Posts Tagged ‘Abstract’

Blackpaint 17

December 16, 2009

V&A Mediaeval Gallery

To the above today; the usual saints (Margaret with her dragon, Catherine (no wheels though), Ursula and her virgins being dismembered and stabbed, the six “Proto Martyrs” being beheaded for preaching in Marrakesh – new atrocity to me – Stephen in glazed terracotta with white stones stuck to his head, crucifixions, depositions, assumptions, a German death of the Virgin Mary with a crowd of bearded men fussing round her, vaguely reminiscent of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. 

For my money, the best thing in the galleries is a screen from Hamburg, done by Master Bertram, showing 45 scenes from Revelations.

Cast Hall

On to the fabulous, quiet, gloomy cast hall, the room with the two halves of Trajan’s Column and there found this staggering thing, the Shobdon Tympanum, done about 1100 in a Herefordshire church.  I’ve never seen anything like this woman in her sailor’s T shirt, with her smaller companions entwined around her like something a sculptor from the 40s might have dreamed up.

National Portrait Gallery

Nothing in the Tudor bit to touch the portrait of Thomas Cromwell, done by Holbein or maybe his workshop.  Piggy features, iron determination, that sure line and sharp relief of Holbein.  Nearby, Nicholas Bacon, surely the ugliest face in the gallery.

Upstairs, Ross the Arctic explorer, who turned back when he saw the mountains in his way – they turned out to be optical illusions.  Also Burnaby, the Boy’s Own soldier,  stretched out on a divan, smoking a cigarette, a bit like Stephen Fry as the general in Blackadder.

In the first 20th century bit, I thought the outstanding (or most interesting) was Patrick Heron’s TS Eliot, the Joyce, Wyndham Lewis’ Ezra Pound and a self-portrait by Ithell Colquhoun, who is new to me.

In the last section, the portrait of David Sylvester and the Sid James by Ruskin Spear.

Still struggling with my stripes – too crowded, needs some space in there.

Listened to; Gil Scott-Heron’s Johannesburg.

“I hate it when the blood starts flowing,

But I’m glad to see resistance growing –

Tell me what’s the word? Johannesburg!”



Blackpaint 16

December 15, 2009

Shading (NB – see Blackpaint 76, 78, 81 and 82 for more on Michelangelo)

I’ve been studying the shading used by the old masters in their drawings.  Mantegna appears to be consistent; he shades with diagonal lines from top right towards bottom left, or horizontally if shading a flat surface tilted towards the viewer. 

Titian, as far as I can see, uses shading lines that are variable; diagonal from top right or left, horizontal and vertical on the surface of water and vertical for a cliff face, say.

Leonardo appears to favour diagonal shading lines from top left towards bottom right – but will so the opposite on occasion and sometimes (anatomical drawings) will cross them to form a patch of diamond shapes.  With bones, he appears to favour horizontal shading lines that curve with the surface of the bones.

Michelangelo does a rather shallow diagonal from top left towards bottom right and sometimes vertical.

Durer uses lines in any direction that suits the surface, curving them to follow the contours.

Having said all this, no doubt tomorrow I’ll find more drawings that completely contradict it.Leonardo

See Blackpaint 40, 41, 76, 78, 81 and 82 for more on Michelangelo…but read on here first!

The Trial

Watched Orson Welles’ version of the above, with Anthony Perkins doing a brilliant, nervy, bemused Josef K.  Fantastic shots of muddy wastelands, lowering skies, shabby concrete flats (shot in Zagreb).  Also the huge statuary of the entrance to the Gare D’Orsay and labyrinth of corridors and hallways.  Jeanne Moreau, Elsa Martinelli and Romy Schneider deepening Perkins’ bemusement at various stages.  Scene of a host of naked, elderly men, holding their numbers,  standing cowed beneath a statue cloaked in a white sheet (to the intro of Albinoni’s Adagio).  Surreal incidents, dreamlike quality; fantastic (but no doubt deeply flawed; every film I like turns out to be deeply flawed).

Listening to: Christy Moore, Vive la Quinte Brigada.

“Vive la Quinte Brigada,  The passion and the pledge that made them fight,

Adelante! is the cry around the hillside,

Let us all remember them tonight”.



Blackpaint 10

December 9, 2009

British Library

Exhibition of 19th century photography at the above, called “Points of View”, I think.  The usual stuff; workmen lined up on earthen galleries in tunnels, bridges and dams under construction in Egypt, India and elsewhere in the Empire, Muybridge sequences of apes, horses, bison and humans in motion – the horse definitely does have all four hooves in the air at one point – Gettysburg dead in a trench,  Conan Doyle with an ectoplasmic entity hovering behind him.  Victoria, Tennyson, Oscar Wilde, criminal types, misty evenings in Trafalgar Square.

Three photographs really stood out for me, for completely different reasons.  The first was an Andaman Islander with a clamp attached to her neck to hold her in place for the photograph.  The second was an X ray of a frog, with an eerily human skeleton- and the third, a portrait of the actress, Mrs. Patrick Kavanagh, as she was titled.

King’s Place

Then, down to King’s Place  in York Way, to see paintings by Updahl, the Norwegian painter.  Mountains and huge sweeping curves of bays, with distant towns sketched in with paint along the shoreline, all under dark mauve skies, sometimes with aurora depicted.  Some of them reminded me of Paul Nash’s bay scene.  Downstairs, some watercolours of similar scenes with sharp contrast of light and darkness on mountain faces.  Our view impeded by a huge throng of suited businessmen (some women, overwhelmingly men) having their buffet lunch break from a conference.

British Museum

Finally, down to BM and to Mexican revolutionary prints from 30s to 50s, I think.  Social Realist type subjects- beggars, workers, soldiers, disabled, street scenes – but in that heroic, stylised manner of the muralists; Rivera,  Siqueiros and Orozco (who have a wall to themselves, titled “The Big Three”).

Had a quick walk through the North American/Canadian Indian section – First Nation peoples is the correct term, I understand from Ray Mears and George Monbiot – and saw the anoraks made from gut (of seal, sea lion etc.) to the Main Court and through to the Assyrian reliefs from Nimrud, Nineveh and Tigrath – Pileser (is that right?), to check on the lions in the lion hunt series and see if what I said about them being much better than Renaissance lions was right – it was.

As well as the lions, sprouting arrows, there were lines of soldiers carrying little lopped -off prisoners’ heads, two prisoners being skinned alive, divers apparently using inflated skins as swimming aids, rivers full of fish, crabs and eels, cities being besieged, walls scaled and battering ram “tanks” crashing into walls.  And the huge eagle-headed guardian spirits with pine cone and bucket (very like a handbag), lashes, fly whisks, and one pair attacking each other with knives.

Home, and Tim Marlow on Vermeer on TV.  Enough to make me despair, as I contemplate the trite, anaemic, tricksy abomination that is my own current “painting”.

Listening to: “Sorry”, by Bix Beiderbecke and  “It Never Entered my Mind” by Ella Fitzgerald.  The latter has the phrase “uneasy in my easy chair” – I came across “uneasy chair” in Ferlinghetti the other day – and “Naked Lunch” a few times too; did he get it from Burroughs or was it the other way round?



Blackpaint 9

December 8, 2009

Snot, Khaki and Bananas

My latest creation is looking at me, half finished (or more likely, half started); a vile green square atop another of snot and khaki, with an insipid orange telephone-shaped thing just over half the canvas in length, attached to the right side of the squares – the right side a washy grey with a black “gestural” curving line poking up into it.  Any offers?  Starting at £150, shall we say?

Possibly as a result of looking at this thing, or possibly the baked bananas and yoghurt I had for dinner, I am suffering from stomach pains, so tonight’s entry will be brief again, I’m afraid.

Turner Prize

When I visited the Turner Prize exhibition weeks ago,  I thought the  entries were (in order, best first): Lucy Skaer’s shy whale, Enrico David’s angry little spheres on legs, Roger Hiorn’s ground-down aircraft dust and Richard Wright’s gold mural.  I hardly remembered Wright’s entry, thinking of it as embossed wallpaper.  then I read some of the art bollocks on the wall and David’s pompous, self-important stuff made me relegate his entry to last.

Entirely predictably, Wright has won and I find on reading Adrian Searle’s piece in today’s Guardian, that it is “a joyous and tantalising experience… a monstrous and lovely apocalypse”..  Looking at the accompanying photograph, I have to agree (although I still see a wallpaper quality to it).  Perhaps you have to stand looking at it for longer than the 5 minutes, at the most, I gave it.  Charlotte Higgins describes the painfully laborious process of producing it, by pouncing, and I suppose that adds to it’s value (see Labour Theory of Value, earlier entry).

Wright’s work will be painted over after the exhibition, and that seems somehow to enhance the work – it seems heroic in a sense to me, to produce work you know will be destroyed, since the act of creating any piece of art is a denial of death and oblivion on some level.  You don’t mind someone having your work to put in their house but you don’t want it destroyed.  You have this mad idea that it will somehow be permanent – and Wright, and Michael Landy seem to have overcome that, at least on occasion.

 That’s what I mean by heroic – I’m not trying to compare artists with armed forces, or policemen, or lifeboatmen, or anyone who risks life and limb for the public good.

So, a moment ago, I was criticising Enrico David for being pompous and self-important; I don’t see why he should be the only one allowed, just because he is a Turner Prize finalist.  My day will come.

Listening to:  Decoration Day, by Sonny Boy Williamson (and loads of others)

“People, you have a good time now, just like the flowers that blooms in May (*2)

But Sonny Boy thinks about his baby- I get the blues every Decoration Day”