Archive for April, 2017

Blackpaint 595 – It’s British – but is it all Queer?

April 24, 2017

Queer British Art 1861 – 1967

There is a fair bit of great painting in this show, some of it problematic in terms of its queerness.  When you see a Tom of Finland show, like that at the ICA a while back, or Mapplethorpe photos, as in Helsinki, there are no doubts – it’s full- on queerness.  Here, it’s not so clear.  The Hockney “Physique” picture apart, none of the paintings below are queer in the sense of openly celebrating queerness.  Hardly surprising, given the discriminatory laws in force in Britain between those dates – however, what makes the Singer Sargent portrait of Vernon Lee “queer art”?  Or the Laura Knight self-portrait, of her painting a female nude?  Or William Strang’s picture of the woman in the red hat?  The answers, presumably, are that Sargent and Vernon Lee were both queer, as was Vita Sackville-West (the sitter for the Strang portrait) and Knight’s self-portrait was a conscious protest against the art school ban on women artists painting nude women models.

Anyway, the riches on offer include:

  • Three beautiful Keith Vaughans in his characteristic blue, cream and brown hues, all figure studies I think, including the one below.  Best in show (Crufts again);
  • The Laura Knight self-portrait I mentioned;
  • A couple of terrific Patrick Proctors, quite like Hockney – but different;
  • Ethel Sands – shades of Harold Gilman, Sickert and Vuillard, I thought;
  • A Lord Leighton classical theme that looks like a Bright Young Things fancy dress ball;  fine-boned, handsome youths with lower lips seemingly a-tremble;
  • Duncan Grant swimmers and divers.
  • There are Cecil Beaton and Angus McBean photographs and posters for cross-dressing music hall acts Vesta Tilley et al.

 

Henry Scott Tuke

 

Vernon Lee (author of “The Virgin of the Seven Daggers”) by Singer Sargent

 

Hockney, of course

 

Keith Vaughan

In addition, there are some interesting oddities, such as Oscar Wilde’s cell door from Reading Gaol and Noel Coward’s dressing gown.  Go and see it; interesting history – not all the art is great, because the queerness is maybe more important here than the quality – but enough is great to make a visit worthwhile.  Still not totally comfortable with the idea of using “queer” out loud, though…

Cataracticus

Blackpaint

 

Still on for another week and several paintings still unsold!

Blackpaint

24/04/17

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Blackpaint 594 – Reaping the Rye in Notting Hill

April 17, 2017

Out of Blixen, Riotous Company, Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill Gate

Kathryn Hunter (below) in the play which consists of four Blixen/Dinesen stories, stitched together with a little biographical narrative from Hunter as Blixen.  In the photo below she is playing a 13 year old girl; elsewhere in the play, she imitates a fish – rather effectively, in both cases.  I remember seeing her as Richard III at the Globe some 15 years ago; she seems to have unlimited powers of transformation.

The staging is varied – few tricks missed,  Mia Theil Have, playing at various times a peregrine falcon, an exotic dancer and a (bogus) angel, loses no opportunity to climb up into the stage curtains and utilise them as ship’s rigging or heavenly wings; she is most striking, though, as a peasant woman reaping imaginary rye with an imaginary sickle, all around the auditorium – like an animated Russian propaganda poster.  There are also stilts, a mobile piano, some minimal audience involvement and earth, or possibly grain, falling onto the stage from the heights (to crunch underfoot, during Blixen’s piece).  It’s pretty much magic realism.  I see Blixen as a bit like Frida Kahlo – Kahlo shattered by her tram accident in youth, Blixen afflicted by syphilis inherited from her father, I believe.  She’s popular with feminists; Paul Tickell, the writer of this piece, says she draws “in particular on the feminism which began to emerge out of the 18th century Enlightenment”.  It’s on until 22nd April.

Selfie to Self-Expression,  Saatchi Gallery, Sloane Square

Well, is it art?  Some is, for sure.  Fantastic exhibition if you are a teacher in search of a good trip out for the kids (judging by the number of school groups there on the days I went).

There’s a room of illuminated photographic panels with famous self-portraits that could never be assembled if you wanted the originals:  three of the famous old age  Rembrandts, Courbet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Basquiat, Warhol, Freud, Spencer, Van Gogh, and Velasquez’ Las Meninas.

Then, a room of proper selfies: Russian daredevils atop skyscrapers, a swimmer kissing sharks – and another with a great white approaching fast behind him, Brad and Jolie, Cumberbatch photobombing U2, and so on.

Novelty tech as below; a creepy room where you appear in surveillance mode; a selection of creative self-portraits entered for an exhibition, containing some brilliant work. Highly recommended – I’ve been twice.

 

Who can this miserable old git be, with the glamorous, smoky-eyed woman?

 

The same pair, I think…

 

Russian jail tattoos, part of selfie exhibition.

 

Get Out (dir, Jordan Peele, 2017)

Starring Daniel Kaluuya, great in “Black Mirror”,  a warning to black American men to beware of white girlfriends with liberal parents.  Whatever you do, don’t go to visit for the weekend…

It’s full of references to other films: I got “The Prophet” (the deer scene), “Night of the Living Dead” (Romero’s original B&W), “Les Yeux sans Visage” (the surgery scene), “Under the Skin” (the Sunken Place) – not to mention “Stepford Wives”, which all reviews – well, mention.

When I saw it, at the Brixton Ritzy, there were only two black people in the cinema; a woman and her daughter, I think, sitting in front of me.  They were talking intermittently,  in a sort of Gogglebox way:  “Oh he’s not going in there, is he?  Get out now, you fool!” – that sort of thing.  Suddenly, a young woman’s voice, slight accent, French maybe – “Ladies; please can you stop talking?  Thank you”, from across the aisle.  Meanwhile, on screen, the black hero struggled to save himself from the Obama-loving white liberals.  The ironies abound.

Keith Tyson, Turn Back Now, at Jerwood Gallery (Hastings)

Keith Tyson

Tyson’s pictures are displayed as above, in a sort of 19th century Royal Academy Exhibition way. wall to wall.  They are so varied as to defy description, except to say that many have whimsical, surreal or ironic commentary.  I liked some, for instance, the rather Festival of Britain ones in the picture above.

The permanent collection at the Jerwood, although small, contains some beautiful pieces, by Michael Ayrton, David Jones, John Wells, Barnes-Graham and others – especially Eileen Agar, who has a room to herself:

Eileen Agar – rather like Colquhoun and MacBryde, I thought

 

Agar again

 

Christopher Wood

Next week, Queer British Art at Tate Britain.  Readers in London during the next two weeks may like to visit our annual exhibition at Sprout Gallery (see below):

Western Approaches (WIP)

Blackpaint

17/04/17

 

 

Blackpaint 593 – The Fly on the Lobster and the Cold, Hard Stare

April 5, 2017

Wolfgang Tillmans – again (Tate Modern)

Second visit to Wolfie at Tate Modern and photos of some of the – photos I mentioned last time: above, the drainpipe (obviously);  below, the fly on the shellfish (appetising!) –

 

– and here, one of those huge aerial shots that are in focus throughout the range (excuse the technical inadequacy – my description I mean, not Tillman’s photo).

Additionally, you should look out for the leaden sea (Richter, Roni Horn), the blue tee shirt man and the dark disco shot.  They’re all good, really, apart maybe from the makeweight pics of his cluttered desks and the disassembled computer bits..

Drawing Biennale at  the Drawing Room until 26th April (Unit 8 Rich Estate, 46 Willow Walk. London SE1)

“Over 200 unique works on paper”, all for sale in an online auction between 12 – 26 April).  Plenty of big names (Caivano, Gormley, Hatoum, Joffe, Turk, Perry,  Kentridge, Bob & Roberta….) and an astonishingly – well, no, surprisingly –  broad definition of drawing, as if that mattered.  Writing-drawings, graph printout drawings, photo-drawings, collage drawings, painting-drawings, a woven textile drawing, even some pencil and charcoal drawings. A few pictured below:

Patti Smith of course; not a fantastic likeness really…

 

 

Once again, note how my partner has managed to incorporate her image into Gotz’ picture; clever.  An excellent show of real quality drawings, not at all just knocked out in response to a request for a small piece to be auctioned.

Here’s one of mine; not in show, but open to offers, of course…

Blackpaint

Free State of Jones, dir. Gary Ross (2016)

Gruelling chunk of American Civil War “history” – but how much is true? – in which an alliance of escaped slaves and poor whites take on the Confederate army in Mississippi.  Violent, at times inspiring, at times confused.  Matthew McConaughey has ample opportunity to do his brilliant cold, hard stare; a little less convincing when he has to do compassion.

Chaos and Night, Henry de Montherlant

Re-read this after half a century; I’d always thought of it as a comedy, this story of Celestino, an impossible old Spanish anarchist exile in Paris.  It is funny, but I’d forgotten the end, in which his death mirrors the death of the bulls he has just seen slaughtered in the ring.  He finally comes to a realisation:

“There was life, which was confused, incoherent and unstable, and then whatever exists before a man’s life and after it, which was fixed and absolute.  The loudspeaker had spoken truly: there was chaos, which was life, and night, which was whatever exists before life and after life (Chaos and Night, two characters in the divine comedy of Hesiod, whom Celestino had never read).  There was non-sense, which was life, and non-being, which was what exists before life and after it.”

So, yes, a comic novel – but with the odd unfunny bit.

Chaos and Night

Blackpaint 

5/04/17