Archive for February, 2021

Blackpaint 686 – Audrey, Grace, Louis, Bing, Frankie and Fred

February 19, 2021

Burning in the Green

Blackpaint ( oil on canvas 100X100cms)

New policy of putting up a painting at the start, so that even those who navigate away immediately can’t avoid glimpsing one.  Additionally, someone is annoyed that I don’t do materials and dimensions, so from now on, I will.

Funny Face (1957) dir Stanley Donen 

Musical starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn.  In my view, Fred and Ginger are the apex dance predators; people who know about dance go on about Cyd Charisse. Astaire’s partner in The Bandwagon – but I found her ungainly compared to Ginger; maybe the legs were just too long.  Audrey Hepburn turns in some class dances in this and a good performance of a great song – “How Long Has This Been Going On?” written by the Gershwins in 1928, but unused until this film.  I only had jazz instrumentals of this  so I’d assumed it was about someone discovering their partner was “broadening horizons” – but no.  The earnest, bookish, cerebral Hepburn has been kissed mischievously by Astaire, in one of those 50s musical moments – a sexual assault it would be now, as it no doubt was in the 50s, but nobody knew it then.  it was called “stealing a kiss”.  The kiss has made her realise that there is more to life than the philosophy of “Emphaticalism”.  Astaire, or fashion photographer”Dick Avery” as he is in this, is 30 years older than Hepburn, and looks it – but this is a musical, so suspension of belief – and Fred is as great as ever on the dance floor, proven by his unbelievable solo with the umbrella.  He should have dispensed with the big white raincoat though.  Actually, on second thoughts, he needed it for the matador bits.

High Society (1956) dir Charles Waters – and the songs by Cole Porter

Wealthy hipster Crosby brings Louis Armstrong and his band to Newport for the jazz festival he’s fronting – or is he planning to disrupt the pending wedding of his ex- wife (Grace Kelly) to a rich stuffed shirt, as they were once called?  Sinatra is there as a society reporter.

Couldn’t be made now.  Why?  the portrayal of black artists in an arguably subordinate role; only acceptable now  for the purpose of highlighting the subordination.  However, Armstrong and his fellow musicians are treated as equals at least by Crosby’s character and I don’t remember any particular embarrassments in the script; but they do perform to entertain Crosby’s house party of rich white guests.  Then again, Crosby performs with them, and he’s a superb singer, so its not a case of star black musicians having to back some white mediocrity. And Crosby introduces all the members of the band by name: Armstrong on cornet, Edmond Hall on clarinet, Trummy Young (trombone), Billy Kyle (piano),  Arvell Shaw (bass), Barrett Deems (drums).  “Now You Has Jazz” – great song, brilliant lyrics, dazzling performance by Crosby, Armstrong and the band.

Another snag might be Crosby singing “Little One” to Kelly’s young sister, the words of which play along with the girl’s fantasy of marrying Crosby.  Obviously innocent and reflecting more innocent times, I can’t see it making it into the film in our era, when “Baby it’s cold outside” is attacked for portraying sexual harrassment.

And the fantastic Sinatra-Crosby duet “Well did you evah?” – problem here might be the constant drinking before, during, and after the song, which makes alcohol look desirable and fun.  It had me dying for a drink after 5 seconds.  And smoking – Crosby sings “Samantha”, as he gets ready for the evening; he fills his cigarette case from a dispenser on the table – another nostalgic moment for me.

Crosby upfront, Louis Armstrong behind his left arm, Edmond Hall on clarinet behind his right and Trummy Young (trombone) just visible on the far left of picture.

OK, that’s the end of my obsession with PC and Cancel Culture for today – more next time, no doubt.  A few more paintings from the lockdown:

High Wire, oil and charcoal on canvas 100x100cm

Years Too Late, materials and dimensions as for High Wire


Down the Stumpy Path, materials and dimensions as for High Wire.




Blackpaint 685 – Alchemy, Paint, Excrement and Locusts

February 12, 2021

Hot Moonlight

Blackpaint 2020

I’m reverting to the idea I had a few years ago, of putting one of my paintings in at the start of a blog: that way, you get to see at least one of my efforts, even if you’ve landed here by chance and head off again immediately…  The title is stolen from the Highwaymen track, “Born and Raised in Black and White” – “Welcome Home! said the hot moonlight, We were born and raised in black and white…”

“What Painting is” by James Elkins (Routledge, NY and London, 2019)

Originally published in 1999, this book is the most idiosyncratic and fascinating book on painting I’ve ever come across,  I was astonished to find it so, because the author is “Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago” (back cover of the book).  I thought, therefore, it would be another discussion of the finished product in its various forms, historical probably, or philosophical, or both, like “What is Painting?” by Julian Bell, which I also got for Christmas.

How wrong I was.  This is about painting, not paintings – the actual process.  Elkins compares painting to alchemy, which he treats not as a pathetic and laughable attempt to “do” science before the proper subject was invented, but as a dedicated, almost heroic pursuit of the knowledge of things and properties and states – before we knew what the elements were.

It’s not wholly successful – too much alchemical detail.  But what he says about paint and painting (he painted before becoming an academic, but felt he had to give it up) rang bells for me.  Consider the following:

“…some paint is like the refuse of the studio, and some is like human waste.  In the studio, it can feel as if paint is not just reminiscent of shit, but it is shit.  The alchemists realised that excrement cannot be denied, that it has to be used.”  Hmm, yes, been there…  Or this, occasioned by a section of a painting by Francis Bacon: “A fixed element in a work, such as a dried passage where a painting is effectively finished, can be a cornerstone around which the work is constructed..”  [This can become a nuisance as the painting develops and “gathers” around it, however : ]”…The paint gathers around the one fixed spot like the nacre of a pearl around a piece of grit….The painting swirls around the fixed spot, protecting and enclosing it like a bandage.  But thought rubs against it , and it aches.”

My partner often says to me that you have to paint out the “best” bits in a painting, because they can hold you back, or force you to make the rest of the painting “fit” round them.  I suppose this is the same idea as hers.  This book is turning out to be something of a revelation to me.

The Day of the Locust, dir. John Schlesinger (1975)


I finally got round to seeing this, after a friend of mine spent an hour or so out  of the last forty years (not all at once, but in several bits), telling me how good it is.  I should have taken more notice.  It starts as a portrait of several “types” of struggling characters on the fringes of the Hollywood cinema industry in the 30s – and turns gradually into a surreal disaster film, almost a horror story.  It reminded me a little of Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished “The last Tycoon” – probably because that too had a Hollywood lot disaster (a flood).  I haven’t read the Nathanael West novel, but my friend says the film is pretty close to the book,  Karen Black, Donald Sutherland (whose character is called Homer Simpson) and William Atherton are all great.  Burgess Meredith is maybe a little exaggerated – but maybe not.  Artwork, some scenes from Goya, some hint of Marlene Dumas (but she’s later, of course, and might even have seen this) striking – but who did it?  Art Direction is by Richard Macdonald, but I guess he’s not the artist.  And I wonder why it’s called “Day of the Locust”.

I was going to write some more, but I want to publish and I’m well over my 500 words so I’ll leave it for now, with a few more of the old pictures I’ve been “revising” over the last few weeks:

Caught the Wave




Eco – Worrier



Until the next time.