Blackpaint 645 – Bellany and Davie; Skates, Bats, Donkeys and Diamonds


John Bellany and Alan Davie,  “Cradle of Magic”, Newport Street Gallery until 2nd June

A special, supplementary blog about one show, because it’s soon to close.  This brilliant free exhibition, all works owned by Damien Hirst, has been on since February, but somehow I’ve managed to miss it up to now – and there’s only ten or so days left; so if you possibly can, you need to get to Vauxhall Gardens and see this.

Both Scotsmen, Bellany died in 2013, Davie in 2014 at 94.  Bellany was figurative, Davie abstract – yet their paintings somehow go together, bounce off each other.  Maybe it’s colour, maybe brushwork (sometimes);  don’t know.  I’ve mixed them up, as they are mixed in the gallery, although not in the same order.

Bellany’s paintings, which are enigmatic, I think it’s fair to say, bring to my mind a range of painters; Ensor, perhaps, is foremost.  Skulls, masks, hanged men, groups of solemn, dark-clad men staring out at the viewer, the disconsolate skate/ray fish in the picture below; a general sort of cartoonish quality.  Both Ensor and Bellany lived in coastal towns; Ensor in Ostend, Bellany in the fishing village of Port Seton, near Edinburgh. Others: Max Beckmann, Soutine (another skate man), Arthur Boyd (his “Scapegoat” has the donkey – AND a skate fish, in the Australian desert) and Kitaj somehow, in the drawing and breadth of subject matter.

 

Bellany – Title? Date?

The skate king on his throne.  What are they, birds or bats?  Beckmann here, I think, and in Rose of Sharon below.

 

Davie – Bath Darling, 1956

Davie was a jazz musician and a pilot as well as a painter – a youtube fragment on him (Allan Paints a Picture) shows him at the piano – I think it’s “Getting Sentimental Over You” but the chords are rather free – reciting poetry at the same time, and reminding me a bit of Ron Geesin.  Unlike Geesin, he looks pretty tough as a young man, muscular and long-bearded.  He was feted in the states by the likes of Pollock, Kline and the other AbExes, and the painting below clearly shows the influence of Pollock and maybe de Kooning.  He combined the freedom of gesture (the black sweeps in the picture below, the drips and spatters above) with rich colour and a repertoire of recurring symbols (wheels, snakes, diamonds, images taken from rock pictures by indigenous people in St. Lucia, where he lived for 10 years).

Davie – Red Parrot Jay, 1960

 

Bellany – Eyemouth 1985

The look of love or hunger from the giant seagull?

 

Bellany – Rose of Sharon, 1973

The skate again.  A hint of Mexican influence here?

 

Davie – Romance for Moon and Stars, 1964

 

Davie – Trio for Bones, 1960

 

Davie – A Diamond Romance, 1964

In all three of these Davie pictures, there is the combination of rich colour, symbol and gesture – the rough and smooth elements that sometimes suggest Bacon’s work, without the figures of course, but a potent combination.  In more recent paintings (not represented here) the symbols remain but the rough gesturalism has gone – and the paintings are poorer for it, in my view.

 

Bellany – The Journey, 1989

Very reminiscent of the Boyd painting I mentioned earlier; also a touch of Kitaj in the execution.

A rather solemn portrait from (but not of) me to finish:

Man of Sorrows

Blackpaint

22.05.19

 

 

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