Archive for October, 2022

Blackpaint 707 – Branch Line

October 15, 2022

Room 20 at Tate Britain contains an exhibition called “Sixty Years; An Unfinished Conversation”. At first, I assumed it was to do with Black History Month; the first few pictures, photos and films I looked at were the work of artists with an Afro – Caribbean heritage. Then I saw there were others with a South Asian background and then a huge and familiar painting by RB Kitaj (see below).

This puzzled me, so I looked for an explanation in the info on the walls – got no help there, probably looked in the wrong places. Did the usual, photographed the ones that struck me and evenyually looked it up online at home. It turns out that its to do with diasporas (diasporae?) and is related to the work done by Stuart Hall on this theme. it seeks to demonstrate that artists of given heritages interact and are not (or should not be) trapped, as it were, into fixed, “approved” frameworks. I’m thinking of Frank Bowling and Winston Branch, for example, bucking the notion that abstraction somehow is not “appropriate” for a black artist – that it avoids confrontation with injustice, does not contribute to “the struggle”. OK, I’m probably putting this really badly, so here are some pictures with superficial comments, much safer ground for me.

Claudette Johnson – Standing Figure with African Masks.

Love her sardonic expression. Obvious comment on Picasso and the European fetish for “Primitive Art” (masks etc.) What’s that thing like a black rubber dart the wrong way round, hanging from the single breast of the figure facing her?

Faisal Abdu’Allah – I Wanna Kill Sam Cause He Aint My Mother Fuckin’ Uncle

I was interested to know if these were real gang members posing as themselves or possibly models, posed by Abdu’Allah. The title implies they are American; I think all the others were created or photographed in the UK?

This great photo is by James Barnor. Mike Eghan at Picadilly Circus, London (1967).

It reminds me so much of the photos by William Caxton of American jazz musicians, reproduced in “Jazz Life”, one of those massive Taschen tomes, published some years ago. There’s another photo of Eghan, where he seems to be in a recording or broadcasting studio.

Sonia Boyce, Missionary Position 11 – Love the title…. Ghost of me taking photo on the glass, I’m afraid. Who is the missionary here? Red dress on the right, I guess…

Michael Armitage, Day of Judgement – There’s a riot going on. This picture is massive: I walked back into the wall behind, trying to get it all in.

RB Kitaj, The Wedding (1989 – 93) That’s Hockney, partially obscured by Kitaj, the figure wearing the yarmulka.

Winston Branch, Zachary 11 (1982) – I took my pathetic title from this painting, which is my particular favourite of the paintings in the show. In this month’s Tate Etc. magazine, Rianna Jade Parker says this about it: “…a painting which embodies a move in his practice from figuration towards “an abstraction inspired by nature” ” : I’d say he’d got there.

A free show and a good one, not to be missed.

Art Now: Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings: “Tulips” until January 2023

Also at Tate Britain is this show of six fresco paintings and a drawing. To quote the artists in Tate Etc., “Fresco is the practice of painting with pigment mixed with water onto freshly laid lime plaster…-as we do it – on wooden panels.” It’s “horribly difficult” because of the speed required and “hideously technical”.

The subject matter is the continual struggle over public space in British cities between the authoritarian forces of order (symbolised by tulips, orderly and upstanding in their traditional beds in public parks and gardens) and the unregimented ranks of Joe Public, in his more or less respectable forms.

Below, some examples: didn’t note the titles, I’m afraid.

That little timbered building looks a lot like the one in Soho Square. Probably not…

Some of mine to end with. They should be in an exhibition called “Light” in Sprout Gallery in November.