Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

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…

Philby

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:

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint

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

30/09/20

 

 

 

 

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

Blackpaint

1/09/20

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 677 – Tate Mod; The Man

August 21, 2020

Tate Modern Regular Collection

Our second post-shielding gallery visit to Tate Modern for the regular collection.  No trouble getting a booking even on a weekend; queue (spaced and short wait); relaxed about times (we were let in a bit early); more people than at Tate Britain, but still mostly easy to avoid crowds; most, but not all, masked.  Some selections below:

Christian Schad

Strange, strange picture:  I’ve seen it many times but I’ve never even noticed the woman at the bottom of the picture in the apparently subservient position.  I’d plead the chest deformity and the supercilious expression as attention grabbers.  I don’t think it’s unconscious racial prejudice – it’s more that I’m extraordinarily unobservant.

 

And these sculptures – Wifredo Lam?  Germaine Richier?  Couldn’t find the wall plaque – they’re often in odd positions…

 

Aubrey Williams

I like the splurged nature of this; as if it’s dribbled and smeared somehow.

 

Beuyss

Lovely collection of little leaden turds in front of the huge one dangling from the girder.

 

Beuyss

Granite corpses or coffins flung up by some earthquake…

 

Edward Paolozzi

Beautifully sculpted (cast?) set of totally useless…. boxes and mechanisms.  I’m not sure if it’s all one piece or not.

 

Sigmar Polke

Big dotty print(?) with a statue and an angel or devil and spurts of some cream/yellow fluid – what could be easier to interpret?

 

I think the one at the front with the wheel is a Paolozzi – didn’t get the name of the other sculptor – sorry, appalling commentary.

 

Obviously this has to be called “Babel”.  I though Nam June Paik-but no, it’s Cildo Meireiles.

 

Max Beckmann

Beckmann’s strange collection of glum clowns and/or musicians – I notice it faintly resembles his famous “Night” in it’s structure (the way the masked figure curves round the right hand corner).

 

William Sasnel 

One of a series of the dead Gadafi.

 

In common with Tate Britain, the arches give great views.  Paintings by Dora Maurer.

Apocalypse Now, Coppola (dir) 1979

Recently watched the “uncut” version of this on TV; I presume the scenes with the French ex-colonials hanging on in Cambodia were restored – I don’t remember them at all from the film I saw back in 79 or 80.  Another thing that struck me was the night scene at the last bridge, where no-one is in command – I could have sworn there was Hendrix playing, “Voodoo Child” maybe; there WAS some music but nowhere near as prominent as I remember…

Hopper’s over the top hippie photographer gave me, along with “Eddie Coyle” below, the title for this blog; his crazed eulogy of Kurtz, “The Man” is this, “The Man” is that, “The Man is – the Man, you know”….

 

Everybody is deranged (except the Vietnamese and maybe some Cambodians) in this film.  Here’s Martin Sheen’s intense assassin’s stare, years after his Charles Starkweather turn in “Badlands” (1973) with the wonderful Sissie Spacek – and a good while before he became liberal President Bartlett in the West Wing.

American Dharma, Errol Morris (dir) 2018

This was in the Sky Documentary Channel a couple of weeks ago. A fascinating portrait, but hardly a fair and unbiased one, of Steve Bannon, ex-Trump adviser, self proclaimed “street fighter” (I think he means attitude rather than actuality). right-wing hate figure of the liberal-left “Establishment”.  Bannon was sweaty, scruffy, unshaven and unflappable, with a hard stare and a challenging grin.  He speaks with relish of media stunts in which he undermined Clinton (Bill, not Hillary).  His favourite animal is the honey badger, because it is obsessive and relentless in its pursuits.  He seems to look to old films to underpin his principles and has picked some pretty good ones: Gregory Peck in “12 o’Clock High”. John Wayne in “The Searchers”, Kirk Douglas in “Paths of Glory” and Orson Welles as Falstaff in “Chimes at Midnight”.  This last pertains to his breach with Trump – unlike Falstaff, he claims to feel no resentment at being cast adrift by his protege – it had to be, the time had come.

The director makes no real attempt to refute anything Bannon says, but periodically flings headlines from the US press onto the screen which may or may not relate to him or undermine him; you can’t tell. There’s no engagement, just another restatement of Democrat/liberal-left distaste and fear.  In an extraordinary sequence at the end, Bannon is portrayed walking through a blazing building – an aircraft hangar? – as if he were Stephen King’s cowboy Satan in “The Stand”.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Peter Yates (dir) 1973

To end this week, a film which must be seen by any fan of US crime thrillers, with a brilliant cast headed by Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle, based on a novel by George V. Higgins.  The first, I believe, of several films in which bank robbers use moulded rubber masks (cf. Bigelow’s “Point Break”).  There is a “Man” conversation between Boyle an a mob go-between – “The Man wants it done tonight.”

“Tell The Man I can’t do it tonight; too short notice.”

“The Man says it has to be tonight”….and so on, for several minutes.  The Man gets his way, of course.

A bank robbery.

Boyle and Mitchum at the ice hockey game, before the murder.

 

A couple of old ones of mine, gone to good homes, one in England, one in Finland, I believe.

 

Blackpaint

22/08/20

 

Blackpaint 676 – Back to the Tate

August 6, 2020

Tate Britain, open again..sort of..

Booked a trip around the bits of the Tate that were available: British Art 1931 – present day, and British art 15 something – 1890.  Not much going on between 1891 and 1931, maybe…  Hang on, there was World War One, Nash, Nevinson, Orpen, Spencer and all that –  and probably some other art stuff too…

Anyway, great to be back and in the (short) queue and the galleries too, not many people about and most, but not all, wearing face coverings.  Like always, when you haven’t seen pictures for a time, they look fresh and exciting and there are a few new ones to pique your interest.  I went round exactly like those people I usually deride – photographing everything.  A few examples below with the customary banal and/or facetious comments:

Joshua Reynolds, Detail of a woman’s layered skirt

My partner took this one.  I thought she’d got the whole painting but she’s mainly interested in fabrics so just got the skirt.  Quite amazing really, like a fractured ice cliff.

 

Gerald Brockhurst – Margaret Duchess of Argyll, 1931

Great portrait, very like Keeley Hawes in “the Durrells”   (see below)

 

 

John Tunnard – Fulcrum (top) 1939

A typical Tunnard painting, recalling a science fiction paperback from the 50s or 60s – or maybe Festival of Britain art – so ahead of his time.

Sam Haile – Surgical Ward (lower) 1939

Sam Haile is new to me; Miro-ish, but with a drab British palette.

 

Meredith Frampton – Trial and Error, 1939

Beautifully executed, but “painting by numbers” Surrealism – think of a bunch of unrelated objects and assemble them to make a dreamlike still life.  Leaves me cold really, compared to, say, Magritte or Delvaux, who really do evoke dreams successfully in some of their images.

 

Jacob Epstein

And on the back of the Epstein sculpture..  I didn’t realise that there was anything on the reverse.

 

John Minton – Portuguese Cannon 1953

A new Minton (I’ve never seen it before, anyway), in the style of his big picture of the death of Nelson.

 

Keith Vaughan

Lovely picture, no comment required.  So- no comment…

 

Patrick Heron

This one’s been up on the walls within the last five years, I guess – unusual Heron with regard to the colour; that acidy, poisonous green – or is it greeny yellow?  Well, it’s both really.

 

William Scott

Scott often painted huge pictures of assembled kitchen implements, frying pans, pots.  I didn’t get the title of this so I’ve no clue as to what is depicted – brick wall, bits of toast, cribbage peg board..  It’s a new one.

 

Peter Lanyon – Zennor Storm, 1958

An old favourite.  I’d always thought the central image was a boat – bit like Noah’s Ark.  But no – it’s the green at Zennor (in a storm, of course)  I actually miss “Wreck”, the one they had up before Covid, with the boat, the guitar, and the shark.

 

Roger Hilton – September 1961

Stark, clear composition; back view of a sleeping dog on the floor of an old pub, perhaps? but what’s the black loop?

 

Alan Davie – Black Mirror, 1952

I think there’s more than a touch of Bacon in this image and the brushwork; I wonder if they knew each other’s work?

 

Peter Lanyon – both the glass assemblage and the painting, which I think is called “The Lost Mine”.

 

Rose English

Her fabulous film, made in 1975, I think, of these women at a horse show, trotting round like horses in formation, kitted out with tails, making an obvious feminist point, but no less funny for it.  Forerunner of “Smack the Pony”.

 

 

Unknown artist – William, First Lord de la Warr, c.1550

I’m sure I’ve seen that face on TV or at the National Theatre.  Tried to poison his brother, says the plaque on the wall.  He looks well capable of that.

 

I’m going to avoid making the obvious remark.  It’s a strain, but I’ve managed it.

 

Thomas Gainsborough – Mr and Mrs Carter, c.1747

I had to include this for the clear disparity in dimensions and the fact that the lady appears to be floating…  It seems remarkable to me that Gainsborough painted both this caricature-like portrait AND the painting below: two completely different styles (and he had at least one more).

 

Thomas Gainsborough

 

Tilly Kettle – Mrs Yates as Mandane in “the Orphan of China”, c.1765

Mrs Yates in a martial arts defensive posture.

And that was our end-of-shielding trip to Tate Britain.  An old landscape of mine below:

Islares Bay 

Blackpaint

7/08/2020

 

 

Blackpaint 675- Camus, Sade, Satan and Still Life

July 19, 2020

Apples, Pears and Paint: How to make a Still Life Painting

Staggeringly beautiful paintings and detailed almost beyond possibility, especially those by Kalf and the other Dutch show-offs.  This programme traces the development of the still life from Caravaggio’s flowers sitting on the bottom of the canvas, through to present day tableaux which reproduce Old Masters on film and in which bullets are shot through the fruit.  It looks back to classical times, fabulous wall paintings of Pompeii for instance, and mosaics from Roman villas in Britain and elsewhere in the Roman Empire.  Some examples below:

 

Cezanne Apples

 

Asparagus

 

Not sure who this is…  Conspicuous consumption in the Netherlands.

I will be returning to this programme to find more treasures; Chardin, for example – but right now, I’m in a hurry to publish.  Some interesting points;  the still life was at the bottom of pile as far as prestige was concerned; history and mythological painting at the top. portraiture next, then landscape, then still life.  Many of the Dutch and Flemish still lifes. perhaps most, contained aspects of decay and corruption – rotting fruit, insects – mementos mori, in fact.

 

Albert Camus – The Rebel (1951)

I love the cover; painting by Andre Masson, “The Suntrap” 1938 (Penguin Modern Classics, 1971).     I’ve had it since then, but found the philosophy quite hard going after his brilliant novels and short stories, so never finished it.  I think I’m finally ready for it.  I find his style of reasoning exhilarating – no tiresome linguistic analysis in the manner of Ayer or Ryle or Russell, but a flowing series of assertions, several ( but not all)  of which follow from what he was asserting before.  Examples;  “Undoubtedly, he (the rebel) demands respect for himself, but only insofar as he identifies himself with humanity in general”; or, “the rebel, on principle, persistently refuses to be humiliated without asking that others should be.  He will even accept pain, provided that his integrity is respected.”

This is what I never understood about critical theory until a couple of years ago; you come up with a “reading” of a topic or proposition, rather than examining it to see if it holds water.  Then, having asserted your “reading”,  you can storm on to conclusions and build castles of thought in the style of Nietzsche, or proclaim that everything is relative like Derrida. without that irritating business of interrogating the truth of your assertions.

To be fair, I’m early on in the book; he’s just dealt with de Sade and is moving on to the “Dandies”, the first of whom appears to be Milton’s Satan in “Paradise Lost”.

Old Friends from Paris

Got some paintings back from shows in Paris.  I was very glad to see them again (not really; rather have sold them) – but they always look better when you haven’t seen them for a while.  I think so, anyway.

 

God Only Knows

Not a religious observation – I was listening to the Beachboys while painting.

 

On the Rocks

Mine’s a Martini.

Tenby Wall

In 2013, my son Ted and his friend Dave Greaves swam, rode and ran the Iron Man Triathlon at Tenby.  Anyone who’s been there and run on the beach will know the stretch between the fort and the wall of rock; I remember running it with “Baba O’Reilly” blaring on the Ipod;  You know, “Teenage Wasteland”…

 

And a New One

Louisiana Blues

Not only  the state in America, but also  the fabulous gallery near Copenhagen, with the Giacometti landing and the view over the sea.

If you are lucky enough to be in London, drop down to Tooting and see our window exhibition in Sprout Gallery, Moyser Road SW16, 10.30am – 8.00pm every day until next Saturday inclusive.

Blackpaint

19.07.20

 

 

Blackpaint 674 – Urban Art Brixton

July 1, 2020

UrbanArt Brixton

Sorry – no ordinary blog today, full of the usual stunning insights and wise comments;  this weekend, I have a lot of my paintings on display in a virtual exhibition (see poster below) so I’m going to put a few of them up for your edification and you can see the rest by googling chris lessware paintings.  Or you can go to the web address on the poster and access my works and those of all the other artists taking part from there.

 

 

Still Life with Tomatoes and Steak

 

 

Midnight Rider

 

 

Raised Arm

 

 

Overland to Atlantis

 

 

Erebus

 

 

Elsinore

 

 

Solstice

 

 

Newsagents 1963

Man with Crutch

 

 

Judgement

 

So there we are – loads more on the website.  Next week, back to normal.

Blackpaint

01/07/20

 

Blackpaint 673 – Smug Dutchmen, Michelangelo and Mermaid Sex

June 17, 2020

Andrew Graham Dixon, Art of the Low Countries, BBC4

Must be an old series, since not much is getting made at the moment, but it was new to me.  It had the usual Graham Dixon startling and rather dubious suggestions – for instance, the Dutch bourgeoisie portraying themselves in art was a sort of collective depiction of a revolution comparable to that of Russia in 1917.  However, the revelation for me was the later paintings of Frans Hals.  The so-called Laughing Cavalier was highly finished, ornate and rich, the subject plump and smug: look at the pieces below it; the hands and the woman from one picture and the self-portrait with baggy eyes.  The brushwork is loose, the woman has a face out of Van Gogh – and it’s hard to imagine that the same artist painted those hands and the moustached smirker above.

 

 

 

 

The two paintings below were not identified in the programme, but I think they are both superb, whoever painted them.

 

 

 

Michelangelo, Love and Death, Sky Arts

Again, I think this was maybe an old programme – it brought home to me just how staggering his achievement was in painting that ceiling – I’d not really noticed how strong the trompe l’oeil effect was when I visited the Vatican.  The crowds and the continual chanting from the attendant of “no talkin, no photo” , coupled with the need to keep moving, didn’t allow much in the way of close scrutiny.

 

The Altar wall (detail).  Michelangelo did the wall some 30 years after the ceiling.

 

St. Lawrence with his grill on the left, and St. Bartholomew with his flayed skin in the centre (supposed to be a self portrait – of M, not Bartholomew).

 

This is a scene from the programme, NOT a painting – imagine it without the cars; could be Brueghel or Carpaccio.

 

You can really see the trompe l’oeil effect in this section, 

 

Go and put your pants on immediately, says God…

 

The Lighthouse, dir. Robert Eggers (2019)

Fabulous cinematography, recalling the work of Bela Tarr- say, Satantango or The Man from London, I thought.  Some rather strange accents, here and there hints of Monty Python – but plenty of violence against seagulls and humans, masturbation, drinking, frenzied dancing, more drinking, imaginary mermaid sex, a live burial, axe and pickaxe attacks and a naked man being eaten by seabirds.  All this, and a recording over the credits of AL (Bert) Lloyd, a famous British folk singer and researcher, performing the shanty “Doodle Let me go, me boys”, which turns out to be a genuine earworm.

The film is a basically a two-hander (sorry), William Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.  There is, of course, the mermaid and the seagull but they don’t have speaking roles.  Dafoe has made a career out of films which “push the boundaries”, as they say: I’m thinking of Antichrist (Von Trier) and Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini, with the long and energetic sequence of oral sex in the car park.  I’ll certainly be watching The Lighthouse again, for the heroic drinking and the AL Lloyd, as well as the classy cinematography – but not for the mermaid sex, which, like many men, I get enough of in dreams…

As a painter, it’s dispiriting when you realise that paintings you were doing 10 years or more ago are better than the ones you are doing now….  Here are a few examples:

 

 

 

Blackpaint

16/06/20

 

Blackpaint 672 – Bomberg, Deneuve and Angels’ Wings

May 28, 2020

Bomberg

Continuing from last blog on Roy Oxlade and Bomberg, I’ve now finished the Oxlade book “Art and Instinct” and I’m somewhat wiser, but by no means completely clear on Bomberg’s main message – or the “Approach”, as he called it (Bomberg tended to capitalise throughout his writings, most of which, in the Oxlade book at least, were unpublished notes).  Two things are clear – he was regarded as a guru by his students, who tended to make works which obviously reveal his influence (see Creffield and Dorothy Mead, for example) and he had an overwhelming sense of mission, to deliver art, and art teaching,  from the “errors” propounded by William Coldstream and others.  Coldstream was  imposing the LTS (learn to see) system on students, which was based on “accurate” observation, measurement, the rules of perspective and proportion developed during the Renaissance.  This precluded a freshness of approach, strapped students into a visual and practical straitjacket and prevented them from finding “the Spirit in the Mass”, to use Bomberg’s phrase.

What was, or is, the “Spirit in the Mass”?  Not sure.  There’s some religious or at least metaphysical stuff in there, obviously – but is it any more than “forget the rules, respond to the subject as you see fit, try to find the essentials, whatever they are, of the object which you are drawing or painting”?  I was surprised, when I looked into Bomberg’s work, to find how poerful and varied it is.  Some examples below.  I’ve left out the early, semi-abstract ones, “Mud Bath” and “Jiu Jutsu” as I’ve discussed them elsewhere.  Also I left out the Palestine paintings – “accurate”, but flat and boring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a few; I love the way he paints women and I was surprised at the erotic charge in some of the pictures.  And that mountainscape.  Check him out – there’s a great sequence on YouTube.

Coronavirus Updates

We in the UK have, for the last six or seven weeks, had the benefit if a daily update on the progress of the pandemic here, delivered mostly by the government minister of the day, flanked, at a proper distance, by a scientist or two.  Certain idiosyncracies of vocabulary and phraseology have developed over that time, repetitions that maybe have already been noted in the press – I wouldn’t know as I stopped buying papers weeks ago – they can carry the virus.

Of the politicians on offer, my favourite is Dominic Raab, because he resembles  Simon Cadell, who played Mr. Geoffrey in “Hi De Hi”.  Anyway – “Incredible”; everyone is working incredibly hard under incredibly difficult circs, doing an incredible job.  Related to this is ” the clock“, which again, everyone is working round“Granular”; I think Jonathan Van Tam, the scientist, introduced this one.  It’s to do with looking really closely at evidence, getting right down to the real nitty gritty to quote the old song – and coming up with a really close analysis – not smooth, but – well – grainy.

And phrases; the way they evaluate the questions put to them, especially those from the public; “I think that’s an incredibly good question” – Matt Hancock is the master of this – “I really do think that’s a really great question” –  then they proceed to avoid answering it, usually by “paying tribute” to “the incredible work” being done by health care workers, researchers, or whoever it might be.  This sounds snotty – I don’t mean it to be; I’ve less time for the arrogant journalists who think they are the real government.

 

Truffaut’s Films

The Last Metro, Deneuve and Depardieu both on fabulous form in Truffaut’s WW11 piece, about an actor/manager (Deneuve) trying to keep a theatre going in occupied Paris, while her Jewish playwright husband hides in the cellar from the Nazis.

 

The next best in the box set; Fanny Ardant this time, with Depardieu; she moves in next door, not knowing that D, her former lover,  lives there.  Smouldering, as Barry Norman probably said.

Angels’ Wings

Jan van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece (detail)

This picture appeared in the RA magazine, and my partner was intrigued by the wings.  They look as if they’re cut from a melon, she said – green on the outside and sort of fleshy glistening inside,  I looked at some other examples to see – as far as I can make out, they are a one=off.

 

Ghirlandaio, Coronation of the Virgin (detail)

Nice splash of red, yellow and blue here…

 

Fra Angelico, The Last Judgement (detail)

Beautifully marked – but no recognisable pattern..

 

 

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation (detail)

Butterfly wings, definitely.

 

Dieric Bouts, the Road to Paradise (detail)

Lovely blue ones – and presumably, holes cut into the robes.  Must be difficult to get on.

Raphael, The Archangel Michael (detail)

Hint of snakeskin here – look at that fore-edge.

 

To finish, a revamped painting of mine, which I noticed “after the fact” sort of bore a resemblance to the theme – but not to the quality, of course…

Angel Wings (formerly Lost in the Woods)

Blackpaint

29.5.20