Archive for November, 2016

Blackpaint 576 – Coprophagia, Clowns and Coogan

November 25, 2016

Robert Motherwell, Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Sorry, done it again – last day today.  Great little exhibition though, opposite the rear of the RA.  These three are big ones – 177, 194 cms, that sort of order; “California” (1959) is a bit like a Frankenheimer and “The Studio” (1987) surely channels Matisse.


The Mexican Window (1974)



California (1959)



The Studio (1987)


Intrigue – James Ensor, presented by Luc Tuymans, RA

Bowled over by this; he had two or three styles, like Kitaj.  Here, in this dark one, he’s like Sickert –  there, in that dark drawing room, like Vuillard.  You can see Van Gogh, Turner (the green stage one, very like the Petworth Turners), Goya’s witches and penitents, Brueghel, Moreau – even Munch, but better.  Apart from the dark rooms, there are the fantastic still lifes, the skate, the cabbage and flowers with their sizzling, fizzing background – you’ll see what I mean – and the masks, chinoiserie, clowns, processions, skeletons, satirical cartoons (the Bad Doctors, winding out the patient’s small intestine, like an early martyr) – and a group of critics round the table, eating shit; first coprophagic instance.



The Drunkards


The Bad Doctors




Alan Davie, the Seventies, Gimpel Fils until 14th Jan.

A rather disappointing flatness to these – no texture, no roughness.  In the gallery’s photo, however, they look brilliant.




Collections of symbols/motifs (fruit segment moons, stripey snakes, Ace of Clubs (cf. Diebenkorn), lips, crowns…  sometimes reminds me, superficially,  of Aboriginal art, or should that be first nation Australian?

Always on Sunday – Rousseau (Ken Russell, 1965) – DVD of 3 Russell films for Monitor and Omnibus.

The artist James Lloyd plays Douanier Rousseau with his own broad Yorkshire accent in this Russell film for Monitor; it works brilliantly, of course.  Russell has a woman, Annette Robertson (below) playing Alfred Jarry, the tiny anarchist playwright and revolver enthusiast, author of “Pere Ubu”, who befriends Rousseau.  At a perfrormance of Ubu, the bourgeoisie gobble a stew of faeces on stage; in case you miss it, an actor announces”shitter!”, twice, to the disgust and outrage of the audience – second coprophagic episode.


Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World –  (Ken Russell, 1966)

Isadora (Vivian Pickles) and 500 children in floaty costumes ran down a hill at the Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey, towards the cameras and Ken waiting at the bottom. Unfortunately, they all ran to the right instead of parting and flowing past Ken on both sides, so they had to go back up and do it again.  Brilliant TV film of course. but NOT the feature film that I remember; that was based on a different memoir and directed by Karel Reisz.  It starred Vanessa Redgrave and in one memorable montage sequence, showed Isadora arriving at “London” station.  I think Readers Digest funded it.


Nomad, Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan)

Alan Partridge and James Joyce are similar, in that their respective styles penetrate and corrupt anything you read immediately afterwards.  I remarked before on how Finnegans Wake affects me; I tend to read a few pages at a time, then move on to another book – for a while, you think you are still reading “Wake” and you can’t properly take in the new text.  I had the exact same thing with Partridge and Proust.  Granted, Alan was discussing the way his excess fat tends to form on his back and Marcel was spending three pages or so describing milk boiling over…

Three small ones on wood panel and one (Seated Figure ) on canvas:


Seated Figure



Fleeing Figure



Still Life with Orange and Banana



Bridgehead 2



Blackpaint 575 – The Downs, the Dance, the Serpent and the Spitfire

November 11, 2016

Revisits only this week, on the exhibition front:

Paul Nash (Tate Britain) again – I noticed how Nash often places objects in close-up and often out of perspective with surrounding features (tennis ball, leaves, mushrooms, a cleaver stuck in a wood block).  This achieves a surreal effect, as it were, without anything actually “surreal” going on.  Also, how the clouds sometimes resemble flints or lumps of chalk.  Banal comments, I know; best I can do today…

Nash, Paul; Event on the Downs; Government Art Collection;

Abstract Expressionism at the RA –  again – anything else to say?  I spent more time with Clyfford Still;  the “torn strip” effect is sometimes painted, my partner tells me – that is to say, the white bits that resemble the edges of torn posters.  Sounds rather contrived for an AbEx, it seems to me.


Ab Ex discussion – We attended a discussion on the exhibition, in which three current abstract painters took part: Selma Parlour, Lisa Denyer and Gabriel Hartley.  The most common term used was “materiality”; there was much talk about which was more important,  process or outcome (both, not surprisingly) and several artists to watch were mentioned – Tomma Abst was one, Laura Owen another.  Someone asked from the floor whether Abstract Expressionism would have happened without World War II: the artists acknowledged the importance of the European refugees,  but speculated about home-grown American traits such as the huge landscapes of the “Sublime” tendency.

Three (mostly) B&W films:

Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, 2015) – echoes of Apocalypto, Aguirre, Wrath of God (especially in the mission scenes),  and Fitzcarraldo. The relationship between the Europeans and the native peoples occasionally brings to mind Dersu Uzala; at the end , there are scenes of drug-induced hallucination which, astonishingly, remind one of Solaris (Tarkovsky’s, that is).  Colour makes an entrance here.



A Canterbury Tale (1944) – weirdness of story, woodenness of acting, especially the American sergeant, who seeks to be reading or reciting his lines – he was a real US soldier, not an actor, to be fair; the sinister glue man, Colpeper  – but the light, the scenery, the history, the hawk becoming the Spitfire…  Like most Powell and Pressburger films, it seems to have a magical quality that compels you to watch, despite the feyness.  I think it must be the cinematography, by Erwin Hillier.


Possibly the most uncomfortable scene in the film, in which Alison Smith (Sheila Sim, later Lady Attenborough) sits far too close to the self-righteous and sinister Colpeper, the secret glue smearer and unbeknownst to her, her attacker.  Colpeper is played by Eric Portman.



Soon to be a Spitfire…


The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957) – direct line to Corman (Masque of the Red Death), Ken Russell (medieval squalor and hysteria), Monty Python (same) – and any film which ends with dancers in a line against the horizon (Fellini’s “81/2”, Pina..)

The real hero is not Von Sydow’s Block, but his squire, Jon.  Amusing to see Block eating wild strawberries…  Death resembles Gielgud.


Max von Sydow (the knight, Block)



Dance of Death



Gunnar Bjornstrand (Jon)


Planet Earth II

Staggering sequences of course, but the constant music was driving me nuts – until I thought of the Subtitles and Mute functions.  I also find the quality of the photography unsettling – the way it’s in focus throughout the shot, not just the foreground.  I’m just old school, I guess.

Three new pictures to finish, on wood panels:


The Spheres 1


Spheres 2


Spheres 3




Blackpaint 574 – Cows, Trees, Sunflowers and CVs – Nash and Loach

November 1, 2016

Saatchi Gallery; Champagne Life

As often before, I got round to seeing this exhibition just before it finished on 30th October – but I would have recommended it…  The artists are all women, so I presume that was the point of it; little or no info about origins, but the names suggest that they are international.

  • Mequitta Ahuja, paintings somehow Ofili-ish, repeatedly of a cross-eyed woman in jungle surroundings, as below.


Mequitta Ahuja

  • Sohella Sokhanvari did this stuffed horse, set on a blue Jesmonite blob; no idea why, but I liked it.  The objects stuck to the wall behind are variously sized cooking pots, the work of another artist, Maha Mullah.



Sohella Sokhanvari


  • These delightful red clay cows, life-sized, are the work of Stephanie Quayle.


Stephanie Quayle

Other works include:

  • Julie Wachtel – big panel screenprints with those dots (benday dots, is it?) of glamour celebs like Monroe, each set containing one panel given over to a cartoon character, presumably offering a comment on the work;
  • Sigrid Holmwood – old folksy paintings, done on a screaming fluorescent orange ground;
  • Mia Feuer – dead Jerusalem donkey with a twist of rope tied round ankle.  I think this one is a construction, rather than stuffed like the horse on blue blob;
  • Jelena Bulajic – huge, detailed close-up portraits in B&W of very wrinkled old women;
  • Suzanne McClelland – white-grounded, splashy, textured abstracts with scrawled sentences taken from “wanted” circulars, referring to domestic terrorists in the US.  These reminded me of Albert Oehlen in their combination of white, abstraction and text;
  • Seung Ah Paik – vast, wall-size drawings filled in with ochre paint, of bodies; hands, limbs, toes, breasts – but they don’t match up, as if the sheets they are drawn on have been stitched together in the wrong order.  They suggested Brett Whiteley’s horrific but brilliant Rillington Place drawings to me, but I’m sure that was not the intention…


Seung Ah Paik


Suzanne McClelland


Paul Nash, Tate Britain

  • Some early pen and ink and watercolour wash drawings in B&W, of trees and Blake-ish figures; they look like etchings.  I’d never seen them before, although one or two are in a previous Nash catalogue I have:
  • Several  “Withenham Clumps” paintings and the “sculpted” group on the hilltop below:


Wood on the Downs

  • The fabulous Event on the Downs, with the stump and tennis ball:

Nash, Paul; Event on the Downs; Government Art Collection;

Event on the Downs

  • The curving coastal wall at Dymchurch I think – shades of de Stael, but so thinly painted:


The Shore

  • Repeated versions of the stones at Avebury, with those “bruise” marks in brown, red, pink, mauve; there’s one like a human torso, and this one below with that slightly urine-y yellow – what is it, a red underneath, ochre on top?

Nash, Paul; Landscape of the Megaliths; British Council Collection;

Landscape of the Megaliths

“Event” is one of several done with more intense, vivid colour – like a cold drink of sparkling water after the anaemic dryness and thinness…



Eclipse of the Sunflower

All the usual favourites – Flight of the Magnolia, Building a New World and the other trench paintings, (the one with the hunched, overcoated figures and the “tepee” of light in the centre),  the dead planes of Totes Meer, the Equinoxes, the sunflower juggernaut wheels, the Battle of Germany, the surrealist efforts with a few by Wadsworth, Eileen Agar and Tristan Hillier; there seems to have been a bit of a penchant for starfish and other beach detritus in close-up.  The only one missing is Battle of Britain, the one with the looping clouds and the Thames estuary – presumably that’s still in the Imperial War Museum.

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach) 2016


Everyone will know by now the subject of Loach’s latest film, the nightmare rigidity of the sickness “benefit” system, the stoppers you can fall into (canoeing term – tumbling water that you can’t get out of) – Catch 22, if you like, I didn’t want to use the cliche – someone said Orwellian, I think more Kafkaesque, or maybe Dickens.  Loach is maybe the new Dickens, without the caricatures and funny names and with a consciously socialist politics.

The standout scene for me is the CV workshop, in which the self-regarding tutor – ex FE, I reckon – barks “Fact!” to preface each of his points about how necessary it is to make an impression on the CV, to Stand Out from the Crowd – “Fact!” (thinks: “they’ll like/respect me for telling it like it is…).

Loach’s naturalistic approach is famous – use of non-pros, surprising the cast members, improvised dialogue (sometimes).  Some would say he’s a social realist; I think he has a romantic, optimistic view.  Strange thing to say, given the outcome of the film; however, I think I can back it up.  The portrayal of the working class people is both optimistic and romantic.  They treat each other warmly, there is respect for the old from the young, there is no racial prejudice; “Blake” is saintly, skilled, kindly, resourceful, patient with Katy’s non-communicative son, breaks through to him in short order.  Maybe they are like that in Newcastle – or perhaps Ken wanted to avoid bad stereotypes.  The job centre staff are not all monstrous, although some are, “Sheila” in particular.

One scene – Blake’s graffiti protest outside the job centre, in which he is immediately “taken up” by passers-by, notably a hen party and a drunken Scotsman – is pure Agitprop.

The famous food bank scene, which reduced Mark Kermode to tears, left me unmoved, which worries me slightly – I couldn’t help thinking of Oscar Wilde’s remark about the death of Little Nell.  This morning, I became misty -eyed, reading Kipling’s “Gunga Din”, which is more worrying.

Finally, I was wondering if Ken puts in a sly ref to the Two Ronnies in the scene where Blake builds a makeshift stove from clay pots and “four candles” – maybe not.


Rubens Blue

Done a couple of fauvist – style pictures on wood panels, for a change; one below: