Archive for March, 2017

Blackpaint 592 – Acid Colours, Alabaster and Lost Cities

March 28, 2017

Maria Lassnig – A Painting Survey, 1950-2007 (Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row W1, until 29th April)

Austrian painter (1919-2014), worked in Vienna.  Gallery blurb says she was influenced by Kokoschka’s colours and Schiele’s figuration; I think I can see an affinity with Dumas and Chantal Joffe, but I guess any influence would have come from Lassnig to them, because of the dates.

The figures below are her least extreme, perhaps; her bodies are usually squat and sawn-off, the faces porcine with upturned snouts.  Her colours are rather like those livid ones that are left over from a box of paints when you have used up all the good ones – lemon yellows, yellowy greens, sickly oranges, radioactive mauves.

 

I like the delicacy of the hands and breasts of the left hand seated figure; not so taken with the one on the right.

 

Like the shoulder and the green hair.

 

Great abstract – don’t know why.

 

That mauve is deadly; kills human cells by radiation.

 

Looks like a rabbit hurtling full-tilt towards viewer – but it’s not; male and female figures, apparently.

 

Lewitt, Orozco, Richter, Spalletti. Toroni (Marian Goodman Gallery, Lower John St. W1, until 8th April)

The title of this exhibition is: “The supreme rifts….a measured propinquity” – whatever that means.

There are two Richters: one of those thin multi-coloured, computer -made stripe ones, that make your eyes ache – and a frame carrying several large, hanging, glass plates.

The Spalletti I liked were these alabaster slabs on a plinth (below) – they look good enough to eat, as if made of coconut or a translucent white cheese.

 

Spalletti

There is a room of Lewitt walls upstairs (see below); there is a dappled effect in the paint, or rather inks, which could have been sprayed on, but I guess were done by someone with a roller.

 

Sol Lewitt

 

The Lost City of Z (Dir. James Gray, 2017)

A staggeringly old-fashioned account of Percy Fawcett’s obsessive, repeated expeditions into Bolivian rain forest in search of a pre-Christian civilisation, ending of course, in his (and his son’s) disappearance.  Stilted, cliched script, Charlie Hunnam’s dodgy accent (Bring back Kenneth Branagh – bit old now, I know) and some feminist politics from Sienna Miller who wants to go with him, but has to stay home while he carries on up the jungle, having to put up with brief visits between expeditions (each visit resulting in a pregnancy).

The WW1 Somme battle scene is the worst bit; two fires on the muddy horizon are clearly from gas jets; as they go over the top, the men level their rifles and fire at the enemy as if in a western.  The Webley revolvers sound authentic though.

In the scene near the end, where Fawcett and his son are beset by angry aboriginals, I was reminded of that old film of Richard Attenborough in New Guinea, where the locals swarm down to surround him.  Happily for Attenborough, they turned out to be welcoming.

Eagle Annual stuff, about 1955 – lots of ecological message though, and some stunning scenery, but give me Aguirre, Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo and Embrace of the Serpent.

 

Borderlands

Blackpaint

27/3/17

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 591 – Churches, Poetry, Photography and Zombies

March 21, 2017

My latest painting (below); I’ve gone back to putting the painting first, in case there are some visitors who move on straight away – unlikely, I know…

Moscow Connections

Blackpaint

 

The Borderland, House of Leaves, Ash Wednesday

Wrote about the film “the Borderland” last week; a “found footage” film, in which a sort of Catholic psychic fraud squad  investigates dodgy claims of paranormal events in churches.  The investigators penetrate deep into the bowels of the church and become – absorbed – in their work.  I didn’t connect it last time, but it came to me that it strongly resembled Mark Danielewsky’s “House of Leaves”, although in “Leaves”, it’s not a church that is plumbed, but a house that is like the Tardis only more so; it goes deeper and deeper, darker and darker…  then, I came across this, in Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday”:

At the first turning of the second stair

I turned and saw below

The same shape twisted on the banister

Under the vapour in the fetid air

Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears

The deceitful face of hope and despair.

At the second turning of the second stair

I left them twisting, turning below;

There were no more faces and the stair was dark,

Damp, jagged, like an old man’s mouth drivelling,

Beyond repair,

Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.

The three (film, novel, poem) are not identical or even similar, I know, but they seemed to me to chime somehow.

Britain in Focus: A Photographic History (BBC4)

Brilliant images, especially those of the Sidney Street Siege and the soldiers’ own snapshots of life in the trenches; and Eamonn McCabe is a great photographer – but he’s not the most riveting presenter.  He’s a bit too diffident and self-effacing to hold your attention.  I was about to say that this might be a syndrome of photographers in general; then I thought of Norman Parkinson, Cecil Beaton, David Bailey and I realised how daft that is.

Just watched the last one in the series of three;  surprising images from the early 60’s of John Lennon and Paul McCartney taken by Jane Bown – they look completely different from usual, Lennon with a startled eye that is nothing like his default knowing, skeptical look.  She didn’t even use a light meter.  Then there were Martin Parr’s very funny colour “social” pictures and some fantastic colour pictures of young miners and pit ponies in mist, by John Bulmer.

I know now what it is with McCabe –  it’s his voice.  He’s like that priest in “Father Ted”, the one who nobody can understand because his voice is too boring to follow for more than a word or two.  Also, he nods too much at interviewees.  The programme makes a good case for the use of professional presenters.

Zombies

Since I’ve been writing about a horror film and horror novel, I thought I’d finish with two life drawings that were supposed to be simple action poses, but which turned out to resemble – well, see for yourselves:

Blackpaint

21/3/17

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 590 – Petrograd, Cream Soda, Adam and Eve and the Third Reich

March 14, 2017

Revolution: Russian Art 1917 – 32, RA

Plenty of history here, even if some of the art is  – not so good, it’s always historically interesting.  Quite an overlap with Margy Kinmonth’s recent film (see Blackpaint 577); Filonov’s obsessively detailed “outsider-ish” paintings, Lentulov and, especially Petrov-Vodkin, who has a whole room to himself.

  • Brodsky, “Lenin at the Smolny Institute” (1930).  The empty chair (below) – the wall plaque says it invites you to put yourself in it.  I prefer Kinmont’s gloss, that it is symbolic of Stalin’s coming ascendancy.

  • Rublev’s “primitive” Stalin (1930).  Rublev meant well; predictably, Stalin didn’t appreciate it, so it wasn’t exhibited publicly.
  • Pakhomov, “Reaper” (harvest, 1928) – great sweeping red and blue/green shapes amid the corn.  My favourite.

  • Lentulov, “New Jerusalem” – gates and tower, bit like Soutine’s townscapes;
  • Tatlin’s “Letaelin” – birdy wooden flying – well, not really – structures, obviously reminiscent of da Vinci’s.
  • Deineka, “Defence of Petrograd” – Filmic, two-tier; marchers in profile, lower tier off to the battlefront, upper tier wounded, returning.  Like Eisenstein.
  • Deineka, “Textile Workers” (below) – fit, strong women, big feet…

  • An interesting – but not especially good –  abstract by Lizak, “Walk” (1928);
  • Great ad (below) – “Of course, Cream Soda!” – I think the posters and ads are actually the best art on show, apart, maybe, from the Malevich “harlequin” figures , black square and some well-known abstracts.  There are also extracts from Eisenstein and Vertov films, and a bedroom constructed, floor included, from 3 or 4 ply cardboard.

America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s, RA

The “Fall” is the Wall Street Crash, of course.  Goes really well with the Russian exhibition, for some reason, I guess the left-wing leanings of most artists.  Figurative, mostly, but in a graphic, cartoon-ish way that differs from Socialist Realism.

  • Alice Neel’s proletarian portrait;
  • Hopper’s petrol pumps (below) and cinema usherette;
  • Shaw’s great “Wrigley’s Spearmint”;
  • Hart Benton’s “Cotton Fields” (below);
  • Stuart Davis’ colourful cartoon street scene (didn’t get the title);
  • Guston’s tondo, “Bombardment” (1937) – sort of Beckmann meets Picasso;
  • Grant Wood’s “Gothic”  of course, and a car accident on a country road (below) and a wooded valley with deep green sponge-like tree tops.  The Woods, in my opinion, best in show (What is this? Cruft’s ?)

 

Grant Wood

 

Thomas Hart Benton

Edward Hopper

Telegraph cartoon 

Bob, in the Telegraph the other day, did a parody of Michelangelo’s Adam and Eve; Theresa May, her face turned away from chancellor Hammond’s member, reaches for the apple “tax”.  They are then expelled from Eden.  Interesting to see the vitriol in the right-wing press, in response to the new NICS rates, which will hurt many middle-class self-employed Tory supporters.

A while back, Steve Bell in the Guardian, parodying Gillray,  commented on the relationship between May and Trump like this:

Some might consider these to be sexist responses, but there seems to have been no adverse comment, beyond a passing remark on Bell’s cartoon by that bloke from the Mail, on Sky’s “The Papers”.  I guess, Tory PMs are fair game and feminists think this stuff is OK, as long as it’s directed at May, or Amber Rudd, or Liz Truss…

While I’m on about politics, I should mention Ian McEwan’s talk in Barcelona.  The Guardian reported, no doubt inaccurately or out of context, that “he described the atmosphere in Britain as “foul” after a Brexit referendum that reminded him of Nazi Germany and an aftermath reminiscent of Robespierre’s Terror”.  He’s entitled to his opinion, of course, but so am I and I think this is a ridiculous overstatement. If it has ANY effect (in Britain, that is), it’s likely to drive moderate Brexit people towards the Right, which presumably, he wouldn’t want..

Hyacinths and Milk Jug, Still Life

Blackpaint

14/3/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 589 – Pablo, Vanessa, JP and John

March 7, 2017

Picasso Musee, Barcelona

Mainly early paintings and drawings.  His dad was a drawing professor, apparently.  Early stuff amazing for a youngster; the head in the drawing below the only error I could see, apart from dodgy legs on a bearded man on the end wall.  Several drawings very like Toulouse Lautrec.

 

picasso-life

Academic Study, done when he was around 14 – gratifying to see a slight error in positioning of the head….

1901 was a decisive year; three memorable pictures – the “Margot” below, the red dwarf girl and the still life (also below).

 

picasso-still-life

Still Life – like a Cezanne, but with each article “floating” separately on the table top.

 

picasso-woman

Portrait (Margot) – there’s that characteristic positioning of the head to one side.

Another favourite – Portrait of Madame Canals (1904)

Then, 1917, and lots of black cubist playing card pictures,; a gored horse, bowels falling out – “Guernica” of course, but bony quality, forerunner of the skulls and those bone people on the beach.

Then, 1931; the Marie-Berthe portrait, in which her nose comes direct from the forehead, like a stuck-on gourd.

A roomful of versions and sketches of “Las Meninas”, a roomful of “Columbines”, doves in a window overlooking a bay.  The doves are just circles with smaller circles and dashes at one end, for the head and beak.

Vanessa Bell, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Some really impressive paintings in this exhibition, showing her every bit as strong as Duncan Grant.  There is a group of portraits in the first or second room, including the Iris Tree and self portrait below, that I thought was particularly brilliant.  But the still lifes, landscapes and abstracts are also great.  Highly recommended.

 

Iris Tree, 1915

 

Still Life on Corner of Mantelpiece, 1914

 

Oranges and Lemons, 1914

 

Self Portrait, 1915

The Ginger Man, JP Donleavy

Got a second hand copy of this, which I read about fifty years ago when it was really popular.  Donleavy is also the author of A Fairy Tale of New York, the title of which the Pogues borrowed for their single with Kirsty McColl.   It was a book about drunken, ne’er- do-well Irish American students, carousing in Dublin.  If you read it, you will remember the toilet bowl emptying through the floor/ceiling when the chain is pulled and the drunken parade through Dublin in the kangaroo suit.  Stylistically, it’s an attempt at something like Bloom’s sections in Ulysses, stream of consciousness, verbless phrases, even the vocab and settings (Laestrigonians, Gerty MacDowell etc.).

What came as a very nasty surprise was this, on page 29; the “hero” is rowing with his wife, who has just slapped his face:  “Sebastian up off the table.  He drove his fist into Marion’s face.  She fell backward against the cupboard.  Dishes crashing to the floor…..Took the child’s pillow from under its head and pressed it hard on the screaming mouth.”  His wife manages to save the child and Sebastian hits the streets to drink away his worries.  Next time his wife appears in the novel, she succumbs very willingly to his sexual prowess; the punch and the attempted murder are forgotten – but she is still angry about his language, laziness et al.

The point of this is that neither I nor my partner remembered the violence; we both thought of it as one of those cult books and films  about anarchistic, comical drunks and druggies you read when you are a young rebel;  Sort of a post- WW2 “Withnail and I”.  I checked the net – no mention of the violence, but I did discover it had been selected as one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century by the Modern Library.  Reviewers, such as Jay McInerney, refer to Dangerfield’s rogue-ish charm.

Lone Star (1996)/Matewan (1987), John Sayles

Saw Lone Star on TV a few days ago; the presence of Kris Kristofferson and Matthew McConaughey AND Chris Cooper in the same film should be enough to guarantee it – and yes, it’s got racial tension,  violence, some tame sex, a mystery body, murders and McConaughey doing that cold, flat stare from behind a revolver.  But somehow, it’s irritating, to me at least.  It checks too many boxes in terms of the competing interests and “issues” of the various groups, whites, Latinos, blacks, Native Americans.  And the nice people win in the end.  Matewan, set amongst West virginia coal miners and also starring Cooper, has a cathartic shoot-out (necessary in this sort of film) and the good people win here too – but only temporarily;  The old evil capitalism re-asserts itself at the end.  More violent, more pessimistic, more better.

I find myself wondering how “Deadwood” would have turned out with Sayles as director…

 

Little Lake Shore

Blackpaint

7/3/17