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

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:





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