if they are in a different palette or the other way up); I think I’ve managed it a little in the one below – but maybe not…



Fire, Water and Cloud











Blackpaint 572 – Kentridge and Kafka, Kooning and Kline

October 17, 2016

William Kentridge, the Whitechapel Gallery

Four or was it five, distinct rooms, each with films showing, one at least with other things to look at:

  • Wooden machine, like a loom maybe, or to me, reminiscent of the execution machine in Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” – the one on which the prisoner lies on his back and needles write the nature of his crime on his body, deeper and deeper until he is pierced through.  B&W films showing dancer in whirling white robes, doing a sort of dervish dance.
  • Flickbooks – great flick portraits of Kentridge pacing, stroking his chin, looking thoughtfully down at the floor, on book pages, I think.


  • DaDa film – colour film starting with sliding panels rather like Schwitters collages – a bit – then actors in costume, one in those boxy cardboard assemblages that Oscar Schlemmer made for Bauhaus productions.  Can’t remember what they are doing – something DaDa probably.
  • A surround room of moving images, more WK selfies, moving ink sketches of repeated images, a coffeepot, a typewriter…


Sounds underwhelming, I know, but definitely worth seeing, if only for the flickbooks.


Abstract Expressionism at the RA (again)

Straight to the de Koonings, which are really stupendous, and went all over the red 1955 “Composition” with my eye, bit by bit, instead of just standing in front and absorbing the whole thing in one go, as I usually do; I love the dirty bits, the chunky, scabby black and white squirls, the jagged patch of turquoise – just fantastic.  The catalogue, though generally good, gives you no real idea of the clarity and impact.


“Whose Name was Writ on Water” again – the spatters indicating how DK turned the canvas during painting.  The dullness of the dirty crimson against the washed-out blue – I used to think it was “Ok, but..” – not now, it’s great.

The red one next to “Water” – the paint screams at you,  At the top it looks to be still wet; in fact, there is a big chunk of what looks like wet marmalade, right up the top.

Mitchell’s “Salut Tom” – the brushwork on it is great, an indescribable quality to it – of course, or there would be no point in painting it…

There are two lovely Gorkys, the grey-green and white ones, painted in the same year – it looks as if they were done with the same paint.  Similarly with two of the smaller Pollocks, painted in 1945.

I was a little less impressed with Pollock’s “Mural” this time – the colours under the green were crude, fairground colours; not sure if this is a good or bad thing.  For contrast, look at Mitchell; the colours are cold, pure, clear, deep.

Clyfford Still – several of the paintings have a Barnett-like line down them.

Klines – swimming pool ladders, bridges, scaffolding, in stark, rough black and white – one swirling black foggy one, different to the others, rather like a Lanyon in black.


Arabian Nights, Pasolini, 1974


The last of P’s trilogy of films based on ancient tales (Canterbury Tales and the Decameron are the other two); as with the others, it has a patchy, disjointed feel here and there, awkward segues, loads of explicit, .but very static sex by today’s standards – then, you realise how memorable the combination of music and scenarios is and how Pasolini’s images stay with you.  In this one there is a surprise live dismemberment.


In these tempestuous and exciting times, two contrasting songs to suit the more radical of the pro- and anti- factions; they are:

“Hawkwood’s Army” by Fairport Convention

“Peppers and Tomatoes” by Ralph McTell


Cobalt Window



Blackpaint 571 – Sofa Abuse, the Floppy Drill and the Big Train

October 8, 2016

The Infinite Mix, 180 the Strand

This is an “outreach” show from the Hayward Gallery, consisting of 10 video artists, in a sort of indoor storage facility called the Store, a bit like a multi-storey car park,  divided up into pitch-black viewing chambers.

  • Martin Creed – various characters, several limping, crossing a zebra crossing to jangly music (probably Creed’s band).  The last one went backwards on his bum, while an onlooker – looked on.


  • Ugo Rondinone – John Giorno, an old Beat poet, performing barefoot for some reason.
  • Stan Douglas – fake 70s African jazz-funk band.
  • Kahill Joseph – boys in the Hood, Compton, gangs, tattoos, muscles, nightscapes, rap, subliminal flashes of lynchings, killings…
  • Cameron Jamie – male dancers interacting erotically with soft furnishings; sofa fucking (simulated) in fact.
  • Dominique Gonzales – Foerster – DGF disguised as Callas, singing opera.


  • Four other films, including a Jeremy Deller, which we missed because the queues were too long.

I liked the Creed and the Joseph best of the ones we DID see.

The Turner Prize, Tate Modern

  • Helen Marten – Strange structures assembled from skips and recycling centres, by the look of them; one like a sort of flexible missile, or a giant bug, boring centipede maybe, with a segmented body – or maybe a floppy drill…


  • Anthea Hamilton – The bare arse sculpture, the crack parted by hands, atop splayed legs (apparently designed for a NY apartment block doorway – wonder why it never got built?).  Also non-functioning chastity belts on podia.
  • Josephine Pryde – Lovely big diesel train model, DB Schencker livery, with grafitti.


  • Michael Dean – £20,000- plus in a heap of copper, with one penny removed so that it’s below the povery line for a 2 parent, 2 child family for a year.  This is accompanied by an indescribable assortment of things and casts of things in a variety of materials – nice blue ones for example – that I guess are supposed to represent below poverty, junkyard Britain.  The handout says that his objects often suggest human body parts, and we spotted a number of little hands crawling about on the floor.


I liked the Helen Marten, having previously seen the same or similar works at the Venice Biennale last year but I was surprised to find that I was enjoying the Michael Dean even more – but then there was that fantastic train set….

Pina, Wim Wenders (dir)

Watched this again the other night – the ethereal vocal music in the “Cafe Muller” sequence was Purcell; The Faery Queen and Dido and Aeneas.  And, of course, a whole series of beautiful excerpts from the performances of her Tanztheatr Wuppertal, starting with “Rite of Spring”  and including some hairy sequences of vigorous and abandoned dancing QUITE near the edge of a drop in a huge quarry.  Also a segment that looked  choreographed by someone familiar with Winifred Knights’ famous painting “The Deluge”.  I’ll be returning to this film many times, I’m sure.


OK, enough; William Kentridge at the Whitechapel – fantastic show – and more Abstract Expressionism next time.



Garden Valley