Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Blackpaint 610 – French migrants, Polish exiles and the Hole in the Ceiling

November 20, 2017

The Impressionists in London (Tate Britain, until May 2018)

Strange exhibition, since a lot of these pictures – I’m not sure about the sculptures – don’t seem to be Impressionist at all.  The idea behind it is to showcase the French artists in exile in England after the fall of the Paris Commune and the massacres and oppression that followed it.  The booklet points out that there were no restrictions placed on these migrants and no quibbles over refugee or economic migrant status; apparently, there were no restrictions or limits on migration to Britain at the time – anyone could come.

There are a lot of pictures that are rather familiar from the Tate’s permanent collection; most of the Tissots and some Pissaros (Norwood, Sydenham) I’m sure have been moved downstairs.  The Tissots, for my money, are the most enjoyable but they are surely not “impressionist”, if that means passing effects of light and shade and all that; they look more like Millais, doing Singer Sargent subject matter.  The Whistler bridges and Monet’s series of Parliament in the last room, I think, are actually badly served by being all lumped together; great on their own, all together – too much.

Tissot

Also of interest, the Fantin-Latour double portrait; again, not impressionistic, more like Clausen or maybe Repin.  There is  social realist picture by an Italian (didn’t get the name) of loafers on a bridge under an orange sky – and the roomful of Derains at the end is great.

Fantin-Latour

Melancholia, a Sebald Variation (Inigo Rooms, Somerset House until 10th December)

The main piece in this exhibition is a 54 minute film by a Dutch artist, Guido Van der Werve.  It interweaves three elements: the first is the artist swimming, cycling and running the equivalent of three triathlons, being the distance between Chopin’s heart (in Poland) and the rest of him (in Paris).   he kicks off playing the piano in a Polish church, wearing a wet suit, while a choir sings a rather beautiful, melancholic piece.  Off he goes, into the river, and some rather beautiful but surely speeded-up film of him swimming.  He continues, at intervals, switching to bike and then running, leaving his wet suit and then bike with a waiting woman…

But I’m telling the story!  Enough.  The other elements are 1. Sites relating to Alexander the Great’s career, and 2. More musical interludes, in which orchestras are revealed playing in a house and by a canal.  Dada-ish things happen; a man walks past on fire and dives into the canal  and glass smashes, explosions happen…  It’s about exile (Chopin, Alexander) it seems; “a melancholy meditation on the theme of not being able to return home”, the booklet says.

The Dada stuff threw me for a while, since humour is not something I readily associate with WG Sebald.  And indeed, there is none elsewhere in the exhibition, which contains work by Durer (of course), George Shaw, Tess Jaray, Dexter Dalwood, Anselm Kiefer and others, as well as Sebald’s own darkened, enigmatic photograph collection.  The theme is melancholy and whether it is an “unproductive form of mourning” or a spur to creativity.

Kabakovs again (Tate Modern until 28th Jan 2018)

 

It occurs to me that there is a similarity between Sebald’s use of photographs etc. in his books and the Ilya Kabakov exhibit “Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album” in the current show at TM.  You walk through a series of dimly-lit rooms, with pages of a scrapbook pasted to the walls; blurry photos of pastoral scenes with memoirs of his mother in Russian and English.  At first, you try to read them but you soon give up – the light’s too dim.  It’s all about the nostalgia of the photos and the atmosphere.

Incidentally, the first time I visited this exhibition, I looked at “The Man who Flew into Space from his Apartment” and completely missed the catapult and the hole in the ceiling.  It was pretty crowded in there, but still…

 

Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi

I’ve more to say, but will save it for next time.  But I think that Leonardo is a Luini (as it was originally though to be).  It’s just not good enough for Leo.  Then again, great painters often do crap Christs; Veronese, for instance.  Maybe it’s some sort of cosmic dread, or maybe the Church stopped them being too human with Christ’s face.

Next time, Soviet posters, October (Eisenstein) and Walter Hopps.

Firestorm

Blackpaint

20/11/17

 

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Blackpaint 609 – Soutine, Kabakovs, Green Penis Man and Giant Cloth Moths

November 7, 2017

Soutine at the Courtauld: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys (until 21st January)

A great exhibition of Soutine’s colourful, wonky portraits that are so individual I’m hard-pressed to do my usual spurious comparisons.  Although maybe one or two remind me a little of Max Beckmann… and the ghost of Bacon is hovering about here and there.  I like that shoulder disparity below and, of course, the sticking-out ears, echoing the fall of the chef’s hat.  The sumptious blue of the background in the first portrait is worth mentioning too – Soutine uses it a lot.  He was a favourite of de Kooning; maybe some similarities there?

 

 

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at Tate Modern: Not Everyone will be Taken into the Future (until 28th Jan)

Also one to see.  Ten rooms of the most varied works:  paintings, wooden model “theatres” that you peer into through little windows, full-size, re-constructed rooms full of artifacts, a winding, half-lit corridor, along which you walk trying to read the captions to the old photographs, led on by the voice of Ilya K himself, humming and crooning old Russian songs from somewhere ahead (Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album), 1990) – and the rear end of a train (the exhibition title piece, 2001).  The exhibition requires you to read the brief captions by the pieces to make sense of some; I don’t normally like doing that, preferring the visuals to do the work, but it’s worth doing here, to get the context of the Soviet setting.

The main tone is set by memory, nostalgia and fairly gentle satire; see the painting below, with its layer of torn, floating fragments, as well as the “Labyrinth” corridor.

My favourite piece is the model “Where is Our Place?” (2002 – 2017);  I missed the giant legs and feet completely until I read the caption.  Some of the paintings have a slightly Peter Doig feel to them (probably the “Snow” ones in Room 7) and the attachment of a severed arm to one item – I forget the reason given – recalled the current Jasper Johns show at the RA; very superficial connection,  I admit.

Ilya Kabakov was never imprisoned or persecuted under the Soviet regime, but showed only to “a close circle of artists and intellectuals”.  He married Emilia in 1992, after emigrating to the States.  It is not clear to me what Emilia’s contribution is – most of the pieces appear to be Ilya’s.

Venice Biennale (on until 26th November)

This year, the theme of the Biennale is “Viva Arte Viva”, a suitably Fellini-esque title for the often staggeringly pretentious pieces on show at the various sites.  This year’s theme is “The Journey”.  I quote from the Short Guide: “Along the journey of the Exhibition’s itinerary, the artists encounter each other; they draw near to, or distance themselves from one another, according to the affinities manifested in the impulses and stimuli which move them, in the challenges they must face, or in the practices they have chosen to follow”.  As far as I can make out, this means that some are like each other and some are not.  To give an idea of some of the pieces on display, I reproduce a few of the notes I jotted down as we went round the Giardini:

  • Huge fat blonde disco video (Divine?)
  • Eskimo paintings (Pootoobok)
  • Snow monkey video
  • Green penis man (Uriburu)
  • Trainer plant lattice
  • Hexagonal quartz pillars
  • Giant cloth moths

Plenty of variety, with the usual dubious connections made in the blurb(s):  migration, refugees, threatened ethnicity, climate change…  Below, three of the best from the national pavilions:

Frank Walter, Antigua and Barbuda Pavilion

“Outsider” painter (brilliant) and sculptor (not so good); lived latter part of his life in an isolated shack/studio, no power or running water, churning out the most vivid and exciting pieces on discarded and improvised supports, like old boxes of photographic equipment.  A couple of examples below – his colours are really piercing.

 

 

Geta Bratescu, Romanian Pavilion

This woman, now in her 90s, we knew from an exhibition at Tate Liverpool a couple of years ago – but there, the artworks were nearly all cloth pieces.  This time, her very varied graphic styles (she has at least three) are on display, ranging from the fiendishly detailed and accurate hands and mouth below to animated cartoon style.

 

 

 

Mark Bradford, US Pavilion

Interesting American artist who works on a giant scale, layering and tearing, scraping and sanding at his multi-coloured placards of paintings.  This huge downward bulge of a work requires you (or me, anyway) to stoop low as you enter the pavilion.

This giant head, if that’s what it is, reminds me a little of a Guston made out of Weetabix, or maybe shown on a giant TV with the reception breaking up.  Fizzing with energy.

Nothing completed by me recently, so best I can do is this work in “progress”.

Work in Progress

Blackpaint

5/11/17

Blackpaint 608 – Blade Runner, Blue Lamp, Johns, Dali and Duchamp

October 20, 2017

Jasper Johns 2 (RA)

Second selection from the Johns show at the Royal Academy.  It’s nearly as good as the Rauschenberg at Tate Modern a while ago; the Rausch had the edge for inventiveness and variety, but only just.  I love the splashy colours, the encaustic (waxy surfaces) and the combinations, like Rauschenberg’s – see below:

Johns, Field Painting, 1963-4

Neon light at the top – reminds me of Martial Raysse at the Pompidou a couple of years ago.   I wonder who did it first – probably came up with it independently and simultaneously.

 

Johns, Watchman, 1964

For a while, he liked sticking limbs on paintings; see the spotty arms below.  I think the chair raises “Watchman” aesthetically, though.

 

Johns, Perilous Night, 1982

 

Johns, Green Angel, 1990

Beginning to resemble Sigmar Polke a bit, in this one – but then, Polke was always really hard to categorize too.

 

Dali/ Duchamp (RA)

This is also on at the RA and so is Matisse in the Studio still – so a pretty good selection at the moment.  Dali/Duchamp, however, is thin and tendentious; what’s the connection?  As far as I can see, it is that they were close friends for a long time.  The fact that they are so different as artists is put forward as a further justification for a joint show – very different, but so friendly, there must be something interesting there…

Anyway, the R.Mutt urinal is there, as is the lobster telephone, the moustachio’d Mona Lisa and other old friends; also, the usual contrived “surreal” Dali paintings, like the one below.  I think Orwell got him about right in his essay “Benefit of Clergy”, back in the 40s.

.

Dali, Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach (1938)

 

Duchamp, The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes (1912)

 

The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, even.

(Duchamp 1915 – 23, reconstructed by Richard Hamilton)

 

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

Since I am in a dismissive mood, I might as well do this, as it has been roundly praised by all the critics I’ve read.  Not a patch on the original; it lacks the kinetic energy and whirling colour of Scott’s film and I found myself checking my watch about 40 minutes in.  There’s a crap Bond-type blind villain trying to create the perfect cross-over android (I think – attention strayed at this point)  There’s an entertaining blitzing battle in a scrapyard – but I’m sure I’ve seen something similar in a “Star Wars” somewhere or other.  There is dust and gloom and red haze (like last week here in London on Ophelia day – dust from the Sahara and smoke from Portuguese forest fires, apparently).

Strangely, towards the end, I felt the director thought it was taking too long to resolve; we were suddenly in small fighting rocket ships shooting at each other, just like the original Star Wars and then in a hand-to-hand fight to the death in a craft filling with water – so that was the reason for those earlier spectacular shots of the dam…  What is true of the film is that it is truly Dick-like in the ramifications of the story; much more coherent than Dick, in fact.  I’ve said elsewhere in this blog that Dick has great ideas and writes brilliant short stories, but his novels are all over the place.

The Blue Lamp (Basil Dearden, 1950)

This popped up on TV the other night and for the first time, I stayed with it, and was glad that I did.  First, it was a beautiful, clear, clean print, sharp and sparkling, as if made yesterday.  The story was tight and mostly credible and there was a great car chase around Ladbroke Grove, police bells ringing, schoolgirls crossing the road as the police car screams round the corner.  It was out of a past that felt very distant; the villains, the sweaty Bogarde and his mate spud (Patric Doonan) use a music hall appearance by Tessie O’Shea as an alibi for the robbery and shooting of PC Dixon; scruffy, dirty kids in long shorts and hand me downs play in the streets and by a canal.  Everyone  (adult) smokes, there are horses pulling various vehicles, there are real bomb sites.  Bogarde (Tom Riley, the shooter) looks like a desperado from an Italian neo-realist picture, with his mop of unruly hair and shabby sweater.

I wrote “mostly credible”; it went into fantasy a little way in the White City dog stadium sequence.  When the petty villains and tic-tac men (google it) join with the police in the search for Riley and signal his whereabouts in the stadium, I was reminded of Fritz Lang’s “M”, in which the hapless (and also sweaty) child killer Peter Lorre is hunted down and put on trial by the underworld; at least, I think that’s what happens – it’s hard to see through the cigarette smoke.

Did you notice the rhyming title?  Slick, eh?  Oh well, please yourselves…

Ophelia

Blackpaint

19/10/17

 

 

 

Blackpaint 607 – Dream Homebase, Queer Tate

October 2, 2017

Jasper Johns, RA

Unsurprisingly, the best art show in town (apart from the magical Holbeins at the NPG).  It doesn’t quite have the impact and variety of the recent Rauschenberg at TM, but maybe it suffers a bit by coming after.  I’ll be going again, probably several times, so below are just a few of the delights on display. They are mostly of one type, the splashy, multi coloured early ones.  In addition, there are (of course) the flags and targets; the metal beer cans, torches, paintbrushes, spectacles; the combinations (broom, severed, spotted arm, piece of wire); the several-panelled pieces combining paint and silkscreen, again, like Rauschenberg.  Anyway, I shall return…

 

 

Painting with Two Balls, 1960

 

No (I think); note the wire structure attached, hard to see in this photo, reminiscent of Rauschenberg.

 

Rachel Whiteread, Tate Britain

This is like a visit in a dream to Homebase; or no, more a building supplies warehouse, Jewsons maybe?  Doors and windows and little model houses made of mauve, orange or green resins; fireplaces and bathtubs and mattresses made of moulded concrete or plaster or plastics; a little group of moulded hot water bottles in pastel-shaded plaster; great piles of shuttering, is it? in white concrete; also in white concrete, a central block of upside-down stairs.  There is a block of resin in the exact shade of those cider ice lollies you used to get, that lost their colour as you sucked on them and some intriguing dark grey moulded (actually, pretty much everything is moulded) plaques made from papier-machee, “spattered” with primary colour.  A selection of her rather delicate drawings and plans down at the far end of the warehouse.

 

Queer Tate Britain

The Queer Art exhibition is still on at TB; I notice that there are now a series of toilet options, a development perhaps related to the show .  The old male and female (though indicated by picture, I think, rather than the somewhat brutal categorising terms I have used) and two “Non-gendered” options.  These last also have pictures of wheelchairs, so it may be that they have always been there and I never noticed them; I am sure the non-gender descriptions are new, though.

Also, there is a sketchbook on sale, entitled “Erotic Fantasies” or some such, by the great Keith Vaughan.  These are not stylised, Tom of Finland-type cartoons, but naturalistic depictions of  various sex acts between males.  I would say “realistic”, but the equipment on display in the drawings is rather small…  Good to see that TB isn’t afraid to sell gay porn; maybe they think the quality of the drawings is justification (maybe it is).

Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre Room

This is a brilliant, quiet bit of the museum, top of the stairs and through the darkened jewellery room; videos, miniature stage sets, posters, costumes – Fred Astaire must have been really short, judging by the tails he wore in “Shall We Dance?” – puppets, memorabilia.  Some images below, including my favourite poster for “Bartholomew Fair” and the poster that provided title and characters for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, from the Sergeant Pepper album.

 

 

While there, see the fantastic tapestries next door, and the Turner and Constable oil sketches in another adjacent room – much better than many of their more elaborate “worked-up” paintings in ornate gold-leaf frames.

 

Constable

 

Sluice Biennial

This art fair is taking place at various venues (a container block tower, underneath arches) around Hackney Central.  It ends tomorrow.  I was struck by those paintings which were representational in some way – they looked to be strongly influenced by one or more of the following: George Condo, Luc Tuymans and William Sasnal.  Maybe a little bit of Ryan Mosley too.  This seems to be a common matrix of influences these days; at the Saatchi Gallery, for example.

Two new ones of mine, to finish with:

Bridge

Blackpaint

Green Split

Blackpaint

02/10/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 606 – St.Ives now, Matisse, Bigelow, Donleavy

September 18, 2017

Penwith Gallery, St. Ives

We went all the way to Cornwall to visit Tate St. Ives, only to find that the gallery is being rebuilt and is closed until 14th October.  Still, a few nice things at the Penwith in town:

Karen McEndoo

 

KM again

 

David Moore

I like this prone figure study, a little like Tracey Emin’s drawings at first glance.  Generally, you could see the unmistakeable influence of 60s St. Ives painters immediately – Lanyon, Roger Hilton, Paul Feiler, Terry Frost (there were several Andrew Frost paintings and prints, not that he is particularly like his father) – but some nice stuff, nevertheless.  Everyone’s influenced by someone and these are pretty good influences…

JP Donleavy

 

A fulsome obituary in the Guardian last week mentioned Donleavy’s hatred of feminism and skill at boxing, as well as praising his “comic” novel “The Ginger Man”, comparing Donleavy to Joyce (!), and perpetuating the view of Dangerfield, the protagonist, as a sort of roguish, charming ne’er do well, a hard-drinking broth of a boy.  It failed to comment on the scenes in which Dangerfield beats up his wife and threatens and assaults a girlfriend.  I found these scenes shocking when I recently re-read the book after 40-odd years, although I don’t recall them from my first reading – shows how sensibilities have changed, maybe.  Still, I was surprised that no-one on the vigilant Guardian staff commented, and that no readers wrote in.  See also Blackpaint 596 and 589.

Zero Dark Thirty, dir. Kathryn Bigelow (2012)

I sat up until nearly 3.00am, watching this riveting film about the finding and killing of Bin Laden.  I was not surprised at its gripping force –  after all, Bigelow made “Point Break” and “The Hurt Locker” – nor at the lack of moral commentary.  The torture scenes prompted no soul-searching on the part of Maya, Jessica Chastain’s heroine, or anyone else; it was part of the job in hand.  I recalled scenes from Pontecorvo’s “Battle for Algiers” (1966), in which Algerians were tortured with electric shocks and blow torches; Pontecorvo’s Mathieu, the French para commander, asked critical journalists: “Must France remain in Algeria?  Then you must accept these methods” – or words to that effect.  Then again, Pontecorvo was a Marxist; Bigelow’s politics I’m not sure about, but I’d guess somewhere around Clint Eastwood.

Matisse in the Studio, RA (until 12th November)

I saw this weeks ago, but didn’t get round to doing it; it’s got some of the actual objects that Matisse depicted in his paintings, chairs, figures and so on, next to the paintings themselves.  Couldn’t take photos and don’t remember much (except that the paintings and sculptures were great, of course) so I’ll just copy the notes I made at the time:

  • The chair one – with the chair.
  • The red/gold prone figure – with the figure.
  • The Italian Woman – that one with the cut away left shoulder (viewer’s left)
  • The portrait of the woman with the black shaping “guidelines”.  Apart from the woman below, the reader will have to search these out on the net – or go to the exhibition, of course.

The Italian Woman

Two of mine to end with –

Wood before the Yat

 

Rough Flower

Blackpaint

18.09.17

 

Blackpaint 605 – Naked in the Woods, Slaughter in the Deserts

September 4, 2017

Playground Structure  (Blain Southern Gallery, Hanover Square W1. until 16th September)

Nice exhibition of abstract painters – and one photographer, Jeff Wall – with little to connect them, beyond the fact that they all use a form of grid structure and play around with it, subverting it in various ways.  The exception is again Wall, whose large photograph is of a climbing frame in a suburban park.  For me, the most interesting is Joan Snyder, two of whose works are below.  BS have a great catalogue of Snyder’s stuff, but it’s for display only and I haven’t yet found a copy for sale.  Ed Moses is here too – two of his masking tape pieces, a watercolour and an ink and graphite drawing on paper.

New Squares, Joan Snyder 2015

 

Snyder, Untitled, 1969

 

Gregory Crewdson, Cathedral of the Pines, Photographers Gallery until 8th October

Crewdson photographic scenarios that resemble film stills; you are often looking for a narrative – what’s going on here, why is there a police car parked under the trees, what are these two women doing, waiting outside a hut in the forest?  Often, the question is, why are they half naked or clad only in a dirty slip, gazing into a mirror or out of a window?  The pensive down -dressing is one motif here; others are forest, thick snow, brown wooden interiors, an air of decaying melancholy and sometimes menace.  They resemble film stills, but also rather flat, super-realist paintings.  For comparison, the painter George Shaw occurred to me; also Sally Mann. and maybe a touch of David Lynch…    Worth a visit.

I think this one is titled “Haircut”.

 

BP Portrait Prize, NPG

Interesting this year to see some of the influences in this year’s Turtle Burners’ prize (as well as the astounding technical skill on display, as always):  I saw obvious and several evidence of Lucian Freud, one Stanley Spencer, one Bomberg and one Elisabeth Peyton.  I admired greatly the prize-winning little portrait below.

Gabi, by Henry Christian – Slain

 

Fahrelnissa Zeid, Tate Modern until 8th Ocober

This is on in the new bit of the TM, second level.  She was a Turkish woman, “born into an elite Ottoman family”,  married an Iraqi prince, who was ambassador to Germany, as well as sometime regent of his country.  She was mainly active from the 40s through to the 60s, following abstract styles as shown below, before, oddly,  returning to portraiture.  Who else has done this?  I suppose Malevich (political pressure played a part there though) – maybe Bomberg and Guston too, although not to portraiture really – abstract to figurative, though.  Having mentioned Bomberg,  I thought there was a passing, superficial resemblance in the splintered, multicoloured patterns to Bomberg’s pre -WW1 pictures “Jiu- Jitsu” and “the Baths”.

 

 

 

 

Other new Tate Stuff

Some new work that has shown up in the regular galleries since my last visit:

“Disparates – A little night music”

This drawing by Peter de Francia has obvious echoes of Beckmann’s “Night” and Grosz’s work in general – maybe a touch of Rego too?

 

An assembly by Germaine Richier – echoes of Wifredo Lam.

 

Il Topo (Alexander Jodorowsky, 1970)

 

I’ve finally got hold of this cult movie, championed by John Lennon and kept off the screens for years by Allen Klein.  It’s in a box set with “Fando y Lis” and “The Holy Mountain” and, inexplicably, separate CDs of the musical scores;  padding really.

“Topo” is a quest picture, set in the Mexican  (?) deserts, a lone, black leather-clad gunman with his young (naked) son behind him on the horse.  He soon dumps and apparently forgets him and picks up a couple of beautiful women – one he rescues from a murderous bandit “general”, the other just appears – and embarks on a mission to find several other top gun hands and kill them.  Bloody massacres, throat cutting, castration, whipping, amputees, dwarfs, lynchings and at the end, a suicide obviously inspired by the monks in Vietnam.  But it’s not all fun – there’s a spiritual dimension too.

Aware, as I occasionally am, that criticism is more than just listing possible influences and resemblances, I nevertheless feel compelled to do so – so here goes:

Bunuel, especially Simon of the Desert:  Pasolini (Oedipus Rex, Matthew and the surprisingly sweet soundtrack – music plays a big part in Paso’s films, unlike those of the deaf Bunuel); spaghetti westerns, of course; The Wild Bunch; Toshiro Mifune in Sanjuro etc.; Freaks.  And Fellini, Jodorowsky’s acknowledged maestro. ” Fando” and “Holy Mountain” I’ll deal with next time.

 

Storm Front

Blackpaint

4/09/17

Blackpaint 604 – Holbein, Debussy, Sargent and Mrs Robinson

August 22, 2017

The Encounter, NPG

This is an absolutely stunning little exhibition of Renaissance drawings that should be seen by everyone interested in portraiture, and the reason is Holbein.  Leonardo, Durer, Pontormo,  Rembrandt are there too and some of the works (Pontormo, Rembrandt,  Caracci) are brilliant but the Holbeins are supreme.   Just line and a little sparing colour, but they tremble with life.  I thought, looking at them, that you could walk outside and see these faces adorning the people passing down Charing Cross Road – something that I didn’t get from any of the other masterworks on show.

 

Holbein, John More (son of Sir Thomas) –  could be checking his phone for messages…

Annibale Caracci’s drawings are also something of a revelation, while not in the same class as the wizard Holbein.  I’ll be going again.

The Graduate, Mike Nichols (1967)

I bought the DVD (50th anniversary release), only to find it was all over the TV this week.  Like everyone else of my age, I seem to have seen a bit here, another bit there – the frogman suit, the frantic chase to the church – but never the whole thing, from beginning to end.  A joyful experience to see it through, the perfect soundtrack – but, like my friends, I had an odd feeling that something was missing.  Surely, when Benjamin (Hoffman) was trying to locate the church where Katherine Ross was getting married, he went to at least one wrong location before he found it?  Three of us watched it and thought the same thing, independently…

It was reviewed or mentioned in the Guardian recently; I think it was Peter Bradshaw – he (if it WAS he) made a big deal of Mrs Robinson (Ann Bancroft, above) being a “sexual predator”.  Maybe so, but I can’t see Hoffman’s character having suffered any damage from the predation; rather the opposite.

Chris Ofili, Weaving Magic, National Gallery

The Ofili – designed giant tapestry below, featuring a very Japanese – looking, seated musician, playing a stringed instrument in a colourful, fanciful, slightly Disney-ish paradise.  I liked the tapestry and some of the preparatory, or related small drawings (below).

Chris Ofili

 

Singer Sargent watercolours, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Lots of people raving about these; I have to say, I was rather underwhelmed.  They are very accomplished, of course,  and there are some beauties: a couple of Boudin-like little beachscapes,  lovely rendition of Venetian statuary and architectural features and three brilliant male nudes at the end.  Also, I loved the oxen, the alligator and the Scottish soldiers.  However, I thought on the whole, it was somehow drab.  It reminded me of painting by numbers.  Probably it’s the subject matter – harbours, gondolas, a Spanish dancer (I think – maybe there just should have been one), pebbles beneath a fast-flowing river.  You can’t blame him retrospectively for cliches, I suppose.  I much prefer the Sargent of the huge oil portraits, the glowing women in their glowing dresses – his Mrs Robinsons (Mrs. Agnew, for example).

Ken Russell’s Monitor programmes

Oliver Reed as an actor playing Debussy, with Annette Robertson as Gaby

The Delius one – Song of Summer – still by far the best, but the Debussy, with Oliver Reed, playing an actor, playing Debussy, has its moments too.  Russell had to do it like this because the BBC, at the time, didn’t allow documentaries in which actors represented real people and spoke dialogue.  In his earlier “Elgar”, Russell had actors playing Elgar and his wife, but it was a sort of dumbshow with a voice-over (Huw Wheldon).  Sounds ridiculous now, but at least the BBC worried about these things, which are sort of important.  How many times do you see “fact-based” programmes now and think hang on – did that really happen?  Anyway, things soon changed, probably because of Ken, so we got the brilliant Delius and all the other strictly factual composer biopics he made subsequently.

Meant to do Matisse at the RA, but think I’ll go again and do it next time.

 

Three Score and Ten

Blackpaint

22/08/17

Blackpaint 603 – RA Summer Show, Black Power, Dunkirk

August 14, 2017

Nathalie Du Pasquier, Pace Gallery

 

This finished a week ago, but I thought it was worth including.  She does these LEGO type paintings, with odd inconsistencies in perspective that remind me a little of Duccio and a little of Escher.  I like the colours too; they make good photos – but after a while, strike you as a bit superficial.  But then, so do many (most?)artists…

RA Summer Show

Didn’t get in again – next year, I’m going to adopt my friend Chris Grice’s strategy, and just burn a £50 note on the entry day, to avoid the hassle of filling in the form.  My pick of the paintings below:

 

Arthur Neal

 

Christine Stark

 

Dan Perfect

 

Sean Scully

Apart from these, the usual suspects in evidence: Barbara Rae, Gillian Ayres, Basil Beattie, Elaine Cooper (she put it together this year), Michael CraigMartin, doing their usual thing.

Soul of a Nation – Art in the Age of Black Power (Tate Modern)

On first viewing, I paid too much attention to the propaganda stuff – the Black Panther posters, the work inspired by “the struggle”… some of it’s good; “Fred Hampton’s Door”, for instance, or Noah Purifoy’s “Watts Riot” (see below) – but I was put off, rather, by the partisan information on the walls.  Whoever wrote this seems happy to describe the killing of Panthers by the police as “murder” (without the quotation marks).  As I recall, the Panthers were an armed revolutionary group – indeed, they made a fetish of their weaponry and pseudo-military organisation – and included a number of convicted violent criminals in their membership.  Maybe the Tate has used the term only where it’s been legally proven – or maybe, as with the “Queer” exhibition, they are going with the radicals…

Anyway, on second viewing, much worthwhile art, my pick below:

David LaRue Johnson, D9 Flat 5th

The one on the left, wee bit Barnett Newman, maybe…

 

Betye Saar

she does these little “shrine” pieces, rather like Cornell, maybe, or that chap in Barcelona, what was his name?

Noah Purifoy, Watts Riot

Found piece, obviously…

 

John Outerbridge, Tribal Piece

 

Raymond Saunders, Jack Johnson

Reminiscent of Nathan Oliviera’s figures.

Also good are Romare Bearden‘s distorted photographic collages and the apocalyptic “American People Series #20:Die”, by Faith Ringgold – it has the energy of “Guernica”.

Dunkirk (dir. Leslie Norman, 1958)

After seeing the Nolan film, I thought I’d check out the original Dunkirk; it stands up really well and several scenes seem to “pre – echo” Nolan’s.  This one puts the evacuation in a wider context, switching between France and England.  John Mills is great as the corporal, reluctant leader of his little band of left-behinds and Richard Attenborough does his usual sound job as the selfish civvie businessman, turned reluctant hero.  “Reluctance” could be the theme – if it weren’t for Bernard Lee, stiffening the spines in the saloon bar and down at Sheerness…

It’s praying that does for Bernard Lee – the Stuka attacks while they are on their knees.

Sorry, rather brief and jejune, this week.  A new painting though…  Next time, Matisse at the RA and “The Encounter” at the NPG.

 

Merrie England

Blackpaint

14/08/17

 

 

 

Blackpaint 602- Surreal Women, Spitfires and Sandymount Strand

August 1, 2017

Dreamers Awake, White Cube 

Fifty Surrealist women – or rather, their works – on display at the Bermondsey gallery.  Big names here; Lee Miller, Bourgeois, Carrington, Tanning, Agar, Fini et al.  The earliest dated work is Lee Miller’s ” Untitled (Severed breast from radical surgery in a place setting 1 & 2)”, from 1929. Lots of the usual surrealist stuff; nakedness, masks, flowers used as masks (Linder Sterling in particular, her very provocatively posed women wearing huge blooms over various parts), sculptures of anatomical bits (Helen Chadwick’s ribbed courgette pricks with fur collars, entitled “I Thee Wed”, a series of cloths printed with archival dyes by Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin, which resemble Marlene Dumas’ “porn” pictures – big human- shaped blots of colour with sexual appendages and forthright titles (When my cunt stopped living; A million ways to cum), conglomerations of white biomorphic shapes with limbs and, inevitably, penises emerging here and there.

All great stuff, of course, but two artists in particular I enjoyed:  firstly, Nevine Mahmoud, with this luscious split peach of a sculpture, which looks like alabaster, but is listed as calcite, marble and steel –

 

Miss Her (Peach), Nevine Mahmoud, 2017 – see also her “Bosom”, which is a breast in pink and ice alabaster –

and Shana Moulton, with this video display piece.  A wriggling woman trapped or framed in a sort of display cabinet, various anatomical bits, most notably a big hand with a talking face on the palm, to the right and on the floor.  The cabinet transforms into a bath and fills with water, the woman turning into a Bonnard nude with touches of Klimt in the surround.  Very funny; loved it.

My Life as an INFJ, Shana Moulton, 2015 – 2016

INFJ?  Any ideas?

 

Dunkirk, dir. Christopher Nolan (2017)

Very loud and “intense” (the word that everyone who has seen it uses); the explosions and bullet strikes as stunning as “Private Ryan”, but the horrors far more muted, for the 12 certificate, maybe – I was surprised to see two young children with their mother in front of me.  The performances were strangely stilted, in the case of the older characters, especially Branagh – as if delivering immortal words at all times.  The throttling-back seemed appropriate in the case of Mark Rylance – quiet and thoughtful, gentle heroism sort of thing.

Bit too much “nick-of-time”ism, maybe; the cockpit, the stuck wheels, the multiple escapes from sinking ships; I wondered if based on personal accounts, strung together.  The scene where the soldier wakes on the Mole and is hurried onto the last boat with the officers struck me as someone’s personal anecdote.

Although I love and revere it, I could have done without the chords from “Nimrod”, designed to tickle the tear ducts (unsuccessfully, I’m proud to say).  The beautiful, tiny Spitfires are the absolute stars of the film, despite the controversy about their numbers over the beaches; I hope they weren’t CGI…

On balance, good, but not as good, I think, as the portrayal of Dunkirk in “Atonement”- much as it pains me to praise anything to do with Ian McEwan, after his recent pronouncements.  Great to see a straight, patriotic British film at this time though; I wonder if it will escape criticism for “Anglocentrism” or some such…

Ulysses, dir. Joseph Strick (1967)

I’ve finally finished Finnegans Wake, so I thought I’d go back to the easy one.  I got up to the scene in the Ormond and  decided to check the film out again to see what a job Strick had made of it – the answer is, not half bad at all.  You won’t know what’s going on if you haven’t read the novel; there are great chunks missing (the library sequence, the cabman’s hut) but Night Town is good, especially Bella Cohen’s, and some of the casting is brilliant.  Milo O’Shea will always be Bloom for me; Barbara Jefford as Molly looks wrong at first but grows into it; Joe Lynch is just right as Blazes Boylan and Martin Dempsey as Simon Dedalus too.  TP McKenna’s Buck Mulligan is spot on and Maurice Roeves, again, like Jefford, looks wrong at first, but convinces you in the end.  And Sandymount Strand looks great (shot by the great Wolfgang Suschitsky) so keep your eyes open…

Bill Viola (again)

In the last blog, I did Viola at the Guggenheim, Bilbao; I knew this piece reminded me of something – it’s this Panther paperback cover from the early 60s.

 

Viola

Panther Paperback Cover

Haven’t done much big abstract stuff lately, so two old ones to finish with:

Water Engine 2

 

Eastertide

Blackpaint

1/08/17

Blackpaint 601 – Monkey, Mask, Milk, Water and Blood

July 19, 2017

Sorry about the break in transmission; I have been on my hols, including Guggenheim Bilbao as per usual.

Bilbao Guggenheim, Pierre Huyghe

Untitled (Human Mask)

Video art.  Film of the little girl above, living in isolation in a decaying house, dead moths stuck to the window panes, cockroaches exploring the floors – but hang on, she’s got furry arms and legs, long feet and claws.  It’s not a girl, but a monkey or lemur in a mask and a dress – although I find it’s almost impossible to think of it as anything but a little girl, the actions and bearing and responses being so apparently human.

It’s apparent that “she” is in the Far East, from the labels on the food tins and packets in the kitchen; outside, there is an indistinct female voice from a muffled loudspeaker – the word “nuclear” is just audible, and gives the game away.  When the camera ventures outside, we see that it’s an abandoned modern town, maybe Fukushima after the earthquake (and tsunami and nuclear disaster).

The caption on the wall mentioned the tradition of the mask in Noh plays, implying that Huyghe was referring to that, but the layers of meaning are no doubt multiple and I do not venture there, for fear of pretention creeping in.

Bilbao Guggenheim, Bill Viola

No such problems with Bill Viola (a whole floor at Gugg., for a retrospective); he deals with the big stuff, birth, death, resurrection, communication.  He likes slow motion, women and girls in long dresses, falling liquids, close-ups of newborn babies, hosts of silent people threading slowly between the trees of silent woods….

Inverted Birth

At first, it looked like Bruce Willis in some diehard sequence; first water, then milk (or blood, or mud – can’t remember the order) pouring down on him, then reversing and pouring up…

 

The Greeting

Women communicating deeply, touching, smiling – as women do…

 

Three Women

Women and girl; long dresses, water showering down.

OK, I must confess to being faintly irritated by the portentous atmosphere and especially by the film about ageing and death – “Looking for Immortality”, I think it’s called, , where the naked old man and the naked old woman intertwine and explore their limbs and lines with pencil torches – bit too close to home.

Tommy, dir. Ken Russell (1975)

Never seen this before, despite being an ardent Russell fan as readers will know.  I was surprised at how coherent the story was (not credible, but coherent; I had a vague impression that Pete Townsend had written a bunch of great songs and sort of strung a flimsy story around them, but no.  Highlights for me are Oliver Reed at his sweatiest and sleaziest as the Ted stepfather and of course, Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie (suggesting, faintly, Alfred E Neumann in the old “Mad” magazine).  And Ann-Margret in the bath of baked beans.

There’s a scene where Tommy is undergoing “treatment” involving his eyeballs being fixed open, while he is restrained in a chair – straight out of Clockwork Orange.

Portraits and Life Drawings

Haven’t done much abstract painting the last few weeks, so three lifeys to end with;

Monica

 

Susie on the bench

 

Long Lie

Blackpaint

19/07/17