Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Blackpaint 629 – Venice under Water and Anni Albers at the Tate

November 2, 2018

Venice under Water

Just back from flooded Venice, where I ran the 33rd Venice Marathon with my three sons, to raise money for Myeloma UK and to celebrate, if that’s the right word,  my 70th birthday.  This year, the conditions were the worst ever, at least for us slower ones ; a blasting headwind, driving hail into one’s face for several kilometers on the long bridge over the lagoon, followed by a step into calf-deep salt water on the car-free touristy stretch.  Sloshing on to St.Mark’s Square, with some desultory jogging over the seven or eight ramps to the finish by Giardini.  The day before, we were laughing at the tourists buying blue, orange and green galoshes; the day after, my eldest son had to go out early and find four pairs for us at E20 a pair.  BUT I did spot a peregrine falcon, cruising among the gulls in the red dawn sky over the Grand Canal, on the way to the start.

What has all this to do with art, you say?  Well, not a lot, but on the Monday (a dry day- the water comes and goes quickly with the tide and the wind), we came across the following, in a silent campo with several trees and surrounded by cloisters, on the other side of the island near Ospedale, and opposite the cemetery island:

Church of St. Francesco della Vigna

Big, white austere frontage with two huge bronze(?) statues, one a Moses horned like Michelangelo’s,  looming from alcoves about halfway up the wall – it’s got the feel of an abandoned Hawksmoor church about it (it’s not, of course – it’s Palladio; and it’s not abandoned).  And there’s the cloisters and no-one about at midday, a miracle in Venice.  In the gloom inside, there are a couple of great Veroneses, Tiepolo and the Negroponte below;  a fantastic painting, and no, I’d never heard of him before.  You have to drop a 50 cent piece in a box to get lights on the pics for a minute or so, like with the Bellini in S. Zaccaria.

 

 

Holy Family with Saints Anthony Abbot, Catherine and the infant John the Baptist, Paolo Veronese

Look at those fabrics, especially Catherine’s.

 

Resurrection of Christ, Veronese

 

Virgin and Child Enthroned, Fra Antonio da Negroponte

 

Another view of the above.  Love those putti swimming about in the sky under God, and the birds at the bottom; you can just make out a duck (mallard?) on the left and a hoopoe, last but one on the right.

Anni Albers at Tate Modern

I have to admit that this is not amongst my favourite exhibitions of all time, although I acknowledge the skill involved and the quality of the textiles displayed.  It’s all a bit too brown, grey and beige for my taste (although the examples I have picked to photograph seem to contradict that – because I picked ones I liked, I suppose).

I think you can see a resemblance to Paul Klee’s work in the second example especially; the interlacing tendrils in the 4th and 5th remind me of Brice Marden’s patterns – and maybe there is even a touch of Sean Scully in the pieces in general.  I thought the bedspread was nice, but better in a furniture showroom than an art gallery.  Yes, I know about the Bauhaus ethic of producing “practical”items, teapots, plates, chairs etc – I just like Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and Joan Mitchell and the AbExes better.  No doubt, a major failure of taste and intelligence on my part, but I am an old white man, after all.

 

I really like this one.

 

But not so keen on this.

 

Crap frame.

 

An apology

First one above is blurred and I’m not sure it’s the right way up.

Trust (FX, Simon Beaufoy, Danny Boyle et al, 2018)

The US made, Simon Beaufoy version of the Getty kidnapping has to be the best thing on British TV this year.  Donald Sutherland is turning in a brilliant performance as the old man (Venice connection here – “Don’t Look Now” of course, and Fellini’s “Casanova”) Luca Marinelli, Hilary Swank.. well, they’re all terrific, as is the soundtrack, as is the camerawork and the script.  Shades of Godfather obviously, but also Fellini, I thought – or maybe the Sorrentino of “Il Divo” and “The Great Beauty”.  And there was all that hype about “the Bodyguard”…

Pictures of mine to finish with:

Rain over the Sound

 

Still Life with Milk Bottle

Blackpaint

02/11/18

 

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Blackpaint 628 – Skinned Alive in Dulwich and Striped in Hanover Square

October 21, 2018

Jusepe de Ribera, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The most effective heir to Caravaggio, Spanish painter who worked in Naples (1591 – 1652)

I’ve been looking forward to this exhibition for months, having seen fantastic de Riberas in the Prado last year; vast canvases of stretched, prostrated male bodies undergoing torture… hang on, this is becoming rather weird.  They are not actually all that gruesome and it’s the brilliant rendition (unfortunate term, but the correct one) of the human body that’s fantastic, not the torture or bloodshed.

There are only four or five large canvases in Dulwich – St.Bartholomew, about to be skinned alive (two of those, I think); Marsyas, being flayed by Apollo; St Sebastian, having his arrows pulled out by a couple of women (the women rather perfunctory – de Ribera seems more interested in men).  There is a portrait of a man holding a knife and a flayed human skin, obviously inspired by the Michelangelo self portrait on the Sistine wall.

Additionally, there are a number of beautiful little drawings, some in red chalk, that are reminiscent in style of Leonardo, but Goya immediately comes to mind; the subject matter?  Executions, tortures such as the strappado, hangings, crucifixions, facial deformations…  You can imagine the visitor to Ribera’s studio, after seeing these: “And the one you’re working on at the moment, upstairs – would that be a harbour scene or some nice flowers in a jug, with butterflies?  Oh, a flaying…”.

 

St Sebastian

The sprawling male bodies are the obvious focal point – the skin often white or greyish, grainy, rippled over the belly, livid white and scooped out by shadow in turn.  Wher the flaying is actually in progress, it is the foot or arm that is being “done” and is easy to miss.  De Ribera is also pretty hot on fabric; see the example below.

 

By coincidence, the night before going to this, I watched the film “Bone Tomahawk” (dir. S.Craig Zahler, 2015) on TV, in which cave-dwelling cannibal throwbacks scalp a living man, then upend him and chop him in two from the crutch; it seemed to make an appropriate double with Ribera.

Amy Sillman, Camden Arts Centre, Finchley Road tube

By way of slight contrast, this beautiful set of paintings and drawings, and a cartoon film in the overheated Camden Arts Centre.  Lovely big, green, pink, blue abstract canvases (see below) and cartoony characters, like the crawling, vomiting (?) creature that make their way, like Kentridge’s people and coffee pots, into the film.  The pictures have surface; sometimes hard, smooth and glazed, sometimes rough, scraped, paint in bobbles and rills.  She seems, again like Kentridge and many other artists, to have recurring images; the thing that looks like an old vinyl record pickup in “TV in Bed” below; or is it an unconscious deep sea diver, lying on his back on the sea bed and wearing flippers…

Apart from Kentridge, Guston (the pinks), Oehlen and for some reason, Marlene Dumas came to mind.

 

What the Axe Knows

 

TV in Bed

 

Slant

 

 

 

Sean Scully, “Uninsideout”, Blain/Southern, Hanover Square

For some reason, someone tweeted that Scully “should be ashamed of himself” for this exhibition…  Why?  He did stripes before and he’s doing stripes now – what’s wrong with these stripes?  Too colourful, maybe…

Anyway, they are huge; lush, syrupy sweeps of paint on aluminium supports, very painterly, with a depth of colour like those he showed in that fabulous palace in Venice, at last year’s Biennale.  Additionally, there are a couple of enormous, quilt-like assemblages with inset panels (three pictures down, below).  Downstairs, smaller works on paper in pastel.  In Scully’s handwriting, some guff about clashing colours suggesting The Clash rock band – great art doesn’t, or shouldn’t need explanation or justification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two of mine to finish with, somewhat smaller than Scully’s:

Ice Candle

Blackpaint

 

Little Crashing Out

Blackpaint

21.10.48

 

 

 

Blackpaint 627 – 20th Century Wars, Vampires and Top Shots

September 28, 2018

Cold War (dir. Pavel Pawlikowsky, 2018)

Polish film, black and white, concentrating on a love affair within a folk music collective in the early 50s.  The musical director starts to have sex with a young and talented performer and the affair deepens for both of them, as communist politics are increasingly imposed on the material and performances of the ensembles.  Folky tributes to comrade Stalin have to be performed to ensure the enterprise can continue.  MD defects in Paris, talented young performer stays.

The affair continues when she also defects a year or so later – but they row drunkenly and she swans off back to Poland in a huff.  And so it goes, through the 50s and on; can’t live apart, can’t live together.  At last, it’s resolved, in a way that recalls scenes from Bela Tarr’s “Satantango” and the end of Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”.  Not the resolution, that is, but the setting in which it takes place.

The music of the various ethnic groups heard in the film is fabulous and strange; there is some terrific jazz piano.  Sex is presumably problematic for #Me Too enthusiasts, since the girl is quite young at the beginning of the film, the man older and in a position of some authority – not that I’ve heard or read any adverse comment.  Foreign film, not lascivious, so presumably it’s OK.

Aerial Top Down Shots (cont.) –  

Tried to keep track of these as I said last time, but they are everywhere now – not only in the classy drama  and nature progs and adverts, but even in “The One Show”.  Almost obligatory.

The Night Porter (dir, Liliana Caviani, 1974)

Great transgressive film, big scandal at the time – Dirk Bogarde as a Nazi version of Aschenbach, Charlotte Rampling in braces, singing and posing for the camp guards and being rewarded with a severed head.  But even here, I find some unlikely similarities to “Cold War” (forbidden love, obsession, fascist/communist opposition to the couple, suicide).

Dracula, Bram Stoker.

Just reread this and I was surprised to find it was one of those books (Lord of the Rings, Stephen King’s “It”) where a sacred fellowship is formed to perform the impossible task of – saving the world, basically.   But,unbelievably, after losing poor Lucy to the Nosferatu and having to stake her through the heart and cut her head off to save her soul – they leave Mina to sleep alone, so that Dracula can get at her.  I see I have written “Unbelievably”…

Nevinson at British Museum, Print Room (room 90)

OK films over – now for the pictures on walls.  Nevinson was in a medical unit at or near at the front in WW1 for a few months.  He became one of the leading British war artists, along with the likes of William Orpen, and Paul Nash.  my favourites below.  the second is, of course, not a war scene, but a street in New York.  There’s a great view through a Paris window that’s just like  a Matisse…

 

 

Richard Smith at Tate Britain

This has reappeared on the wall at TB; meant to put it up last time but forgot.  I think of it as the lion’s mane.

I’ve finally done some painting again and the results are below.

 

Isthmus

 

Flayed 

 

Crashing Out

Blackpaint

28/09/18

 

 

Blackpaint 626 – Talking Pictures, Blake and his Followers – and the Demon

September 4, 2018

Talking Pictures Channel

This is worth checking every night, if you are (like me) a fan of British cinema in the 50s, 60s and 70s; three recent offerings below.  They tend to come round again in a week or two.

Live it up (dir. Lance Comfort, 1963)

Steve Marriot, later of the Small Faces, third from left, shouting at the back of Heinz Burt’s head.  A group of GPO dispatch riders form a beat group led by David Hemings and go through a set of unlikely adventures, before getting their inevitable hit.  It features Kenny Ball’s Jazzmen, Sounds Incorporated, Gene Vincent and Patsy Ann Noble.  The blond Heinz Burt of the Tornados looks, on his motorbike, rather like Sting on his scooter in the much later Quadrophenia.

Villain (dir. Michael Tuchner, 1971)

The great Richard Burton as a London gangster, clearly with a touch of Ronnie Kray.  Here he is with his boyfriend, Ian McShane.  There’s a good payroll robbery, lots of claret flying about; McShane has an interesting abstract mural over the bed in which he entertains his rich “dolly birds”, as they were known in those unenlightened days.  I remember seeing the trailer for this years ago; Burton glares at the rubberneckers as he is arrested and roars: “Who are you looking at?”  Back comes the answer from the posh voiceover: “You’re looking at the face of a villain!”  Nostalgic scenes of railway arches and wasteland around Battersea Power Station.

Night of the Demon dir.Jacques Tourneur (1957)

With the great Niall MacGinnis as Karswell the satanist (MacGinnis played Captain MacMorris in Henry V).  That’s the demon in the picture, by the way, not MacGinnis.  The film is based, loosely, on the MR James story, “Casting the Runes”.  Brilliant demon, very convincing; sure I’ve seen him on some Italian cathedral walls…

Tate Britain, Blake and followers

In the upper reaches of Tate Britain, reached through the Turner galleries, are two rooms, one devoted to William Blake, the other to various followers.  I’ve included pictures by Ceri Richards and Stanley Spencer, which I think are great and as a contrast, one of several by Cecil Collins – which are perhaps not so great.

 

Ceri Richards, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night…

That owl with the shroud looks very Graham Sutherland to me.  At first, I thought the corpse was a dead bloodhound…

 

Cecil Collins

 

Stanley Spencer, The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon (1921)

 

Elsewhere in Tate Britain – 

Ceri Richards, Two Females

Painting and collage, almost a sculpture really; by way of contrast with the one above.

 

Peter Lanyon, Wreck

A favourite of mine is now back on the wall at TB.  Noah’s Ark jumps the shark – and the red guitar.

 

Malcolm Drummond, Girl with Palmettes (1914)

Fabulous portrait by Drummond, a member of the Camden Town Group, who died in 1945.  I love those patches of pink and green on her neck and face.  Though it was a Scottish Colourist like Cadell or Fergusson at first.

 

Top Shots – 

– or top down aerial shots, as I believe they are correctly known.  These are the ones you often now get on opening credits, that once would have involved a helicopter or light plane.  Presumably drones are now used and top downs are everywhere.  Examples on British TV (although not necessarily British made): Cardinal, Wanderlust, Picnic at Hanging Rock; think I’ll count them this week.

Two pictures of mine, this week:

Bloody Glacier

 

Ochre Bolt Hole

Blackpaint

4/09/18

Blackpaint 625 Murder, Sex, Suicide and Some Lovely Cornish Scenery

August 15, 2018

Magic Realism, Tate Modern

This is an excellent exhibition. free for a start, and always interesting, though the art is not all to my taste.  The term Magic Realism has come to be associated primarily with Latin American writing and implies a sort of teeming, intensified, intoxicated hyper-realism, spilling over into surrealism at times and then reeling back.  It is characterised by exaggeration, violence, a sort of profusion or excess that goes well with jungles, dictators, extremes of every kind – think Jodorowsky as well as Marquez.  The term was coined apparently back in 20s Germany, however.

Well, it’s all here: sex murders, suicides, hanging women, prostitution, garish, lurid colours, reds, sulphurous yellows, acid greens, paint like shining varnish.  The circus is a big thing, as are nightclubs, cabarets… seems to me there is something of a spillage into the stuff of “Aftermath”.  Grosz is well represented, with his scathing, precise caricatures – he’s very hard on prostitutes, it seems to me; he treats them not as victims (unless it’s a “Lustmorder”), but as predators and exploiters of the poor.  Dix also has plenty of drawings:  ringmistresses with whips, circus cowboys and Indians tearing round on horseback.

A selection of the pictures below:

 

Albert Birkle, The Acrobat Schulz (1921)

A terrific portrait – reminds me somewhat of Wyndham-Lewis, “The Tyro” maybe, BUT-

 

Albert Birkle

-the same artist was responsible for this monstrosity of a crucifixion.

 

George Grosz, Suicide Street with Dog 

 

Rudolf Schlichter, Woman in Red Scarf

One of several excellent portraits, the best, I think.  These artists seem to favour a confrontational representation, the subject staring straight out at the viewer.

 

Max Beckmann, Woman with Fan

 

Didn’t get this artist’s name but the colours and texture are typical.

 

Lovis Corinth

This Corinth is completely different in style and execution and feel from everything else there.  By the way, that is a white tee shirt and rucksack in the foreground, not a woman in Handmaid’s Tale dress..

Mark Gatiss on John Minton: The Lost Man of Art (BBC4)

A brilliant programme on Minton, painter and illustrator of the 40s and 50s, who killed himself in 1957.  Gatiss feels that his stature was never properly recognised, partly because he was branded “illustrator” (that is, not a proper artist):  he did lots of book covers, famously Elizabeth David’s Mediterranean cookbook.  Also, like many others, he was left behind when Abstract Expressionism arrived.  His students, for example, Robyn Denny, attacked him for his inability to embrace abstraction, “action”, gesturalism, whatever you choose to call it.  Then, there was the heavy drinking (par for the course in the London art world of the time) and the homosexuality, illegal and physically dangerous in post WW2 Britain.

I was struck by how similar his more stylised representation of human figures was to other painters on the scene: Colquhoun and MacBryde, for instance, and early Prunella Clough. all friends of his.  Like Kitaj and Hockney a little later, he was also capable, however, of a naturalistic precision in his portraits, like the one of Nevill Wallace below – looks a bit like a Degas to me.  The others I show were, I think, from his Cornish sojourn and resemble in some degree Sutherland, Piper and maybe Lanyon.

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Geese Fly West

Blackpaint

August 2018

 

 

 

Blackpaint 624 – Hodgkin, Prager, Murtha and Kubrick

July 23, 2018

Howard Hodgkin at Gagosian – until 28th July only, so go now.

These are Hodgkin’s last paintings; as can be seen, there are few surprises for those familiar with his work, but absolutely no evidence of decline as far as I can see,  The colours, textures and impact are as strong as ever.  They are all oil on wood.

Bombay Afternoon, 2016

 

Love Song, 2015

Floating dots…

 

Darkness at noon, 2015-2016

I wonder if the title is anything to do with the Koestler classic.

 

I love the floating quality of many (push-pull colours) and the tracts of bare wood, and of course the way the brushstrokes wander over the frames (where there are frames).

Aftermath, Steppenwolf

Mentioned Hesse’s Steppenwolf in last but one blog;  I forgot to say that the jazz dance scenes inevitably conjure Otto Dix’s Metropolis and one or two paintings at Tate Britain’s current “Aftermath” exhibition – notably, one by William Roberts, called “The Jazz Club”, I think.

Dr Strangelove, dir. Stanley Kubrick (1964) – Chill’s last flight

Chill Wills atop his nuclear bomb

This pretty much tore up anything in the way of current “satire” on show on British TV last week and jumped up and down on it.  Sellers is unapproachable in his three roles as Strangelove, the US President and Mandrake, as is Sterling Hayden, as is George C Scott – but I found myself willing Chill on to his target, as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” played insistently in a minor key on the soundtrack.

 

Alex Prager,  and Tish Murtha at the Photographers Gallery

Prager’s large photographs are like stills from films, which is exactly what many (all?) of them are; the placid, plastic features of the girl below like something from a Hitchcock film (there is a still of a pigeon attack on another woman); struggling survivors of some sea disaster, floating in vivid green water, a helicopter’s eye view; a woman hanging in mid air from the bonnet of car.

The other type of Prager photo is the crowd scene, like the beach below.  Lots of hired actors, each performing some mundane but strangely complete task (they look posed, as they are).  In each picture (according to the notes on the PG walls) a woman seems to be anxious and apart – not sure which woman in the photo below.  Then, I went into the curtained film room and saw that many of the photos were stills.

 

Tish Murtha’s, by contrast, are all monochrome and are photos of children and teenagers amusing themselves in the cobbled streets of Elswick, Newcastle in the 70s.  Roughly dressed, jumping on to mattresses from derelict buildings, pushing younger siblings in old prams, playing street games – bulletins from a disappeared world before computer games and mobile phones.

She moved to London, and there are Soho photos of strip clubs, punters and performers, cross dressing acts; also powerful, but without the fascination of the Elswick pictures.  At times, there is a chiming with the Prager stuff – who is the rather smartly dressed teenage girl with the glamorous shoes; what is she doing?

An Elswick picture – something rather Last Supper about this image.

 

National Gallery – the early galleries

Fabulous diptych – adult Christ in Mary’s arms and green Man of Sorrows on the right.

Never seen this one before – because it’s not finished it looks modern.  Could be from Lord Leighton or a Preraph, maybe.

 

Suez Canal Zone

Blackpaint

23/718

Blackpaint 623 – Ghosts, Outsiders, Vampires and the Steppenwolf

July 8, 2018

A Ghost Story dir. David Lowery, 2017

Clear reference to “Hallowe’en” here in Casey Affleck’s sheety outfit – and maybe also Guston’s Klansmen, but that’s probably pushing it too far.  it’s basically sentimental,  as all ghost stories are (even MR James), relying as they do on some sort of continued existence after death; there are, however, a couple of moments – the Indian attack on the homesteaders and its aftermath, for instance.  The score is metallic and whining, like a lathe or drill and tends to drive the listener to madness for the first, maybe, 15 minutes.

Steppenwolf and Nausea (and the Outsider)

 

I read these two books at roughly the same time, back at the start of the 70s; recently re-read them both and was surprised at how many similarities there were.  Hesse’s novel is from 1926 and Sartre’s 12 years later; both deal with alienation from “bourgeois” society, a disgust and rejection of common values and they share a sense of apartness; the protagonists are outsiders, looking with disgust at their fellow beings,  In the case of Roquentin, Sartre’s hero, the alienation takes the form of a psychological dis-ease, in which things and people lose any meaning and seem almost to congeal in some way.

Obviously, these are just the sort of themes that students would lap up; being an outsider, contempt for the common herd,  being misunderstood, being in some sense special; we loved all that Steppenwolf stuff:  “Magic Theatre Not for Everyone”- and in Nausea: “I had dinner at the Rendez-vous des Cheminots.   Since the patronne was there, I had to fuck her, but it was really out of politeness…”  Yeah!  That’s the sort of thing we Outsiders did, or would have, given the opportunity…

I wonder if these books are still much read by today’s students.

Saatchi Gallery – Known Unknowns, until August.

Sometimes at Saatchi, you get some real pleasures in amongst these lesser-known artists.  Four of my favourites below – Mona Osman’s vampirish cartoons, colourful cowboys et al from Danny Fox, texture in abundance from Daniel Crews-Chubb and mishaps with tables and legs from Stuart Middleton.  Actually, I think Fox and Crews-Chubb might not be part of “Known Unknowns” – not sure, but they’re there anyway.

Mona Osman

 

Mona Osman

 

Danny Fox

 

Daniel Crews-Chubb.   It’s a bit de Kooning Woman, isn’t it?

 

Stuart Middleton

 

Royal Academy Summer Show

I wasn’t that impressed with this year’s summer show and my reaction was only slightly influenced by being rejected yet again.  It all seemed a bit too much like Grayson Perry-type stuff; quirky, trendy, funny, gimmicky.  There’s a portrait of Nigel Farage, for example; but it’s not very good (but it’s not supposed to be, because it’s ironic…)  It  wears thin pretty quickly for me.

RA – 250 years of Summer Show

This, on the other hand, contains some brilliant paintings, Turner, Gainsborough, John Collier’s fabulous “The Prodigal Daughter” (photo was too dark), and this beautiful Sandra Blow and the Kitaj below that:

Sandra Blow

 

The Killer-Critic Assassinated by his Widower Even, RB Kitaj (1997)

 

Enough for now – my seasonally titled piece below (for overseas readers, we in the UK are undergoing something of a heatwave).

Let the Sizzle Begin..  (Collage)

Blackpaint

8.07.17

 

 

 

Blackpaint 622 – On the Beach and the Aftermath

June 18, 2018

On Chesil Beach (dir. Dominic Cooke, 2017)

A rather slender book from Ian McEwan in 2007, this turned out to be one of his best novels.  A sort of tragedy, brought about, I had thought,  by the ridiculous secrecy and shame surrounding sex in English manners (amongst the respectable classes anyway), it concerns the catastrophic breakdown of a marriage before it even gets started.

The film, for the most part, is true to the period (1962) and the actors are brilliant, especially the central couple Florence and Edward, played by Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle. However, I left the cinema moaning that the film contained a clear suggestion that Florence’s father had abused her sexually, a suggestion which I was sure was not in the book, as was my partner.   Turns out we were both wrong – it’s there in the book, unmistakeable and not even that subtle, yet neither of us noticed it, first time round.

However, McEwan, who did the adaptation for screen himself, has added a couple of other differences; the man who hits Mather and is beaten up by Edward in retaliation, is described in the book as a rocker in a leather jacket, as is his wife/girlfriend.  In the film, they are “respectably” dressed.  This changes the message about 60s England; Mather is assaulted, for his bookish, or more likely Jewish, appearance by a man of conventional society, rather than a rebellious member of a violent sub-culture.

The other difference is that, in the book, Edward and Florence never meet again after Chesil Beach.  In the film, he attends her farewell concert a lifetime later, at the Wigmore Hall, she spots him in the audience, tears run down aged faces and the whole thing sinks into sentimental slush.  And the ageing makeup makes Edward look ridiculous, like an R.Crumb cartoon.

Aftermath (Tate Britain, to 23rd September)

It’s the aftermath of WWI; the question is, of course, when does the aftermath finish and the prelude to WWII start?  Obviously, the war memorials should be in there (fantastic bronze reliefs from Sargeant Jagger, an almost Socialist Realist maquette of a British soldier reading a letter from home and the soaring, Spencerish angel by Ernst Barlach, with Lovis Corinth’s face).  Ditto, the mutilated card players of Dix, Grosz’s precisely drawn cartoons of German amputees, profiteers and prostitutes, Beckmann’s “Night” et al.  But what about Ernst’s  “Celebes”?  Anyway, some wonderful art – my selections below:

 

Stanley Spencer, Unveiling Cookham War Memorial

I think the flanneled youths reclining on the green are war dead.

 

John Heartfield and George Grosz

Reminiscent of Picabia – or maybe even Ed Kienholz (see last blog)?

 

Kurt Schwitters

This great collage apparently demonstrates the need to reassemble the shattered pieces of post WWI Europe…

 

Georges Rouault, Face to Face

There are several more Rouaults, but the tend to have crucified Christs in them, a demerit in my view.

 

Oskar Nerlinger, Radio Mast Berlin

A striking view straight up the tower – you spot this from the preceding room through the archway; very impressive.

 

Oskar Schlemmer

I love his Bauhaus figures; there’s that great painting of the students going up the stairs…

Also numerous paintings of striking and/or marching workers, serene English countryside and serene English ladies, German pigs, a great William Roberts jazz club dance and the top bit of Epstein’s “Rock Drill”

 

Lisa Brice – Tate Britain

There’s a roomful of these at TB at the moment; that blue and red combination is really striking.  Women in various states of undress, sitting around, smoking, drinking…  She’s South African and some of her drawings (in paint) are reminiscent of Marlene Dumas.  At least one looks to be based on a William Rothenstein, which is also in TB, a couple of rooms away.

 

Tomma Abts, Serpentine Sackler Gallery

German Turner Prize winner from a few years back; sort of trompe l’oiel pictures, abstract but resembling twining metal strips, reflected light – they are all the same (small) size, which tends to be undermining when there are a lot of them together.

 

 

Per Kirkeby

He died a couple of weeks ago.   I love those huge, dark canvases he did with the blooms of colour (see below) and the credits to the von Trier film with Bjork, “Dancer in the Dark”.  In his earlier work, like the first one below, he reminds me a bit of Sigmar Polke and even Asger Jorn – but that’s probably because of the variety; books, poetry etc.

Per Kirkeby, A Youthful Trick, 1964

 

Kirkeby, Flight into Egypt, 1996

Manet 

This great self portrait (?) of Manet was on a TV prog called “Great Art” a while back – but no details were given.

On the Beach

Blackpaint

18.06.18

 

 

 

Blackpaint 621 – Abstract All the Way, Today – apart from Two Deers and Picasso

June 9, 2018

The Shape of Light, Tate Modern

An exhibition which explores the way abstract painting and abstract photography have interacted since, I guess, the teens and twenties of the last century up to today.  Consequently, it’s both huge and incomplete.  Some examples below:

 

 

 

 

I didn’t note who the painters and photographers were, but the usual suspects were there – Van Duisberg, Moholy-Nagy, Arp, Kandinsky, Brassai, Man Ray and so on.  I liked Siskind’s scratched brickwork and blistered paint and the views from the top of buildings down stairways of Moholy-Nagy.

Later sections with work by Bridget Riley et al.  Lots of rooms, lots of work and my usual problem with numerous monochrome abstract photos – the skidding eye…

 

Ed Kienholz, America My Hometown, at Blain/Southern (Hanover Square) until 14th July

Like Rauschenburg, sometimes, without the paint swatches mostly, and with a rougher sense of humour.  The exhibition “traces Kienholz’s formative years (1954 – 1967)” says the sheet.

The Little Eagle Rock Incident (1958)

 

The Nativity (1961)

A Gift for a Baby (1962)

The American Way, II (1960)

Kienholz, once resident in the back of the legendary Ferus Gallery, and an associate of Walter Hopps (read Hopps’ memoir as an antidote to the usual art BS), drove a pick up truck with “Expert” blazoned on the side, got his material from scrapyards, made scandalous tableaux (“Hoerengracht” for instance) and was buried – when dead, of course –  in his car.  Fabulous stuff.  See also the film “The Cool School”, about Kienholz, Hoppe, Irving Blum and the Ferus Gallery.

Downstairs at Blain/Southern is Erika Nissinen, a Finnish artist whose work is not easily describable, but is grotesque, funny and requires a visit.

Transcendental Accidents (The Aalto Natives) 2017-18

 

Surface Work – Women Artists at Victoria Miro Mayfair until 16th June – so hurry.

The sheet describes this as an “international, cross-generational exhibition” which is “a celebration of women artists who have shaped and transformed…..the language and definition of abstract painting.”  Others on show include Krasner, Hedda Sterne, Agnes Martin, Lygia Clark. Prunella Clough and loads more.  The Frankenthaler and the Thomas are not typical – there is Constructivist, minimalist, and geometric pieces too.

Helen Frankenthaler – Winter Figure with Black Overhead (1959)

Alma Thomas – Untitled (1961)

Picasso 1932, Tate Modern – yet again + stages of Guernica

I’ve been again, and I thought it might be worth mentioning that there is only one of the 1932 paintings, as far as I can see – or maybe one and a half – in which the central image is not defined by a heavy black or dark line.  No doubt this is because he wanted to establish the image ASAP, fix it so to speak, and get on with the next image looming up in his brain – who knows?  Anyway, it’s this one:

Sorry, rather fuzzy image.

I’ve just been looking at “Dora Maar, with and without Picasso” by Mary Ann Caws (Thames and Hudson, 2000).  In it is a series of photos of the stages of “Guernica”.  I was interested to see that Picasso originally had a long, muscular, worker-victim’s arm with clenched fist, thrusting straight up, slightly left of centre, where the screaming horse’s head is now.  The horse is arguably the most memorable feature of the painting, so he made the right decision.  With the fist, the painting would have been corny propaganda, like those awful peace things he did in the 50’s, with flute-playing rustics wandering about.  It’s still propaganda, but great.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos (2017)

More epater les bourgeois, like The Square – but horrible.  It contains a sequence in which Colin Farrell, blindfolded, spins with a rifle in the midst of his bound and gagged family, and fires randomly…

The set-up of the plot strangely echoes that of the recent ITV serial “Trauma”, with Adrian Lester as a surgeon who is harried by the father of a youth he has operated on, but who died in surgery.  The father discovers the surgeon had been drinking.  In this film, the pursuer is son not father, but in other respects, oddly similar.  Supposedly “venomously funny”, according to the Telegraph.

 

Ghost Geese fly West

Blackpaint

09.06.18

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 620 – Signorelli, Picasso and the Ape in the Museum

May 26, 2018

National Gallery

A new Signorelli, someone up a ladder, probably related to a Crucifixion.  This one’s good, but I have to say, I wasn’t keen on his other big ones – a visit of the Magi and a Circumcision.  The first has one of the worst baby Jesuses I’ve ever seen (and I’ve listed several in previous blogs).  I think Signorelli is much better doing his murals of writhing, fighting demons in his cartoon-like style, like those in Orvieto, for instance.

 

Yes, it’s definitely a baby…

That’s more like it, Luca…

In addition to Signorelli, we were looking at the painting by “Follower of Georgione” and the one by G himself and it struck me that the texture and detail involved reminded me a little of Richard Dadd’s “Fairy Feller’s Masterstroke”.  Fanciful, I know, but then I got another blast of Dadd from the Altdorfer – I think it was the legs of the man on the right…

Follower of Giorgione

Altdorfer

Finally,the big Perugino and the Mond Crucifixion by Raphael, the one with the sun and moon with faces: surely both P and R were using the same model for Mary?

The Square, dir. Ruben Ostlund (2017)

From the director of Force Majeure, this repeats the motif of a smug, liberal, bourgeois male who commits a disgraceful act.  In FM, it was running away from an avalanche, leaving his family; in this film, the guilty man posts accusing letters through all the doors in a block of flats, knowing that his stolen phone and the thieves are in one – but which one?  It has unfortunate consequences for a young boy in one apartment.

The erring male is an art museum director and the scene above is a performance staged at the museum by an actor who imitates an ape.  Of course, he goes too far and begins an assault on a female guest that looks as if it will turn into rape if uninterrupted.  Eventually, one of the suited guests tries to pull him off and the others  join in, punching and kicking.  Funny, and reminiscent of Bunuel, Festen, and maybe Airplane, a little.  Not sure what point, if any, was being made here, however.  Those Swedes, though – they do love to “epater les bourgeois”, don’t they?

More Picasso

As promised last time, some more pictures from the Picasso Year 1932 exhibition at Tate Modern.  Some of them are in hideous frames, so I’ve cropped them out.

Inflatable ladies playing at beachball.

 

One of an impressive Crucifixion series, recalling both Grunewald and Goya’s Disasters of War.

 

This looks like a beautiful flower from across the gallery; pretty good close up too, except that the breasts resemble the eyes of a frightened ghost…

 

Bit of a horror image – her face looks like a stylised Otto Dix trench corpse…

 

Unusual for Picasso (that sounds odd in itself), in that there are no hard lines around the various components of the image.  Great little painting.

 

Continental Drift

Blackpaint

26.5.18