Posts Tagged ‘A Prophet’

Blackpaint 437 – Platypus, Nest Eggs, Algerians, Burmese Days

March 7, 2014

Brett Whiteley

I’ve been looking at this artist’s work again, and I must say I love the way he draws – sometimes!  he has a bold, clean line when he wants, and it mixes with areas of tangled line that have been erased and sometimes picked out with ink or pencil.  He’ll elongate and distort as the fancy takes him, like a cartoonist, Scarfe maybe.

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A lot of his work is in dubious taste (I don’t mean porny, that’s fine as far as I’m concerned); for instance, the Christie drawings and paintings, based on the 10 Rillington Place murders, that he actually mixed with zoo drawings, for example “a Cheetah at Ten Rillington Place” – good painting, though.

I love some of his Lavender Bay verandah-scapes and the series of landscapes he did with an “S” shaped river included.  he’s also notable for the number of different objects he stuck on his canvases; birds’ eggs (often in nests), birds, his own ginger hair on a self-portrait, coins, a brain, a duck-billed platypus (stuffed)…..

The boxing and cricket paintings reminded me of Francis Bacon, as did the Zoo paintings.

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The Brits Who Built the Modern World (Rogers, Foster, Shuttleworth etc.) BBC4

TV progs about these; thought some of their stuff was brilliant, for example, the Pompidou Centre, for which they claimed there wasn’t even an overall drawing existing when they excavated the vast hole in the middle of Paris for the building – yeah, hippy architects, cool…  They, well, Rogers anyway, claim to have been lefties in the 60’s, building workers’ recreation projects and the like.  Now, however, they do prestige airports and such for the Chinese, which is much better in many ways, because they carry long-term projects through, being a dictatorship.  Over here, you have to worry about democracy; governments, and hence plans changing, unions being a pain, people refusing to move….  The Chinese can guarantee you a cleared site for your shiny project, no problem.  And they’re communists, Chinese gov. that is, so it’s all in the Peoples’ interest.

Good Men (Ismael Ferroukhi)

Great film (2011) set in WW2 Paris, concerning Algerians.  It stars Tahoor Rahim, the young gangster in Audiard’s “A Prophet”, doing a similar turn; he’s a black marketeer and informer, naive, poorly educated, amoral (to start with), ducking and weaving, an eye to the main chance; slowly, he acquires a conscience and a loyalty to his compatriots.  There’s something of Pontecorvo’s “Battle for Algiers” to it – I suppose it’s the similarity of Rahim’s character to that of Ali la Pointe, and their “journey” towards activism.

The music in the film is staggering; I had the volume low on the the first song and couldn’t hear the words – it sounded like a ballad done by the Watersons or Martin Carthy.

Burmese Days

Just finished the Orwell book and of course, now I’m going to have to read the lot again – Clergyman’s Daughter next.  I thought it a much cruder portrayal than Passage to India, but of course, Orwell was an officer in the Burmese police while Forster was a visitor to India, so maybe Orwell’s first-hand knowledge of the Burmese and the ex-pats was superior.  I thought the characters of Verrall, and Elizabeth were beautifully drawn.  From reading the Crick biography, it appears that the incident in which Ellis attacks the students with his stick might have been suggested by a similar incident in which Orwell, or Blair, himself laid into a Burmese youth at a railway station.

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RK Back – An old one, I’m afraid.

Blackpaint

07.03.14

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Blackpaint 378 – Urinals and Wooden Specs

January 24, 2013

Breaking the Ice: Moscow Art 1960 – 80s

I’ve now visited this show again (Saatchi Gallery until 21st Feb) and will try to do it a little more justice than last time.

Vladimir Nemukhin and Lydia Masterkova, colourful and energetic abstracts with overtones of Kandinsky and anthropop colours.  Yuri Zlotnikov, like dots and lines and dashes escaped from Malevich’s Constructivist abstracts.  Oleg Tselkov’s bulky, masklike faces, remind one of Botero maybe or even Lempicka in the execution.  Oskar Rabin’s black, grey and white Caligari houses and streets and crucified vodka bottle and fish.  Dmitri Plavinsky’s scabrous grey tablets, like Rosetta Stones studded with bits and pieces. Dimitri Krasnopevtsev’s distorted dungeon stairs and arches in grey, black and white.

Ilya Kabakov’s rough, Socialist Realist pastiches that he “attacked” with an axe in a studio Happening, or stick paper rosettes on in neat lines.  Rough, giant wooden Soviet (rose-coloured?) spectacles, and a rickety wooden Tatlin tower model – who did those? – and Lenin meeting Giacometti man (Leonid Sokov).  Alexander Kosolapov’s Suprematist Urinals – really smart or “cherry”, as the LA Cool School artists would say; bet they’d sell in the gift shop.  And Warhol pastiches with Soviet imagery – bit obvious, but funny.  The best painting by Victor Pivovarov, big, pastel colours, looks abstract until you see the figures on the sides.  Colours reminded me of Gary Hume.  Couldn’t find it online.

So: the obvious reaction is admiration that this work was produced at all, given the lack of opportunity to show without state interference.  Great show, especially for free and with the main event downstairs, the contemporary Russian art.

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The Garden of the Finzi Contini

Vittorio de Sica’s sunlit but harrowing film from the 70’s with Dominique Sanda as the doomed heroine – the pre-deportation scenes in the schoolhouse are hard to bear.  Unfortunately, I have a tendency (like many others, I suspect) to be assailed by inappropriate thoughts at grave moments; I couldn’t help but notice Sanda’s occasional resemblance to the Lady Penelope puppet in  Thunderbirds.  

The London Art Fair

Discussing this last week, I forgot to mention the fantastic photos of Homer Sykes; British folk customs caught 30 – 40 years ago, including the great Britannia Coconut Dancers at Bacup in Lancashire.  Also, Ian Beesley’s photos, featured last week in the Guardian.  Google them both and see some great images.

Warhol

Some early drawings by Warhol featured (again in the Guardian) and the owner compares them to Schiele, saying they show a brilliant talent.  Well, maybe – but so what?  Surely the least important thing about Warhol is his ability to draw hands “properly”; it’s that Robert Hughes bit again – you can’t be a proper artist unless you can draw properly.

Fernando Pessoa

I’m reading his “Book of Disquiet” – cross between Sartre in “Nausea” mode (lots of things make him sick), Celine and a slight touch of Adrian Mole.  He’s got my number on art though: “The downfall of classical ideals made all men potential artists, and therefore bad artists.  When art depended on solid construction and the careful observance of rules, few could attempt to be artists, and a fair number of these were quite good.  But when art, instead of being understood as creation, became merely an expression of feelings, then anyone could be an artist, because everyone has feelings.”  That’s me then.

A Prophet

Watched this brilliant, long, French prison film again and I have to mention Niels Arestrup, as the ageing Corsican gangster Luciani; poignant scene when the other Corsicans sing as they leave him behind and even more, when el-Djebena is released from the hole and “transfers” to the Muslims.

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Bloody Window

Blackpaint 

24.01.13

Blackpaint 263

March 25, 2011

Burning Backs

In “A Prophet”, the ghost of the Arab that Malik is forced to kill has a burning back in a dream sequence – and in “Shutters Island”, the ghost of deCaprio’s wife has a burning back – in a dream sequence.

Neither of these facts mean much, except, perhaps, an interesting case of convergent imagery – but they do bring me quite nicely to surrealism.

Surrealists

I used really to love surrealism, but now find the pictures rather boring, for the most part.  I think the problem is the lack of painterly qualities inherent, or required by the concept. There are no surfaces; since the purpose is to explore and exploit the subconscious, the skills required are those of the imaginative illustrator.  The juxtaposition of unlikely objects demands the ability to depict those objects as clearly as possible – hence, the realism in surrealism.  With a few exceptions, the attraction of the paintings and objects rests in the mystery and atmosphere created by the images – the empty, night-time squares and porticos of de Chirico, the nudes on escalators of Delvaux – not in the qualities of the painting itself. The exceptions that occur to me are Gorky, Matta, Lam, Tanguy and Dominguez in Decalcomania mode.  You could make a case that the first three are hardly surrealists at all.  What about Miro and Picasso?  They passed through the movement on their way elsewhere.  Dali?  Staggering draughtsman, fantastic, memorable images but fits the above description, surely.

Anyway, for interest’s sake, my top ten surrealist pictures (or objects) in order of preference:

1.  Joan Miro – Person Throwing a Stone at a Bird (1926).  The one with the blobby figure, huge foot and line showing stone’s flight.  I’m not even sure it’s surreal – but it’s a great image.

2.  Max Ernst – Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale (1924).  Tiny construction, man fleeing across a chalet roof – dreamlike, touch of menace.

3.  Man Ray – Gift  (1921).  The iron with the nails on the bottom.  Simple, elegant, funny, dripping with irony.

4.  Meret Oppenheim – the furry cup, saucer and spoon (1936).  As per Man Ray.

5.  Giacometti – The Palace at 4.00am.  Like a birdcage – there is a bird in the top section.  I love the title; I always get it confused with the Max Ernst Nightingale.

6.  Toyen – Silken Feasts (1962).  There’s a lot of sex and fetishism in surrealism, of course, since it deals with the subconscious (see Bunuel and footwear); this is one of the sexiest and most fetishistic works.

7.  Richard Oelze – Expectation (1936).  A crowd in 30s hats and raincoats stare at gathering black clouds across heathland – waiting.  I’ve not heard of him other than this, but I found, when I thought of doing this, that this picture sprang to mind before any other.

8.  Paul Delvaux – The Iron Age (1951).  A naked woman (surprisingly) sits, legs stretched before her, while in the night-time background, a goods train bears down on her from the marshalling yards.  Penguin used the background for the cover of Celine’s “Journey to the End of the Night”; even without the woman, it still somehow has a surreal eeriness.

9.  Dali – Sleep (1937).  The long, sleeping head, propped up on sticks.  There could of course, have been several more; the soft watches, the elephants, the crouching figure by the egg, the figure ripping itself apart – but this one came to mind instantly.

10.  Magritte. There has to be a Magritte, since he was the most consistent and faithful surrealist in the sense of the juxtaposition of unlikely objects – but I really hate the way he paints women’s nipples, red and angry as if infected.  Puts me off him totally; I suppose the one with the broken window, in which the fragments are pieces of sky….

The Killing

I think its Morten, Troels’ researcher.  Find out tomorrow.

Listening to Jelly Roll Morton, Sidewalk Blues.

“You’re so dumb, you should be president of the Deaf and Dumb Society!”

“Sorry, Boss; but I’ve got the Sidewalk Blues” – a non sequitur fit for a piece on surrealism.

Sorry – no new paintings yet.

Blackpaint

25.03.11