Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Blackpaint 658 – TV Robots, Elevating Poets and the Topless Cellist

November 20, 2019

Tate Britain

This Gainsborough now on display; I’m sure I haven’t seen it before.  The structural resemblance to the famous Andrews portrait is obvious – but what about the disparity in size between the two figures?  Like one of those optical illusions you sometimes get on TV where two people are on a sofa together and one is much bigger than the other; but with those, I think, the nearer figure appears disproportionately larger – here, the woman is “closer” to the spectator…

 

Tate Modern – Nam June Paik, until 9th February 2020

Crowded, but good humoured throng; reminded me in that respect of the recent Franz West exhibition or the present Takis (see below and previous blogs).  Some items on display:  TV “Garden”, with a battery of TVs showing dancers in 60s clothes dancing to Rock around the Clock; A Buddha looking at himself on a little TV; a camera on tripod “staring” at an egg on a pedestal, as if examining it as well as filming it; robots assembled from old TVs, radios, electronic bits and pieces; Rauschenberg-like junk pieces, resembling R’s “Gluts”; batteries of TVs, showing those super-rapid pattern changes that are too fast for you to pin down visually (or maybe mentally – or both); the earnest madman Beuys, he of the fat, felt, wolves and blackboards, everywhere in films and photographs, as well as Merce Cunningham and John Cage, all three collaborators with Paik at one time or another;  the fabulous Charlotte Moorman, the “topless Cellist”, playing the back of a man (Paik?) in photos and film, along with a collection of her stage costumes; and the even more fabulous Janis Joplin on stage, in a psychedelic film shown on all four walls of the last room, along with Beuys blowing in a mike, shoals of fish, Moorman on stage, a choir of Native Americans….

 

Can you pin those images down as they flash up in front of you and disappear?  No, me neither can I…

 

That’s me on the right, while my much older friend looks on admiringly.

 

Influence of Rauschenberg?  And Beuys maybe??

 

A pair of amiable robots…

 

And another.

 

An electronic “shrine”, collaboration with Beuys, I think; Beuysian sticks and metal bowls and pots.

 

Takis, again – Tate Modern, but finished in October.

 

Even though exhibition now finished, had to put in this amazing photo of a Takis happening, in which he elevated a crash-helmeted poet with the use of magnets (or so it says in the blurb on the wall).

Another Takis piece, which provided a rare and welcome splash of colour in this tech-heavy exhibition.

Carrie, dir. Brian de Palma (1976)

This was on TV around Hallowe’en night; the brilliant Sissie Spacek shimmering in white slow motion on the stage, seconds later drenched in pig’s blood, glaring in at the horrified audience and sending the lot up in flames…  I have to say that I still went cold all over when the hand shot out of the grave and grasped the lone survivor by the wrist.  I think only “The Ring” can also do this for me now.

Some of my life studies to end with, black acrylic on paper, done with a fan brush:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint

20.11.19

 

Blackpaint 657 – Cow on Wheels, Slamming Gate, Flat Brick Skirts

November 8, 2019

Venice Biennale continued

Seems like weeks ago now – but here is the remainder of my pick:

 

Italian Pavilion

This is in the firm of a labyrinth with melted human remains at various points, as well as an artificial beach set up with deck chairs and umbrellas – and the above.

 

Peruvian Pavilion

Several billboard-size paintings like the above; indigenous peoples displayed, ironically, I assume, in leisure/glamour poses.

 

.

Uruguayan Pavilion

Great collection of little paintings and drawings, like the above.

 

Serbian Pavilion.

Contrasting paintings (colourful and snappy) and sculpture, in old Communist heroic style.

 

Belgian Pavilion.

A series of unsettling tableaux, making up a sort of asylum of demented characters like those in the picture.

 

Great Britain 

Works by Cathy Wilkes.

Assemblages and paintings, in bland, pastel shades like the above, which refer to domestic, “feminised” surroundings suggesting (to me) a sort of restricted, imprisoned existence – maybe that’s just the meaning I expect such pieces to carry.  The piece is a moulded pregnant female belly.

 

German Pavilion.

Large boulders distributed around a space divided by marked out lines on the floor, as in the picture.   Loud, whining, screaming noises.  According to the handbook, “architectural elements, sound, sculptures and installations create a space that makes the economic, political and social conflicts of the present day socially tangible…” and so on.  This is very typical of the handbook, which is strong on interpretation, but gives one very little idea of the actual nature of the exhibits.

The Greek pavilion provides another good example of this.  My diary entry reads: “GREECE – Liked this one; video of Christos and his mate making bean stew – courgettes, beans – toms? Why not?.. and some celery.  His mate preferred the chicken.  Also, thousands of upside-down jam (?) pots, crammed together on the floor, so you could walk on them.”  The handbook says:”Sounds, moving images and architectural elements dub the pavilion building with new layers of meaning: translucent and open, the past and the future coexist in a condition of active present, where the ardour of the instantaneous allows for interpretations of the past to configure in an associative and instinctive manner.”

 

 

Czech Republic.  Stanislav Kolibal

Liked this one.  Terrific geometric drawings and sculptures, some with string, some with melted ends.

 

Nordic Countries Pavilion.

Artificial tree trunks, more boulders (see Germany) and hanging sheets of vari-coloured latex “seaweed”.  It’s all to do with environment, climate change and mass extinction, obviously, I guess.

From here on, displays by single artists in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini:

 

Soham Gupta, Kolkata

 

Zhanna Kadyrova, Ukraine

 

Henry Taylor, LA

 

 

Ulrike Muller, Austrian, works in LA

 

 

Njideka Akunyili Crosby – Born Nigeria, lives and works in LA

These collages, together with the paintings of Michael Armitage (below) were my favourites in this section.

 

Nabuqi, Beijing

Cow on wheels, on track – what could be more profound?

 

This could, I suppose…Shilpa Gupta, Mumbai,

Gate slams periodically into white wall, slowly demolishing, or at least, damaging it.  Shades of Kapoor…

 

 

 

 

Three works by Michael Armitage, born in Kenya, lives and works in London and Nairobi.

Big, sometimes crudely coloured and drawn African paintings, suggestive of hand-painted posters; some with pink undercoat shining through, like Poussin (or Harold Gilman).

OK, enough with the Biennale-

 

Had to include this photograph I took last week, of the house opposite, which is having a loft installed.  Two apparently cloaked figures stand motionless behind the polythene sheets, while a yellow-clad guitarist plays his instrument at the front of the building…

 

Across the Great Divide

Blackpaint

8.11.19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 656 – Whitechapel, Venice and Houellebecq

October 23, 2019

Anna Maria Maiolino, Making Love Revolutionary, at Whitechapel Gallery until 12th January 2020

This exhibition contains many wonderful things, as does the current Venice Biennale; what readers may have realised over the years is that I’m not good at, or interested in, discovering or even having a stab at the meaning of a work of art.  It’s enough if the work pleases or interests me in itself, without explanations in reams of artspeak in catalogues or on a gallery wall.  Looking back, it seems I don’t do much more than put forward some possible similarities to other artists or works – and some of those links are pretty spurious.

And today’s blog is no different – so here are some examples of Maiolino’s work, with not much in the way of comment:

Clay, I believe , on a table.  The legs are not part of the artwork – although they improve the photo.

 

Her drawings on paper are very fine, clean and clear.

 

 

Magnets and iron filings come to mind (mine, anyway).  And black holes…

 

The spaceman has fish on a plate – and is that an otter… or beaver?

 

Several of Maiolino’s works are of this sort; paper or stiff card, cut and contained within a box-like frame, tight as a drum and sharply geometric.  Some have cords or rather threads attached in various ways.

 

Glistening piles – maybe a single joined-up tube of vari-coloured…matter, again on a table top, making a nice contrasting “book end” to the first illustration.  Anish Kapoor had several exhibits similar to this at Guggenheim Bilbao some nine years ago.  A liberating piece of work.

 

 

Venice Biennale: “May You Live in Interesting Times”

As with the last Biennale, diversity, migration, refugees are major concerns in the selection – although you wouldn’t know it from looking at many of the artworks.  The handbook is an essential guide to what somebody thinks the pieces represent, but you won’t be able to divine from it what the works actually consist of.  More of this, with examples, next blog.  Here are some of the individual contributions:

 

Tavares Strachan

This US artist is concerned with the African American contribution to the space programme; this piece is about a black astronaut who was killed in an accident, whilst training others.

 

Gabriel Rico

Coke (Pepsi?) bottle, carrot et al with light tubes.  Early Martial Raysse?

 

Yin Xiuzhen, “Trojan”

The giant figure is slumped forwards in the seat; coverings made from stretched shirts, jackets etc.

 

Martine Gutierrez

She does giant photos of herself in provocative positions with male mannequins.  Here she is, gazing – longingly? fearfully? – up from the pool at the suited and booted figure… a Houellebecq scenario, possibly (see below).

 

Cameron Jamie

These heads on sticks are inspired by the Austrian (?) Krampus legends.

 

Alexandra Bircken

Black vinyl “skins” hanging from the rafters – an obvious “Strange Fruit” reference…

 

Andra Ursuta

These “ice” sculptures are actually made from treated wax – very effective.

 

Danh Vo

Paint slapped and smeared and left to run down polished metal mirror – love this.

 

Zhanna Kadyrova

This is just a corner of a whole vegetable and meat market made from a variety of materials, from cardboard to cement.  Reminded me of Fischli and Weiss, who used to do these sort of realist assemblages made out of polystyrene mostly…

 

 

 

Michel Houellebecq, Serotonin

Just finished Houellebecq’s latest and I’m still struggling to understand why the Marxist intellectuals who make up my book group like him so much.  He’s arguably pretty, well VERY right wing (it’s not all irony, is it?), hates feminism, has absolutely nothing good to say about socialism, hates the EU, writes enthusiastically about the international sex industry, etc. etc.   He IS French however, so I suppose he appeals to the automatic anti-British leanings of many leftie intellectuals, as identified by Orwell years ago.  In Serotonin, he comes quite close to some romantic, even lyrical passages – so he offsets these with a sequence in which a German paedophile molests a young girl, apparently with her consent and for money.  That should be shocking enough, he maybe thinks, to prevent his becoming a National Treasure in France…  I wouldn’t bank on it; maybe he already is.

Two of my pictures to finish, as usual:

 

Soho Newsagent’s Window 1963 (1 and 2)

Blackpaint

October 2019

 

 

Blackpaint 655 – St. Anthony. St. Augustine and the Floating Furniture

October 12, 2019

More Lisbon – starting with the Museo de Art Antiga

Unmistakeably, Hieronymus Bosch, The Temptation of St. Anthony

 

Saint Augustine, Piero Della Francesca – I know, not obviously DF – until you notice the thousand mile gaze (below)

 

Californian, maybe?

These below are in Belem, the modern section of the Cultural Centre:

Michael Craig Martin, floating furniture – not the title, but could be…

 

Richard Serra – I think the material is graphite on paper.

Frank Stella on the wall – Anthony Caro on the floor

 

This is from the castle that overlooks Lisbon –  it’s a section of wall, but could be a painting – or sculpture.

 

Gillian Ayres, of course – but I can’t remember where it is.  The Gulbenkian, I think.  It’s a lot like that one in the Tate Britain, the one that looks like the constituent parts of a fried breakfast; in a good way, that is…

 

Also the Gulbenkian – don’t know who the (Portuguese) artist is for certain; think it’s Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso –  but quite like early Malevich, I think.

 

Back to the Antiga – also called the Museum of Discovery, by the way, just to confuse matters even more…

 

Fantin-Latour of course – fabulous hydrangeas, lovely tablecloth..

 

Just to show that even great artists have lapses of taste from time to time, I include the following two Manets:

Hmm…

 

No comment.

These next are from the Gulbenkian Museum – the first two from the modern section, the last from the Folk section:

Paula Rego – I really like her abstracts as a rule; this one a little like a Miro rendered by a young Patrick Heron?

 

Bill Woodrow – going for a stroll

 

This is from the folk art section of the Gulbenkian; it’s by Sarah Affonso, an example of the art of the Minho region.  I sort of get the impression she was on the professional end of the folk art spectrum – looks like a pretty competent piece to me.  Shades of Goncharova, I think, and Paula Rego even?

Julieta, dir Pedro Almodovar, 

This  film about guilt, unexplained disappearances and, (as often with Almodovar), incapacitated and/or comatose characters, popped up on British TV the other night.  I remember I found it reminiscent of Bunuel when I first saw it – this time, I was surprised by the ending, which I thought was different from the first time.   Then I realised I was “remembering” the ending as Bunuel would have done it, NOT Almodovar.  Almo’s ended on a note of hope and reconciliation; Bunuel’s would have ended with a further unexplained and infuriating disappearance.

Great Klimt -ish dressing gown though.

 

In a Marine Light

Blackpaint

12.10.19

 

Blackpaint 654 – St.Catherine, Cleopatra and the 27th (Penal) Panzer Regiment

September 29, 2019

Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

Continuing with galleries in Lisbon, here are some paintings from the modern(ish) section of the Gulbenkian, fantastic museum in beautiful landscaped gardens.  Again, surprising number of British artists represented.

Love this, but unfortunately, didn’t get name of artist.  Think it’s Portuguese but looks Mexican, doesn’t it?

 

Howard Hodgkin – an early one, obviously.

 

Joe Tilson – painting, sculpture, collage – or all three?

 

OK, we’re in the same museum, but a different section.

 

Museo de Art Antiga, Lisbon

Another staggering collection – or rather set of collections – to rival the V&A.  Well, resembles it, anyway.  Below, triptych, showing the martyrdom and apotheosis of St.Catherine.

God has caused the torture wheel to shatter –

 

…but unfortunately, God’s intervention was not enough to save her.  Perhaps His attention strayed…

 

But never mind; bring her up to heaven (and don’t forget the head).

 

Bronzino, the Holy Family (not sure if this is correct title).  Notice the infant Jesus’ hand, near BVM’s breast – echoes the titty tweaking in Bronzino’s better known painting below:

 

Demon’s head

 

St. Jerome by ?  Charming little picture.

 

Studio of Ribera (obviously)

We didn’t have time to go round the lot, unfortunately, but it’s a huge museum.  Particularly striking were Japanese screens, showing the arrival of the first Portuguese to arrive on Japanese shores in the 16th(?) century.  For some reason, they’d brought elephants with them, apparently.

Tate Britain – Hoyland and Ayres

There is a great pairing of two major abstract artists, very different but, like Bellany and Davie at the Newport Street Gallery recently, they complement each other wonderfully.  I think it’s the colour and the size.

Gillian Ayres – Something Blues (forget the name).  It’s about the size of the other two below.

 

 

Ayres, Phaeton – I presume the arc is the route of Phaeton’s chariot across the heavens

 

Ayres, Cleopatra – fabulous tangle of colours, each of them absolutely right, it seems to me.

 

John Hoyland – this is best viewed from across the gallery; near to, the scrapings in the dark red look a little muddy.  Same order of size as the Ayres.

 

Hoyland again – sorry, took no note of titles.

Tate Britain rehang (sort of)

They haven’t done a full rehang by any means, but I noticed a batch of new paintings in the 50s/60s sections, a few of which I’ve put in below:

This is by Mary Martin, and it grabs your attention from the neighbouring room when you see it through the arch (whoever places the pictures really knows which ones should be seen through the arches – perhaps best example is the big blue Ayres above).

The Martin is actually a long sheet – or maybe four long sheets –  of metal (aluminium?), crumpled into triangular shapes; the faces of the triangles reflect the colours of the paintings around it.

 

Keith Vaughan – great figure study, with his characteristic blue background.

Gillian Ayres again – something of Whistler’s Nocturne here, maybe (is it Nocturne?  The one that Ruskin described as a pot of paint thrown in the face, or somesuch…)  Fantastic, I call it…

 

Sven Hassel

A bit of a mood change now…

My latest reading; I see Joseph Porta as a thin Falstaff, going into battle with his flamethrower and top hat (prototype of many Satanic majesties in rock music and Gothic horror), with Tiny, Pluto, the Little Legionnaire, the Old ‘Un and Hassel himself, the anti-Nazi soldiers of the 27th Tank (Penal) Tank Regiment.  OK, it’s not great literature but it hits that late night Discovery Channel spot, beloved of British men of a certain age…

Latest Lifeys

No new paintings this time, so a couple of my life drawings to end with:

 

 

Blackpaint

29/09/19

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 653 – Belem and Burns, Lisbon and Vietnam

September 15, 2019

Centro Cultural de Belem, Portugal

Just back from Lisbon, with a plethora of images from several of the brilliant art museums in and around the city.  I’m impatient to get some of these out so there will be an absolute minimum of my usual perceptive and trenchant comment – sorry.  This museum in Belem has a collection that is so extensive that it matches the Thyssen – Bornemisza collection in Madrid.  So here goes:

Alan Davie

Belem is particularly good on British pop art, as can be seen…

 

Pauline Boty

Obvious similarities to the famous Peter Blake self portrait with badges.  Martin Gayford compares the Blake picture, interestingly, to Watteau’s “Pierrot”, in Modernists and Mavericks.

 

Alan Jones

 

Larry Rivers

Why isn’t there a Taschen or some other book on Rivers?  I love his stuff.

 

Ed Kienholz

 

 

Martial Raysse

Not well enough known in UK; ideas man, like say Richard Hamilton.

 

William Scott

Strangely Klimt-like, superficially

Willem de Kooning

Not a great one, but any DK worth a photo, I think.

 

Karel Appel

Out of order really; Kline should go follow DK – but who cares?  There was a nice Asger Jorn to go with Appel but it was too dark…

 

Franz Kline

No comment necessary – so, no comment.

 

George Vantongerloo

Deserves inclusion for the name, even if the work were no good – which it is (good, I mean).

 

Max Ernst

Again, out of place here,  but definitely the best of the extensive surrealist section.

 

James Rosenquist

 

Andy Warhol

 

Derek Boshier

Some more from Belem and from the Gulbenkian and other collections in Lisbon next blog.

The Vietnam War, Ken Burns 

I’ve been watching the repeats of this great series – finished here a week or so ago – by turns horrifying, desperately sad and infuriating (My Lai and Tet, survivors and families on all sides and the deception practised by the succession of US presidents involved).  I thought Burns did a staggering job of even-handed analysis – there are those, however, who regard even this as something of a whitewash, of the US role that is.  They would refer to “Kill Anything that Moves” by Nick Turse, a book that examines several other incidents that resemble My Lai, the body count obsession, Rolling Thunder and other special ops that, Turse contends, make atrocities appear to be routine in the US war effort in Vietnam.  Then, of course, there is Michael Herr’s classic, “Dispatches”- not an analysis but a memoir, and one which sits more squarely with the Burns view.

Computer is acting up so I am bailing out now with my latest work in prog (or lack of prog).  Tons more from Lisbon to come soon, along with Ayres, Hoyland and Blake (William, not Peter) at Tate Britain.

Unfinished, Blackpaint 15/9/19

 

 

Blackpaint 652 – Maurer, Takis, Scherjfbeck, Truffaut and co.

August 28, 2019

Dora Maurer, Tate Modern 

Hungarian artist, specialising in geometric, sometimes highly colourful designs, layering, lattices, lots of theory in the wall notes (that I didn’t read, having learnt that I forget it all pretty quick).  Have a look at the examples below:

 

These look great through the arch as you come in to the gallery – early Albert Irvin with straighter lines?

 

Touch of Hoyland in the colours here…

 

Can’t think of any comparisons, which although not compulsory, makes me faintly uneasy; like it though.

 

Takis, Tate Modern 

Greek artist, but based in London and Paris, real name Panayiotis Vassilakis, heyday in the 60s, died just a couple of weeks ago.  Leaflet describes him as a “sculptor of magnetism, light and sound”.  Exhibition kicks off with the figurines below, which are appealing and a little Giacometti -like here and there, but soon the machines clock in.  Most of them were not working when we went, but an attendant did set one going (a pendulum pointer which strikes at the centre of a resonating metal shield); don’t know if it was for our benefit or if he does it regularly – like the man who fired the Anish Kapoor wax cannon in Guggenheim Bilbao a few years back.

 

 

The contraption on the left looks like a miniature electric chair, I thought,,,

 

Lots of quite beautiful suspended metal spheres, often turning on pendulums due to magnetic forces; also machines that pluck at metal metal cords or strips to produce, unsurprisingly, metallic “music”.

 

Visual hints of Calder at times, and also of Jean Tinguely, although these devices lack the anarchic, self – destructive tendencies of some of Tinguely’s machines.  A bit lightweight, maybe, in terms of emotional freight and social relevance – which can only be good, can’t it?

 

Helene Scherjfbeck again – RA 

I did this Finnish artist in my last blog, as readers will remember, but I’ve been again since and feel that I may have failed to do the exhibition justice last time – so here are some more pictures.  These, with the exception of the first one below, are highly graphic in a sort of magazine style, and I think they are pretty good and worth a close look.

 

I love this portrait – she looks like a Russian intellectual to me, writing a leaflet for a Narodnik party, People’s Will maybe, before going off to blow up the Czar.

 

So by way of contrast, there’s her, about to attend a society wedding, maybe-

 

..or her (no ready-made scenarios spring to mind – but I like the straight forehead-nose profile)…

 

Or her – the young Mrs. Thatcher, perhaps.  Love the shadow on the neck and face.

 

Modernists and Mavericks, Martin Gayford

My favourite art book since the brilliant Walter Hopps interviews a couple of years ago.  It’s based on London painters, notably Bacon, Freud, Hockney, Auerbach, Gillian Ayres, Bridget Riley, etc,  There is absolutely no jargon (except that invented by some of the artists themselves), the doctrinal disputes are covered lucidly, it’s a compulsive read.  You will know most of the stories if you are interested in these artists, but you may not know the connections between them.  It contains some revelations for me, chiefly the almost Stalinist attitudes of one Robin Darwin, the principal of the Royal College of Art in the 60s, who seems at one point to be drawing up lists of students to expel.  Why was Frank Bowling expelled for marrying Paddy Kitchen, a college officer?

On Bowling, it explains the contents of his big picture “Mirror” as a sort of compendium of styles extant at the time; I’m off to the Tate to check it out now – well, tomorrow maybe.  I was interested to read of Bowling’s conversation with Bacon about flat plane and perspective that Bowling thinks may have led to Bacon “blanking” him subsequently.  It’s good on Gillian Ayres too.  One mystifying omission – Albert Irvin.  No mention of him – maybe he’s too abstract for Gayford?  No, can’t be – what about Riley and Ayres?

Truffaut, Antoine Doinel films

Just watched the whole set, from 400 Blows to Love on the Run.  Truffaut’s alter ego gradually loses his charm as the series progresses, but this is not true of the captivating women with whom he becomes, or fails to become involved, marries, leaves; Claude Jade, Delphine Seyrig, Marie France Pisier, Dorothee. “Mademoiselle” Hiroku.  In Love on the Run, there are flashbacks to the 400 Blows, which remind you of the remarkable magnetism of Jean-Pierre Leaud as a young boy.  Brilliant set of films.

Couple of mine to finish:

Father Time

Blue Cyclone

Blackpaint

28.08.19

 

 

 

Blackpaint 651- Annely Juda, Mary Ramsden, Helene Schjerfbeck and the Whole of South America

August 12, 2019

Annely Juda – Summer Exhibition until 30th August

A sort of retrospective of AJ artists, leaning towards geometric abstraction, I guess (see examples below) – but also figurative and sculpture; Hockney, Caro, Kossoff, Roger Ackling, et al.  A selection follows, not necessarily the best – although I like the Shiraishi red zips on grey – but giving some idea of range.

 

Alan Green – White over Red/Violet 

The title makes sense in the gallery, but not in this photo, where the subtleties of colour are lost, rather.

 

Yuko Shiraishi – Boulevard No.2

 

Sigrid Holmwood – Land of Cockaigne

Seen her work before in the Saatchi Gallery; the cartoonish quality is almost a Saatchi house style, it seems to me.  I think a faint hint of early Sigmar Polke too…

 

Leon Kossoff 

Didn’t get the title of this, but that building looks really familiar.  John Berger’s occasional correspondence with Kossoff about drawing is an interesting read.

 

Mary Ramsden at Pilar Corrias, Eastcastle Street W1

Sorry to say that this exhibition finished on 9th August (I didn’t check the dates before I went on holiday); I was so impressed with the paintings, though, that I thought it was worth uploading a few – you can always check her website.  Colours remind me a little of Mary Heillman, contents and the sort of roughness of the paint suggest Roy Oxlade maybe?  to me anyway; maybe it’s the orange coffee cup ring on the blue painting.

 

 

 

 

Urban Impulses 1959 – 2016; Latin American Photography, Photographers Gallery until 6th October 

Mostly Mexico, I think, but most other LA countries represented.  Demonstrations, police beating students, students beating police, murders, accidents, bars, transvestites, brothels, dancers, artistes, beaches, posers, posters, shopfronts, mannikins, lovers, cinemas, walls – I have avoided the sensational and given some examples of the Colombian Beatriz Jaramillo’s “Zocalo” series of vernacular architectural features.  As usual at the PG, fantastic and varied work and a thick, free booklet.

 

Not sure if these are also Jaramillo’s; they were next in line.

 

Helene Schjerfbeck: RA until 27th October

By way of total contrast to the other exhibitions I’ve mentioned is this one of the Finnish artist (Swedish speaking, according to the booklet – is that significant?), 1862 – 1946.  A range of her work  below, starting with a self – portrait of the young artist (compare it to that of the old woman portrayed in the 5th picture down, her last self-portrait, one of twenty she did in the last year of her life; actually, there’s a later drawing but the one here is the last painting).

 

Portrait of her mother; I like the light on those knuckles and fingers…

 

Nothing like the others, this one…

 

Her mother again; the blue background and the dazzling white of the open book sing out to you in a gallery full of rather – well, brown and grey pictures.

We’re in the land of Munch here, aren’t we?  I don’t mean that as a compliment.

 

Like the blue mother above, a welcome splash of colour in a drab world.  I liked the paintings for the most part and was reminded here and there of Gwen John (but also, unfortunately, of Munch).  Thirsty for colour, as well as for a beer of course, by the end of the visit.

Modernists & Mavericks; Bacon, Freud, Hockney & the London Painters.  Martin Gayford, Thames & Hudson, 2018

Buy this; it’s £12.99 well spent (has to be the book, not a Kindle version, if there IS one).  No jargon; all the famous anecdotes are there, but Gayford does a great job of putting this lot in the context of the times and of each other.  There’s a very clear discussion of just what “abstraction” can mean – about five different things, I made it – which, as the author says, is a question which kept a lot of drink-fuelled arguments going all night in the 50s and 60s.  I was astonished – no, overstated, but surprised – to read about the furore over William Gear’s “Autumn Landscape” at the Festival of Britain.

As always, a couple of new ones of mine to finish:

Before the Snow

 

Drying off

….and three others that I will be exhibiting with ArtBridge in Paris in September:

Caen

 

On the Rocks

 

Crossfire

Blackpaint

12.08.19

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 650 – White Show, Bacon and Sea Star

July 22, 2019

At the The Edge  of Things, Agnes Martin, Jo Baer and Mary Corse, Pace Gallery until 14th August

This is a very white exhibition, as can be seen from the examples below.  In the words of the booklet, these three painters “paint what we don’t yet know.  They make paintings about how the eye sees, not what it sees – altogether sidestepping the problems of illusion, illustration, even expression.  For them, a painting is not an image that says or shows us something, it’s an object that does something to us.”

Baer’s pictures have a dark blue border round them; some of Martin’s have patterning that resembles tiny bricks and one has faint, wide pastel stripes.  Mary Corse did the one immediately below.

 

 

I’m generally not a fan of minimalism, so not the target audience, perhaps – I should say however that the other visitors to the gallery there at the same time as me were very enthusiastic, as are the comments on Twitter etc. that I’ve read.

 

 

Couplings, Francis Bacon, the Gagosian Grosvenor Hill until Aug 3rd

I’m not sure I fully understand the rationale behind this exhibition – the title and the Bacon quotations cited seem to suggest that the pictures are those that involve more than one person, or entity; as Bacon says, (I paraphrase) once you have two people in a picture, you have a narrative.  One of the paintings, though, is Bacon’s famous picture of Peter Lacey, who is alone.  Who cares, though?  Great show, including some of his best figure studies (the early 50s ones are the best, for my money).

 

Is this an appropriate frame for the contents? Hmm….  Love the bedsheets.

 

Detail of the above.

 

The above picture with admirers.

 

Not keen on this one, of naked figures working on an allotment(?); I include it as an example of later work.

 

 

Bacon’s marching men, apparently unaware of the polar bear lurking on top of the glass cube….

Sorry about the levity – I am a genuine fan of Bacon and thoroughly recommend this show.

 

Sea Star, Sean Scully, the National Gallery until 11th Aug

A fabulous exhibition, free like the Bacon and the white one, based on Scully’s response to Turner’s “Evening Star”, which is also on show.  I’m not sure about the connection – but Scully’s work, as in Venice two years ago, has sections of fabulous slippery, syrupy paint applied with a looseness of brush technique.  The green square in the centre of the painting below, for instance, has a richness of brushmarks that almost makes it a painting within a painting.  I’ll stop now, before I get into Pseuds Corner country.

 

 

Sometimes, he does these inset squares in the larger picture…

 

 

 

 

A couple of details, showing the brushmarks I’m on about.

 

Bermejo, National Gallery

No photos of this, I’m afraid.  He clearly loves doing armour; a pair of soldiers in the resurrection are clad in armour that makes them look like samurai.

 

Loveless, Dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev 2017

Fascinating film.  Bourgeois Moscow couple, marriage collapsing, at each other’s throats, ignoring the suffering of their son.  He goes missing and the film shows the attempts of the voluntary organisation that searches for missing children to find him.  The police can do no more than take details; the actual searching is done by the volunteers.  In this respect, it strangely resembles a public information film – but not too much.  The sulphurous relationship of the parents keeps the focus tight.  There is a great cameo of the boy’s grandmother, a blistering, hate-filled babushka living in a rural cottage, visited by the warring couple and the volunteers, on the off chance that the boy may have fled to her – some hopes!

Some of my efforts to finish, as usual:

 

Judgement

 

Judgement (Detail)

 

Headless 1

 

Headless 2

Blackpaint

23/07/19

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 649 – RA, Valloton, Urban Art and Two Killings

July 9, 2019

RA Summer Exhibition until 12th August

Second visit to the summer show – yes, astonishing to relate, I was rejected yet again this year – but I think I have managed not to let annoyance cloud my judgement.  Several of my favourites below:  apologies to the artist who produced the collection of bizarre figures behind the tiny fence; didn’t get the name.

 

George Blacklock

 

Blacklock again – same size, I think, as the first one, despite the different sizes of the photographs.

 

Frank Bowling, one of his “crusted” pictures

 

???  Tried to think of a comparison for this one – could only come up with two possibilities, both painters:  James Ensor and John Bellany.  Well, maybe, at a stretch…

 

 

Christopher le Brun – paintings, that is; apologies to the sculptor. another one whose name I didn’t get.  The Le Bruns are better “in the flesh” than in the photo.

 

 

RA Students Exhibition – finished now, I’m afraid, but I thought these two were striking…

 

Rachel Jones

It’s all about the colour, to state the obvious.  I should point out that it’s very large, as is the picture below.

 

Lucas Dillon

Christopher Wool meets Day of the Triffids.

 

RA,  Felix Valloton, until 29th September

Swiss artist of multiple talents, member of the Nabi group; some of his paintings resemble those interiors of Vuillard, with less “surface”.  They are composed of flat areas of colour, often lit from within, sometimes verging on illustration or even cartoon; there are several paintings containing nude women – not the painting below – in which the flesh is uniformly grey/white, almost a dead quality.  In my opinion, he’s like Augustus John – that is, hugely talented, but with variable artistic taste.

 

My personal favourite; only a small work, but impressive.

 

Vuillard colours, but flat surfaces…

 

Strangely like Norman Rockwell….

 

Internal lighting – great design. like a print.

 

Still Life, which resembles William Nicholson.  It’s hard (for me, anyway) to think of a painter with more variety of styles.

A Short Film About Killing –  Kieslowski 1987

 

An hour long version of this film comprises The 5th episode of Kieslowski’s “Dekalog“, based loosely on the Ten Commandments; it’s the one. not surprisingly.  dealing with murder – both by the individual criminal and the state.  It seems clear to me that the director considers the hanging of the young killer to be somehow equivalent to the murder.  He is shown to be feckless, randomly violent, relentless, stupid; but he gets on well with children, grieves for his dead little sister and the taxi driver he murders is a sleazy character, possibly a sexual predator; the execution scene is shocking and prominence is given to the lawyer’s horror-stricken reaction and anti- hanging statements.  Nevertheless….

Interesting to compare it to the much longer “Badlands” (Malick); in the latter, the director took no moral stance towards the killer, “allowing” the events and the commentary of Sissy Spacek’s character to speak.  Of course, in neither case do we know how much truth there is in the portrayal.  Both “A Short Film” and the two volumes of “Dekalog” are available on DVD on the Artificial Eye label.

 

Urban Art, Josephine Avenue, Brixton

Sold at the weekend at Urban Art in Brixton. the three Blackpaint paintings below:

 

Storm Front

 

Colunga

 

White Line Fever 2

Another great weekend under the big trees in Brixton – well done again, Tim Sutton (organiser) and all volunteers.  This was the 18th year of Urban Art, I understand…

Blackpaint, 

8/07/19