Archive for the ‘Painting, Traditional, Modern and Abstract, Conceptual art’ Category

Blackpaint 687 – Ersters, Hooks, Samurai and a Cockroach

March 14, 2021

The Last Canvas, 100 x 100cm


To start with, some films I have seen recently – though they are hardly recent:

Cover Girl dir Charles Vidor, 1944

Great musical with Rita Hayward, Gene Kelly and the brilliant Phil Silvers, later justly famous as Sergeant Ernie Bilko, but in this, one of the dancers.  The main one really, nicknamed The Genius.  Well, he’s a pretty good dancer – who knew? as irritating people now say…  Pretty standard story ; Kelly runs a dance troupe and is carrying on a romance with Hayworth.  She wins a cover girl contest for a major magazine – will she leave Kelly for the big time and fall for the rich suitor?  That’s the bare bones, it’s more complex – but not much more.

Stand -out dance routine is where Kelly dances with his reflection in shop windows.

There’s also a number involving all three, Hayworth, Kelly and Silvers, during which they run into a policeman and saunter away sheepishly – just as Kelly does years later in “Singin’ in the Rain”, when he’s jumping in puddles and the law shows up.

One other thing ; slightly older readers might know a song – I think it’s Astaire and Rogers in “Shall We Dance?”, the roller skate routine – titled  “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”.  It’s about how you pronounce words differently and there’s a line that goes “I  order “oysters” and you order “ersters”…  I’ve always wondered about that – whoever said “ersters”??  Well, the man who runs the oyster bar in “Cover Girl” does – he says Joysey for Jersey and ersters for oysters.  So is that where its from?  No – because Astaire and Rogers were singing in 1937.  turns out to be New York accent, probably disappeared now.  Possible connection between the two is Ira Gershwin, who wrote the song lyrics and who also wrote the songs for “Cover Girl”, with Jerome Kern.  Stand – out song from “Cover Girl is “Long Ago and Far Away”.

Hellraiser, dir and writer Clive Barker, 1987


I think this is the most gruesome and wince-inducing film I’ve ever seen, and there’s some very enthusiastic sex in it, inextricably entwined with the constant horrible violence.  I enjoyed it greatly.  Claire Higgins conceives an irresistible longing for her husband’s brother, leading her to daydream of being attended by him as she lies on her wedding dress.  The problem is that he has no skin, it having been ripped off by hooks at the hands of the Cenobites, demons (or angels) of sado-masochistic extremity.  Only fresh blood can restore his body.

You’d think she’d be put off on discovering this – but no.  She picks up men to bring back to him, and assists in killing them.  Anyway, that’s enough plot – the most memorable scene (apart from the sex) is near the end; “Jesus Wept”, remarks Frank, newly recaptured by the Cenobites and in the process of losing his skin to the hooks for the second time.  Double bill with “Cover Girl”, possibly?

 Seven Samurai, dir Akiro Kurosawa, 1954

From the ridiculous (but enjoyable) to the sublime.  Long film, and I remembered it as great, but thought I might be put off by the constant guttural shouting involved, always at close range and into faces – but no.  It’s deeply moving and Toshiro Mifune is spellbinding as the loud, irascible, oafish farmer’s son, who wants to be a samurai.  He grunts and shouts and ridicules and bullies the farmers, but comes good when the fighting starts, even though he lacks the discipline of the “real” samurai.  For me, he’s up there with Marcello Mastroianni in Fellini’s films (although it’s hard to think of two actors with less in common).

The star samurai has to be Kyuzo (below).  Did you see him move?  No – well, why is that man dead?

Back to painting, to finish with:

The Way That Light Works

Two photos of one of my paintings, called “Leaving the Stage”.  One was taken under artificial light at midnight, the other in the garden on a chilly mid afternoon.  Look how different they are!

Midnight Inside

Afternoon outside

I know which one I prefer…


La Cucuracha

Yes, I know it looks more like a cockerel than a cockroach (and not much like either) – but I like the name.


14th March 2021

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

February 19, 2021

Burning in the Green

Blackpaint ( oil on canvas 100X100cms)

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

Funny Face (1957) dir Stanley Donen 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High Wire, oil and charcoal on canvas 100x100cm

Years Too Late, materials and dimensions as for High Wire


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




Blackpaint 685 – Alchemy, Paint, Excrement and Locusts

February 12, 2021

Hot Moonlight

Blackpaint 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Caught the Wave




Eco – Worrier



Until the next time.



Blackpaint 684 – Psychopaths, Severed Ears, Alchemists – and Art

January 21, 2021

Ice Lines, Blackpaint


Crazy, not Insane – Sky Documentary (dir. Alex Gibney)

Ted Bundy and Arthur Shawcross

Staggering programme about Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a psychiatrist who has interviewed and analysed a number of America’s worst serial killers – are there any that are not all that bad? – including Arthur Shawcross and Theodore “Ted” Bundy.  She seems prone to finding that these persons are often in the grip of “multiple personality disorder”; that is, when they kill, it is some malign other personality that takes them over (and is therefore responsible for the crimes).  The doc contains film of her with Shawcross, who is “taken over” during the interview; it appears to me that Lewis must be one of the most gullible people on the planet, to be fooled by Shawcross’s pathetic charade.  Reminds me of James Randi, the conjuror and illusionist, who died recently ;he said repeatedly that he loved doing his stunts before scientists because they were the easiest people to fool.

Journey into Darkness – John Douglas

Read this book as an antidote to the above.  Douglas,  one of the founders of criminal profiling, and author of “Mindhunter” has unequaled experience of these types of murderers – Kemper, Manson, Bundy, Wayne Williams, dozens more – and demolishes the “multiple personality” nonsense roundly (in the case of multiple killers who develop these traits AFTER arrest and sometimes trial, that is)..  He makes an unanswerable case for the reform of the US legal system to render justice to the victims’ families, specifically in the area of multiple and/or specious appeals against executions.

Blue Velvet  (David Lynch, 1986) 

I finally got round to seeing this;  I expected a dream-like atmosphere and some difficulty in comprehending the plot – and yes, both expectations fulfilled –  but not TOO baffling.   The violence – Isabella Rosselini gets hit by Dennis Hopper’s psychopath, Frank Booth, several times – is nasty, but nowhere near as horrifying as that in, say, “The Killer Inside Me”.  The dream thing is exemplified for me in the exchange between Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) and Laura Dern’s policeman father, when Jeffrey shows him what he has found in the meadows; “Why yes,” says the policeman, “you’re right – it IS a human ear”… as if it were an interesting fungus species.

Great ending shot of a clearly mechanical bird with a large (mechanical?) insect in its bill, against the saturated colours of a suburban American garden.

I was going to write, the only Lynch film I understood all the way through was “Eraserhead” – although that’s wrong, because he did “the Elephant Man” and “The Straight Story ” too.  And “Wild at Heart”…

What Painting Is, James Elkins (Routledge 2019)

Back to art.  I was bought two art books for Christmas with these pleasingly symmetrical titles:  “What is Painting?” by Julian Bell and “What Painting Is”, by James Elkins.  The first is a fascinating, but reasonably conventional work on art history – more next time.  The second, by a professor of art history from Chicago, is a real surprise, to say the least.  It gets right down into the paint on the canvas, the marks, the pigments, the process.  The comparison is with alchemy and he goes into the subject in great detail.  I thought “Oh no, this is going to be tedious” – but I was wrong.  Elkins loves to be down in the sludge with the alchemists, trying to extract and separate; but then he’s there with Jackson Pollock, with the domestic enamels, hairs, cigarette ends, describing Pollock’s characteristic marks in detail.  Highly recommended.

New Paintings (and one collage)

Finally, I’ve got round to doing some work again – mostly re-working old pictures, with oil over acrylic.  Some examples below and at the top:


Catch the Wave


Swe Dea (Collage)

Happy New Year – no irony intended


21st January 2021



Blackpaint 683 – Michelangelo: Animals, Trees, Colours and Tits

December 11, 2020

Modern English

Forgot this one last blog – “At this moment in time…”

Why not “Now”?


Michelangelo’s Animals

“I’m an admirer of Michelangelo’s representations of animals, none more than the mighty fish flanking Jonah on the Sistine Ceiling.”: (Martin Gayford, the RA Magazine, winter 2020).

I’m an admirer of Martin Gayford’s writing on art, especially his great book “Modernists and Mavericks”, second only, in my view,  to “The Dream Colony”, the book of Walter Hopps interviews.  Gayford’s book is really interesting in its examination of the links between London artists of the 60s.  Brilliant book, marred  by the omission of Albert Irvin, surely a very important London painter.

I find this remark about Michelangelo’s animals puzzling, however.  Offhand, I couldn’t think of any animals M had actually done, apart from the odd snake.  A few years back, I did several blogs on the theme  “Michelangelo doesn’t do trees”(see Blackpaint 112)  This was in response to a report that someone, a German expert I think, was proposing a” Sermon on the Mount” as a previously unacknowledged Michelangelo.  The painting portrayed a heavily wooded mountain top; I showed, I believe, that M never painted trees, and if this was by M, it was the only one he’d ever done that included trees (apart from a couple of dead ones and the tree of knowledge in Garden of Eden – see below).

Just for fun, then, I’ve researched Michelangelo’s animals to see what Gayford means, and if his portrayals are anything special.  Results below:


Here’s the image that Gayford cites above.  It’s like a big trout, sucking at Jonah’s left thigh.  Sort of colourless; reminds me of those Billy Bass talking fish.


Here’s Paul on Malta(?), struggling with a serpent.



Here’s another serpent, this time handing Eve the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Not really an animal, is it?  More of a woman, really.  As for the tree, this is about as complete and leafy a tree as Michelangelo ever painted.  It looks as if the serpent has interrupted Eve in some activity…


Here’s Minos, with yet another snake attacking his penis.  Michelangelo gave Minos the face of Biagio, an old enemy.  He doesn’t look too bothered. does he?


Here’s Noah and his sons, sacrificing rams in thanks to God for the survival of the Ark  There’s a touch of Wallis and Gromit about the cow’s face; I think it’s the eyes.  I’ve noticed that in some medieval paintings, usually horses.


Tityan attacked by an eagle.  feathers and neck are rather odd..


Ganymede being abducted by the same bird, by the looks of it.


Looks like a Barn Owl on a tomb.  Face looks accurate; not sure about the legs.



Two versions of Phaeton tumbling from his chariot as it falls; contortions of the horses are great.


Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  Horse is OK but not stunning…


Couple more mounts at the crucifixion of Peter (off picture to the right).  Again, OK but stiff and nothing special.


A very pithy critique offered by Alan Bennett, through the words of a character in “The History Boys” (I think the James Corden character):  “Michelangelo doesn’t do women, Miss – he does men with tits.”  Spot on, at least for the sculpture above.  there’s the owl again, under her/his leg.

Another great insight from Waldemar Januszczak; he talks about Michelangelo’s “Opal Fruit colours” with regard to the Sistine ceiling.  Spot on, again.

That’s pretty much it.  I don’t think Michelangelo’s animals are anything special;  His trees are almost non-existent; his landscapes are arid, rocky, desert-like, featureless.  What he is rather good at is the human body, especially the (naked) male body.

A couple of my figure drawings/paintings below, Definitely NOT offered for comparison  with those above.

Rising in the Mist


Seated in the Dream Studio






Blackpaint 682 – Sex, Art, Stoats and Greenfinches

December 1, 2020

Grimsditch and the stoat – HS2

I was dismayed to hear on the TV that Grimsditch Wood on the Ridgeway path has been destroyed by the HS2 bandwagon.  I remember walking the Grimsditch stretch in the middle of the night 30 and more years ago – lines of huge trees closely enclosing the path, tangles of bramble and ground elder behind the trees.  Very Blair Witch.  In the daylight, I was confronted by a stoat, rearing up to face me, threatening my left calf; then it turned and streaked off.  Now, if the reports are correct, it’s gone,


Those terms and phrases…

Grown up, as in “We want a proper grown-up discussion about this…”.  In other words, I’ll tell you what I think and you can be grown-up and agree with me – or disagree, if you insist on being childish.

On a daily basis.  Why not just “Every day…”?

So..  as in the start to every answer to a question in a formal situation.  It used to mean “as a consequence”…

We are where we are / It is what it is…  No we aren’t and no it isn’t.


Circles and Squares, The Lives and Art of the Hampstead Modernists,  Caroline Maclean (Bloomsbury 2020)

I think I wrote about this fascinating book last time, but more staggering facts about these various groups reveal themselves, or rather Maclean reveals them, as I read on:  for example, Eileen Agar was sent on a steam ship from Buenos Aires to school in England by her mother – who sent a cow and an orchestra with her, for her dairy and musical requirements.  There is a photo of Herbert Read in the book; “What a drip he looks,” I thought.  On the next page, I was shamed to discover  that he won the Military Cross AND a DSO on the Western Front.  In 1937, at the time of the Surrealist Exhibition in London, Roland Penrose invited a group of artists to Lambe Creek in Cornwall; it sounds as if it was a veritable shagfest; Agar was there, as was Lee Miller, Eluard and Nusch, Man Ray, Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst.  Miller and Agar danced naked in the headlights of Herbert Read’s car.

There  also many interesting facts about art…



On Sunday, I had a slight stroke and as a consequence, spent an afternoon, a night and the next day in the Stroke Unit of St George’s Hospital in Tooting (London).  I had a full complement of tests: Covid (ouch! that nostril probe); ECG (twice); CT scan; MRSA; chest Xray; Echo heart scan; MRI brain and neck scan; numerous tests for neural or brain damage from a team of physios.  I’ve probably forgotten a few.  The staff were friendly, respectful, efficient and attentive, despite the obvious demands of their jobs.

In addition, I got a chicken and sweetcorn sandwich, a chicken stew dinner, cheese and biscuits, porridge, tea and coffee.  And a bag of medication.  And when I left, I hadn’t parted with a penny.

The most interesting test was the MRI scan; you are laid out on a metal stretcher with your head contained in a sort of frame and with a plate over your face so that you don’t move.  Your head is then rolled into a huge drum (the rest of your body goes with it, I’m pleased to say) and a series of very loud electronic sounds bombard your (protected) ears for about 10 minutes.  The sounds are just like those in a video game – and, oddly, like the song of a greenfinch, played through a huge amplifier.


Some new and old paintings to finish:


Pink Leg


Inside Out


Black Storm


Rear View


Seated Green and Pink




Gone in the Dark





Blackpaint 681 – Ena and Betty, Kim and Solomon – and Obscurities

November 6, 2020

Singer Sargent – The Masterworks by Stephanie L Herdrich (Rizzoli/Electra)

Finally, someone has bought me this great book on Singer Sargent, a painter who I revere, although many think him rather sentimental and chocolate box-y (David Bailey, for example).  Three of my favourites below:

Portrait of Edouard and Marie-Louise Pailleron (1891)

Herdrich thinks the girl’s portrait obscures that of the boy and that her right fist is clenched in tension.  I have to disagree on both counts, although the text generally is clear, informative and free from the higher bullshit that often mars writing on art.


Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1892)

What used to be called (outrageously no doubt) a “come hither” expression….


Ena and Betty, Daughters of Asher and Mrs. Wertheimer (1901)

He loves enormous jars.  Betty’s (?) white dress, just a few white streaks on brown and grey, painted at high speed, no doubt – perfect.

! Kings 2, King James Bible

I’ve just got to the death of David and the succession – not unchallenged – of his son Solomon;  it’s the end of The Godfather 1, when Michael settles all family business;  Shimei, Joab and Adonijah are all killed on Solomon’s orders; they’re the equivalent of Tessio, Carlo and the others.  This is not a surprise, since the story up to now has been one of Yahweh or Jehovah directing the Israelites to obey his every command and slaughter thousands of non-believers – Hivites, Jebusites, Philistines and the rest – and colonise their territories.  But the Israelites are a stiff-necked people and keep backsliding. making golden calves, disobeying puzzling, absolutist commandments and being slaughtered for disobedience themselves, by plagues, bolts of fire, sudden holes opening to swallow them, and so on.

Circles and Squares, Caroline Maclean (Bloomsbury)

The astonishing love lives of Barbara Hepworth, Ben and Winifred Nicholson,, among others; The women seem to have allowed the men to develop affairs and father children on other women, with whom they formed friendships and shared the males, more or less willingly.  Nicholson, looking manly and tempting in his beret in the picture above, spent time shuttling between Winifred, his wife and her children and Barbara Hepworth, the mother of  triplets by Nicholson..  It’s difficult for me to square this with the idea of women being oppressed by a “patriarchy” – these women acquiesced in, if not actually encouraged their “exploitation”.  Maclean’s narrative is, so far, entirely without moral judgement, and the better for it.  You can detect, I think, an irony in this forbearance – but maybe I’m wrong.

The other thing is that they seem to be moving from one address to another, sometimes just across the road or round the corner, AII the time…


An astounding book by Ben Macintyre.  Philby was recruited into the intelligence service purely on the strength of his family – his father had been at Eton(?) with the recruiter and he was therefore regarded as sound.  In fact, he was a committed communist and had already been recruited by soviet intelligence in the early 30s.  The quality of the intelligence he passed to the Russians was so high that the Russians were suspicious – they thought he was a double agent (that is, really working for the British) or maybe being fed false information.

In Istanbul, during WW2, there were so many spies, of so many nations, and they were so well known that, when one entered the favourite spy’s nightspot, the band would strike up a popular song of the time – “Boo boo baby, I’m a spy”.  Only 100 pages in.  It’s nearly as good as his later book about the defection, or rescue by British agents, of Oleg Gordievsky.

Obscured Series

Some life drawings and paintings I have been revamping lately:







6th November 2020



Blackpaint 680 – The Rebel, Arkansas and Tate

October 18, 2020

Albert Camus, The Rebel

Another opportunity to show Andre Masson’s great image on the Penguin Modern Classics edition.  Reading this, I found it difficult to believe that this was Camus – in his novels, the prose is so clear and precise,  Here, he seems to be forcing his thoughts to fit some dialectical process,  characterised by arbitrary assertions,  false oppositions and repetition.  It raises great questions though – is justice compatible with freedom? (I think he concludes not) can a rebel free himself without freeing, or trying to free others?  (again, I think he concludes not).  However, I was constantly saying to myself “No it doesn’t – No it isn’t” as he makes dodgy statements.  Comes to the right conclusion somehow. though: moderation is the thing, killing others for the revolution is wrong – although maybe not SO bad if the target is bad enough and the killer is willing to die, like some of the Russian bomb chuckers in 19th century.

Of course, he was writing in the 1950s.  He’d maybe have a different perspective now,..


The Forgotten West Memphis Three, Sky Documentaries

This two-part documentary on the Sky Documentary channel is horrifying in several ways.  First, the murders: three children, out on their bikes in the afternoon, disappear.  They turn up in a shallow river, bound hands to feet, dead and severely mutilated (one had his penis removed).  Damien Echols, a self-described satanist (the long haired one in the photo) is immediately arrested on the say-so of a couple of probation officers who have had dealings with him in the past.  There is no evidence against him, he denies involvement,  Two others are arrested – because he knows them.  Again, no evidence.  Then one, the one with the low IQ, confesses after a long interrogation – that’s enough.  Death sentence for Echols, life for the other two.

Echols was not executed; they did 18 years before the vigorous campaign to free them got anywhere.  Eventually, they were released – but they had to enter a formal guilty plea beforehand!

The documentary made a plausible case that the injuries and mutilations were the result of predation by turtles post mortem, and not some horrible satanic ritual; it had no answers as to the real culprit(s) – but gestured vaguely in the direction of the step-dad of one of the boys.  So – don’t fall foul of the law when you next visit Arkansas…

Tate Britain

So we went to Tate Britain again, to do the two bits of the permanent exhibition, 1930 – present day and 15 something to 1930.  We had no trouble booking the visit this morning, and few visitors, so no problem with social distancing.  Some new pictures and sculptures below:

Winifred Nicholson


Bomberg, Vanessa Bell – and Bell again


There’s a roomful of Spencers, a small room of Gwen Johns and a room of Vorticists.


Stanley Spencer. The Bridge – suspicion of early Beatles here?  Never seen this one before.


Spencer again – and again, new to me.  A touch of Beryl Cook about these ladies…


Gwen John, Woman with Black Cat –Wysiwyg


Peter Lely

There ARE strings on the 10 string guitar – but they are very faint.


Michael Dahl – She has that standard Lely period face, the bulgy eyes, big sulky lips, pasty complexion…


John Bettes the Elder, Man in a Black Cap (1545) – earliest portrait in Tate B


Monster Chetwynd – Jesus and Barrabas  – that’s a repro of the Richard Dadd head in the background


Monster Chetwynd – Crazy Bat Woman.  Again, my lack of observation shows itself – I never noticed the bat on her forehead until I uploaded the photo.


Eva Rothschild – you can’t see it here so well but that red, green and mauve “mesh” really stands out in a trompe l’oeil effect, in the flesh (so to speak).


Kim Lim, Shogun


Kim Lin

Richard Deacon


Richard Deacon


Ben Nicholson, White and Brown Chocolate (I think)


And a few of mine to end with:

Running Figure 1


Running Figure 2


Seated Woman on Red


Seated Figure (Leather Jacket)

Blackpaint 18/10/20

Blackpaint 679 – Lonnie, Des and the Dead Zone

September 30, 2020

Six Five Special

The brilliant Talking Pictures channel has been showing “Six Five” again (for those who don’t remember. this was a BBC TV showcase for popular music in the late 50s.  It featured bands like Don Lang’s Frantic Five and the John Barry Seven, who played a sort of hybrid, jazz- tinged rock n’ roll – Lang was a vocalist and trombonist, Barry the man who later became the distinguished composer and performer of the James Bond theme and much more film music.


This film, based on the TV prog, takes place mostly on board the “Six Five Special” to London, which happens to be packed with stars (Jim Dale, Petula Clark, the King Brothers) and the presenters Jo Douglas and Pete Murray.  Later, an episode of the show provides the setting for the rest,  Fantastic performances from Johnny Dankworth, Don Lang and above all, Lonnie Donegan.  Donegan starts with his- relatively- relaxed performance of the Woody Guthrie song “The Grand Coulee Dam” (yes, I have the 78) and follows up with “Jack O’Diamonds”.  It starts fast but quietly, but then builds to a climax in which Donegan seems just barely to be in control of himself.  In this respect, “Diamonds” is second only to his “Gamblin’ Man”, recorded at the London Palladium in 1957, was it? (yes, I’ve got that too – but with a crack, unfortunately).

Note the spelling of “Coolie” – I think Coulee is right,

Crack not visible.

Fantastic stuff.

“Des” & Killing for Company

Tennant on the right…

David Tennant playing Dennis Nilsen, whom he resembles very closely; murderer of young transient men in London, killed between 12 and 15 men in the late 70s-early 80s, kept their bodies in the flat with him for days, watching TV, chatting with the corpses – he was killing for company, not sex, he claimed and the phrase was used by Brian Masters as the title for his book on Nielson.

The police interviews with Nilsen and those with Masters reconstructed in the TV progs show Nilson to be articulate, manipulative and very chippy about perceived injustices and infringements of his rights in custody; he professed sympathy for his victims and claimed he was glad to have been caught – otherwise, he says, he would have carried on (true, no doubt).

Considering the circumstances of the arrest, he certainly asked for it.  He flushed human remains down the drain – and then called (or insisted that the landlord call) a plumber. who found bits of fingers.  The police found his flat to contain bodies and body parts, plastic bags full of innards and a human head in a large pan on the stove.

Apart from Tennant’s great job and that of Daniel Mays as the main investigating officer, the most noticeable feature was the smoking, incessant throughout, and carried on by all parties.  The most smoking I’ve seen on a screen since Fritz Lang’s “M” – another serial killer, portrayed by Peter Lorre and based partly on Peter Kurten, the “Vampire of Dusseldorf”.

The Dead Zone, dir David Cronenberg (1983)

After The Shining and Carrie, the best adaptation of a Stephen King book to date – some may argue for “Shawshank”, I suppose – but Christopher Walken has that intensity and capacity for sudden violence…  Martin Sheen’s mad dog populist candidate Greg Stillson is a great cartoon too.  The murders are low key but the scissors suicide of the cop murderer and the shoot out with his demented mother (shades of Carrie) are good shock value.

Next time, Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch and Performance –  and other up-to-the-minute stuff….


Standing Woman Collage


Wild Turkey – old painting, new title







Blackpaint 678 – Andy, Ed and Death in the Snow

September 1, 2020

Tate Modern – Andy Warhol


Great, clean, single line drawing – wish I could do it too.


From the Ten Most Wanted series.


Red Riot



Elvis.  touch of Bollywood in the image, I think.


More violent death in the media…


Older readers will remember those retouched photos you used to get of murders and murderers in the 30s and 40s in American magazines like True Detective.



Touch of Rauschenberg here – or maybe Richard Hamilton, more like?


Never noticed before that the mauve (purple?) blotches were little Maos as well.  Must be more observant…


Great use of colour in these laughing skulls.


Don’t know who the woman in this portrait is…


…but no problem with these two.


Lenin in red, with a touch of ruthlessness around the eyes – surely not…


Her expression strangely reminiscent of Lenin’s above.


Although this is such an iconic picture, it’s an unusual image of Warhol, who was more often photographed smiling vaguely, or peering thoughtfully at something.

Ed Ruscha


Typical Ruscha – the incongruity of the slogan and the image; see also John Baldessari.


Love these pipes. straining at the edges of the picture.


You can hear Johnny Cash reciting  “Ragged Old Flag”, looking at this.  Or I can, anyway.


Started with a typical Ruscha, so ending this bit with an unusual one.  Something Chinese about the image, I think, or maybe Vietnamese – makes me think of peasant revolutions.  Maybe it’s an age thing, all those marches and posters in the 60s and 70s.  I do have a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book still…


And This…

What a great photo.  There were actually two photos, both showing resigned commuters forced against the glass – but the other one came out blurred (my picture, not the original, of course).  Sorry to say I didn’t get the artist’s name.

The Victors, dir. Carl Foreman (1963)

Oddly reminiscent of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, the Lewis Milestone classic of 1930.  I think it’s the episodic structure, the scenes with the various civilian women and families, and the general anti -war message.  The most famous scene, of course, is the execution in the snowbound countryside of the American GI, which takes place as Frank Sinatra sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on the soundtrack.  More shocking though, is the arrival of George Peppard at the British hospital where his sergeant is a patient, to find him badly disfigured and not wanting visitors…

The scenes are separated by newsreels and headlines; it’s raining – well, pouring – most of the time in Belgium, France, Germany and especially Britain.  The film is full of stars – Peppard, George Hamilton III (pre – permatan), the great Eli Wallach, Peter Fonda, and is that Robert Mitchum? No, it’s his son.  The women – Melina Mercouri, Elke Sommer, Romy Schneider, Senta Berger and Jeanne Moreau.

The film ends with a knife fight in the ruins of Berlin, between Hamilton’s character and a drunken Russian soldier.  Who plays the Russian?  Albert Finney!



And so, to my offering; I have actually managed to complete a couple of paintings since last blog.


Seated Red