Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Searle’

Blackpaint 291

August 30, 2011

Tarkovsky and Bruegel

Watching “Solaris” the other day, came to the bit where the camera closes up on – goes into, almost – the reproduction of Hunters in the Snow;  I recall a scene in “Mirror” that suggested this painting and I’m sure that Tarkovsky quotes this scene in “Solaris” too.

I have to say I was astonished at the clarity with which Bruegel depicted the distant details – landscape, birds, the villagers capering on the ice; never noticed this particularly before, I suppose it takes a film close-up to bring it home.  Also, it reminded me of Bela Tarr’s Hungarian villagers – especially when they dance drunkenly with chairs or bread rolls on the head.

Dead Areas

In last blog, I suggested that most great films have patches in them that are pretentious, or awkward, even laughable (unintentionally).  This is surely more true of art house cinema, since the director is trying to make art, as well as, or maybe rather than, money.  Same goes for all art – music, theatre – and for painting.  Trouble is, when you find a dead area and change it, everything else changes too and you end up painting a different picture.  I’m thinking of abstract painting, where the choice – and therefore the pressure – is maybe greater; but it’s probably there with figurative painting as well.  Adrian Searle, I think, was writing about Lucian Freud, and making a lot of the fact that he painted everything in a picture (walls, window sills, floorboards) with the same attention to detail as the “subject”.

Katherine Jones

Several delicate, hanging “books” in the shape of birds. feathers of thin paper with one-line poems in the edges; prints of her signature mysterious glass-houses on the edge of a dark wood or a black mountain – in the Festival Hall Poetry library, on the 5th floor, and unfortunately now finished.  But have a look on her website anyway; the fact that she is my niece hasn’t influenced my recommendation in any way.

Guggenheim – last word

Robert Gober -A sculpted torso, half male, half female;  an odd, triangular cot; a rolled-up “unfolding door”.

Nate Lowman – stunning colour photographs of oil rigs with sun, moon, fire; what were they doing in the “Transgression” section, along with Paul McCarthy’s ” Tomato Head” and “Sasidge Cut”, and photos of naked men with beer cans, meat and onions for penises?  Interestingly, we had to queue for 30 minutes to get into this bit; overeager attendants letting in only as many as were leaving, despite there being only 20-odd in there at a time.

Thomas Hirschhorn – “Cavemanman”; an extended cavern made from brown tape, composition rocks and tinfoil, containing figures and torsos, pop band posters, overflowing with Coke cans, pages of instructions about voting systems posted up, giant books on Chomsky, multiculturalism, semiotics etc, etc, and film loops of prehistoric cave paintings.  Presumably, the cave is our civilisation as future excavators might see it – but what was meant by the dynamite sticks taped to the wall?

Blackpaint

30.08.11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 287

July 22, 2011

Lucian Freud

What a staggering photograph by David Dawson in today’s Guardian, of Freud working, stripped to the waist, in 2005;  his torso looks to me exactly like one of his own (Freud’s) paintings.  By contrast, another crass assertion by Adrian Searle that, next to Freud, Hockney and Howard Hodgkin are “artistic pygmies”; fair enough to think that, but not without argument.  Searle merely asserts that Freud’s art “has authority” (presumably Hockney and Hodgkin lack that quality) and follows it up with anecdotes about his assertive (boorish, aggressive?) behaviour.  He once painted himself with a black eye after getting into a punch up with a taxi driver.

For my money, his best pictures were the portrait of a young Francis Bacon, the picture of Harry Diamond standing next to the aspidistra and the portrait, elongated and looking down, of Frank Auerbach.  Also, that great, porridge-y, self portrait, naked apart from the boots.

I’d have hoped for some comparison with Auerbach, too; seems logical as they are both painters of flesh and Grand Old Men.

St.Ives

The BBC4 film Art in Cornwall, fronted by James Fox, got another airing last night; it was 90 minutes long and good on Wallis, Nicolson, Hepworth, Wood, Gabo, Lanyon and Heron.  Not enough on Frost, nothing on Hilton, Blow, Mackenzie, Wynter…  Surely, it should have been two 90 minute programmes to get it all in.  Still, better than nothing…

Lanyon

The film was pretty good on Peter Lanyon, and sent me straight back to my books to look at him again.  The sweep and energy in the paintings, surf exploding, sunlight blinding, flight lines, roughness, scoring of rocks, concealed figures (Lost Mine and Porthleven), those fantastic murals at Liverpool and Birmingham universities…  Why isn’t he rated as highly as Freud and Bacon?  Too abstract for the figuratives, and too landscape-y for the abstractionists, I suppose.

Tarkovsky and Tarr

Both of these directors clearly have a thing about rain –  I’m watching Tarkovsky’s “Nostalgia” at the moment, and great, soaking deluges are pouring down, often shot through with dazzling light that separates out the individual falling drops.  Derelict brick and cement buildings are a favourite, with great holes in the roof that admit torrents.  Often, as with Tarr, dogs are wandering about, usually German Shepherds in Tarkovsky’s case.  The difference between the two is one of mood; Tarr’s deluges pour down on glum village streets or mud roads and shabby blocks of flats; Tarkovsky’s downpours in Nostalgia, Stalker and Mirror tend to be more – well, nostalgic in mood.

 

 

B

Blackpaint

22/07/11

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 280

June 14, 2011

L’Age d’Or

Good to hear the precise, rolling diction of Robert Short, one of my old teachers at UEA, doing the commentary on the DVD, clearly relishing the alchemical references to “shit and gold”.  I remember being told, along with the rest of my sorry class, to “Piss off, and come back next week when you’ve done the reading I set”, after we showed him uniform ignorance of Hegel’s “Philosophy of Right”.  Years later, and a teacher myself, I realised that he was probably not angry but happy at the opportunity to ditch, righteously, two hours of boring teaching and pursue his own hobby of making surrealist films.

Remember sitting behind him in a Norwich cinema, watching Bunuel’s “Milky Way”, he convulsed with laughter – the only one laughing; everyone else puzzled.

Cecily Brown 

Another pungent Guardian arts review, to follow Jonathan Jones’ Mark Leckey job – this one from Adrian Searle.  He describes her works currently on show at the Gagosian as “Turgid paintings that leave you in need of a lie-down”.  The problem for Searle is that she does very busy paintings in which figures, naked or getting there, are often to be seen in the throes of coitus – seen with difficulty, that is.  Searle feels he has to make the effort to decipher these figures and is annoyed at this.  “She paints hide-and-seek images in which there is lots of noodling about”, he says.  Given the subject matter of her paintings, it’s perhaps not surprising he needs a lie-down after looking at them.

But why do you have to make out the content?  What Brown does, in my view, like De Kooning – although obviously not as well – is to make paint look good on the surface; she uses a mix of “squirming marks, flurries and squiffs of paint” (Searle’s words), to which you might add scrapes, scratches, scrawls, drips and areas of flat colour, often in DK hues, that look great.  Apply the flick test; flick through a book of contemporary painters and you will stop at hers.  Adrian Searle could stop worrying about spotting the half-concealed athletics and enjoy the marks and colours on the surface.  Just because Brown likes a bit of sex, there’s no reason why this should spoil the viewer’s chaste appreciation of her art.

Clyde Hopkins

My partner has just given me a catalogue of this painter’s work from an exhibition at the Francis Graham-Dixon Gallery in 1990.  I’d not heard of him, but he used to be her tutor at Chelsea.  They are staggeringly beautiful, all of them, in brilliant reds, marmalade, black, yellow – lots of dots and heavy black scoring; some of them remind me of Jaap Wagemaker. Fantastic.

 

(This is one of mine, not Hopkins’)

Blackpaint

Tuesday 14th June

Blackpaint 252

February 17, 2011

Vincent’s Sunflowers

As I said a blog or two ago, I could never warm to the famous Sunflowers; now, “research shows” (Guardian, Tuesday) that sunlight turns 19th century yellow chrome paint brown – but “only if the yellow paint had been mixed with white pigments based on sulphates.”

This maybe explains the difference between these sunflowers and the blazing, yellow/orange entities that Van Gogh painted in Aug – Sept 1887.  Something I didn’t know about Van Gogh was how much he was influenced by Japanese art and culture – witness the 15 or so paintings of orchards and trees in blossom he knocked out in Arles in April 1888.

As for industry – the Taschen book shows 25 pictures for July 1890; not bad going, considering he shot himself on the 27th.

Turner

I was interested to discover that Turner used scraping away as a Technique in some paintings, notably the bottom left foreground in “Rocky Bay with Figures”, c.1830 and the crown of “Death on a Pale Horse”, c. 1825 – 30 (see William Gaunt’s Phaidon book).  This struck me as pretty advanced for the time, but my knowledgeable partner sniffed at my ignorance and said it was common.

I’m not convinced – Turner seems so way ahead of everyone else.  “Ship on Fire” and “Boats at Sea”, for example; the latter defines minimalism.  I suppose they are every bit as “abstracted” as that Melville I go on about –  and done decades earlier.

Watercolour Exhibition at Tate Britain

Which brings me to this show, which opened to the public yesterday, and which I attended with two companions and several hundred  grey retirees, mostly teachers, I would guess.  Within minutes, my friend had pronounced “Wrotham” incorrectly when reading a label – he was promptly and tartly corrected by the woman next to him; “It’s pronounced ROOT-HAM, actually. ”  She moved on with a tight little smile, leaving us suitably corrected and chastened.

Anyway – loads of brownish landscapes, as you would expect – I liked the Indian powder works on the riverbank – jewel-like miniatures, beautiful botanical drawings in eye-destroying detail, bright little Books of Hours.

Best thing is if I just list my highlights:

John Piper, Nantfranccon (I think); Layered rock strata, like piled bodies.

Edward Burra, a valley in Northumberland with a great, green, lowering hill overlooking it.

Ravilious’ lovely White Horse, with the slanting lines (rain?).

Girton’s Bamburgh Castle, one of David Dimbleby’s choices in his series on British art and landscape.  Stunning picture – doesn’t look much like Bamburgh Castle now, though.

Blake, Jane Shore doing penance – proof that Blake could do really ordinary, boring pictures too.

Samuel Palmer, “Dream in the Appenines”; hints of Raspberry Ripple in the sunset; Benjamin West, American Sublime and all that – bloody awful painting.

Arthur Melville, “Blue Night, Venice” – and what a blue it is; little bit green, but translucent, against the tower.  Comes close to Turner’s Venice sketches.  Why is he not better known?

Turner – the two already mentioned above, and several small sundown sketches, including “The Scarlet Sunset”, with the yellow wiggle on the water surface; it’s only the size of a postcard!

There’s a war room:

William Simpson – a butterfly rests on a cannonball, a lizard scuttles past, or maybe holds a frozen pose for an hour or two, in the aftermath of battle.  It’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” – but from an earlier war.

Mutilated faces from WWI and a French hussar dying, with his intestines exposed by a sabre cut at Waterloo.

A really strange Burra – “Soldiers at Rye” – in which the soldiers, with their bulging muscles, theatrical stances and inexplicable pointy-nosed masks, look like a troupe of travelling players from the 17th century.

The lovely little Samuel Palmer with the horizontal crescent moon, to offset the Appenine monstrosity; maybe he needed the small format…

Two David Jones, white and grey, that from a distance, bear a faint resemblance to Dubuffet’s scraped – away pictures.

Lucia Nogueira, her blots and stains with intermingling colours, so simple but memorable.

The Patrick Heron, of course; not as intense as the oils, though.

Roger Hilton – two of the child-like pictures, done in posters I think, from his bed-ridden period.  One with the dog, strangely affecting.

Peter Lanyon, fabulous of course, like a skate egg case on its side, and colours like Alfred Wallis.

Left the best to last – huge, on the end wall, is Sandra Blow’s “Vivace” with it’s glorious, vulvic sweeps of red acrylic, chucked from a bucket onto an off-white canvas.  Just what this constipated exhibition of little, detailed exquisiteness needs.  For some reason, Adrian Searle chose to be dismissive of this celebratory work in his Guardian review; he called it “silly”.  Wrong!  Blow’s painting is like a pint of cold Guinness with a creamy, perfect head, looking up at you from a bar counter – after a long drought, passed in the company of prissy relatives.

One last thing; £14.00, or £12.00 for concessions, is a lot for an exhibition put together substantially from Tate’s own resources.  A tenner, maybe….

This Flight Tonight (to Joni Mitchell)

Blackpaint

17.02.11

Blackpaint 246

January 27, 2011

Gabriel Orozco and Damien Hirst

Orozco exhibiting at the Tate Modern, reviewed in the Guardian the other day, by Adrian Searle.  Referring to Orozco’s skull, drawn all over with a chessboard pattern, Searle says: “It is a thousand times better than that glittery, diamond-crusted skull of Damien Hirst’s.”

He doesn’t say why, though.  Maybe he thinks there is something repugnant about the conspicuous money (waste) involved, the spurious “value” of the Hirst piece – that’s one of the points that Hirst’s skull makes, surely.  The art market has to do with vulgarity, conspicuous consumption, bad bad taste and sensation.  Also, it reminds you that you can’t take it with you, however much you’ve got – and you’ve got to go.  True, these are well-worn observations and he’s made £50 million – or was it $? – by re-stating them; but he can’t take it with him and he’s got to go…

I suppose his exhibit in Modern British Sculptors (Blackpaint 245) says more or less the same thing; lovely juicy steaks, nice bottle of wine, summer al fresco dining, all rotting away with a smelly, disgusting carpet of dead flies;  says it better, probably.

What about the Orozco?  Searle says it is to do with “mapping the cranium, like a mind meeting its container”; that sounds plausible to me and it certainly looks great and is apparently beautifully executed.  Perhaps that’s enough – it’s enough for me, anyway.  Others  may feel the need to “read” the work…

Epstein 

Reading the teacher’s notes to the Royal Academy exhibition, I was intrigued to find that Epstein began his massively proportioned “Adam” by sculpting the genitalia.  So, you visit his studio  a few days or maybe a week in, and he says, “I haven’t done much so far, just this – what do you think?”

Caro

A  simple, obvious thing, again from the notes, was that with Caro’s sculpture, the plinth was abandoned and it became normal for sculptures to rest on the floor – when not hanging or occupying a vitrine, of course…

Charles Sargeant Jagger

How closely his reliefs for the war memorials resemble the Assyrian sieges and lion hunts; not only because they are also reliefs, but in the angularity, the musculature, the sharpness of the relief.

Carl Andre

Final point from notes on Andre’s famous bricks, or “Equivalent VIII”, to give proper name.  The notes quote the Daily Mirror’s headline from 1976, commenting on the Tate purchase of the bricks in 1972: “What a Load of Rubbish!” and later: “the gallery didn’t even get  the original pile of bricks.”  So it would have been OK if they’d got the originals, then…

Turner

I don’t know why, but I haven’t paid enough attention to this painter before -many of  his later pictures  are just staggering and I have a feeling that he should be the most important and  influential English painter ever; I’m not sure why he’s not.  Maybe he was too far ahead of his time to influence others and they just turned away  from him and carried on doing the more acceptable stuff.  “The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16th 1834” (the one in Cleveland, Ohio); doesn’t need a title, looks just as good on  its side, judging by the Phaidon book.  Or the Petworth interiors; look like Roman murals at Pompeii.  Or “The Ship on Fire” watercolour – level of abstraction comparable to Melville’s “Moulin Rouge” (see Blackpaint 139 and 146).  

These paintings are still too much for some people (Blackpaint 195). 

Listening to Blind Lemon Jefferson, Matchbox Blues:

“Now when the sun goes down, she crochets all the time;

Sun  goes down, crochets all the time;

Babe, if you don’t quit crocheting,

You gonna lose your mind.”

Blackpaint

27.01.11

 

Blackpaint 228

December 8, 2010

Turner Prize

Won by Susan Philipsz, the sound artist, who had a recording of herself singing “Lowlands” installed under three bridges on the Clyde.  It was re-installed in the Tate Britain without the bridges, which some critics felt detracted from the work – difficult to see how to get round that one.  Anyway, she won and had apparently been the favourite throughout.  As I’ve said before, readers should listen to the Ann Briggs version, or Martin Carthy’s, if they can find it. 

A piece in the Guardian by Adrian Searle praised Philipsz’ work in the following terms: “Her current Artangel project, Surround Me, insinuates itself down alleys and courtyards in the City of London…. singing melancholy works by John Dowland… I have stood in shadowy old courtyards and between gleaming office blocks, weeping as I listen.”  Please, Mr. Searle, pull yourself together; we British don’t cry and we certainly don’t “weep”.

Having said that, I occasionally get the odd prickle in the corner of an eye when listening to the Matthew Passion or the Mass in B minor – and even in the presence of great paintings; Lavender Mist, Palisades, Berkeley series, most things by Joan Mitchell…

Martin Rowson

Has, well – deservedly, won the Low Prize for political cartoonists – despite the fact that you need to be really seriously up to speed on politics to get everything going on in his cartoons.  He has, however, failed to produce an arse- sucking drawing since I requested the same some time back (in a TV interview, he said that he had toned down such a cartoon at the request of an editor who was hungover and feeling sick).

Surely, the time for a double arse-licking cartoon has arrived, with the Assange affair: British magistrate licks Swedish prosecutor, who in turn licks Obama – or maybe Clinton…  Steve Bell has obliged today, with Uncle Sam fucking an ostrich; nice to see vulgarity standards falling – or rising – with BBC radio presenters saying “cunt” on air at every opportunity.

Quiz

Who did a painting of a massive Gordon’s Gin advert above a branch of Woolworths (that is, the advert was above Woolworths in the painting..)?

Blackpaint

08.12.10

Blackpaint 201

October 1, 2010

Gauguin

Review of the new exhibition at Tate Modern by Adrian Searle in Guardian this week said Gauguin had re-emerged in the work of Peter Doig and Chris Ofili.  Hadn’t thought of this before, but he’s right, in my view.  Easy to see why Ofili, the relocation to Trinidad, the choice of local subject matter, even the use of colour – the central picture in the Guardian article is suffused with a shade of mauve reminiscent of Ofili’s latest work (at least, the work exhibited recently at the other London Tate).

Why Doig?  his paintings, after all, are usually enigmas, in a way that Gauguin’s are not, or are not intended to be.  I suppose it’s simply that sometimes they resemble one another in their use of tropical location, colours and configuration.

He also mentions Tuymans – have to think about that one!

Rauschenberg

He uses the word “schwandel” or “schwendel” when discussing red paintings in “Painters painting” in a manner which suggests he thinks it would be  a familiar term to viewers; what is he talking about?  Is this a term in frequent use in the art world? 

Grown up Politics

I know it’s nothing to do with art, but I have now heard or seen this term used not only by the insufferable prick of a Lib Dem MP (see Blackpaint 197) but Toby Young on TV and Polly Toynbee in the Guardian.  Another phrase which seems to have spread like germs on a toilet door handle is “wriggle room”, sometimes delivered as “wiggle room”.

Exhibition

Tomorrow.  Haven’t done the titles or prices yet – panic!  Closing now…

Blackpaint – Old one

Listening to Richard Thompson, Vincent Black Lightning 1952

“I see angels and Ariels in leather and chrome,

Swinging down from heaven to carry me home,”

And he gave her one last kiss and died –

And he gave her his Vincent to ride.”

Blackpaint

October 1st

Blackpaint 171

July 24, 2010

Michelangelo

His St. Matthew statue, emerging from the marble, brandishing a bible in left hand and with a curious square structure in chest region, looks like some sculpture from the 1910’s or 20’s – Gill maybe, but rougher of course; Epstein? Not really, but that era.  Later, I’ll be looking at something Michaael Craig-Martin said about drawing, how it can bridge the ages whereas sculpture and painting can’t; I think this is an exception.  It was  made as part  of the grandiose Julius Tomb project, which led to furious rows between Julius II and Michelangelo, and a flight from Rome to Florence by M.

Drawing

My moaning in Bp.170 about the Adrian Searle article was caused by the fact that articles exalting the process of drawing often go on to use it as an opportunity to attack Abstract Expressionism (carefully excluding de Kooning and a few others) on the grounds that they have to do abstracts because they can’t draw.  William Boyd, I think, was the last one I read putting this view forward.  Robert Hughes, in his diatribes against Basquiat and Schnabel, dismissed a later generation of artists on these lines, but would not include the earlier Ab Exes, whose integrity and importance are manifest.

The tone of this precious stuff about the supremacy of drawing can at times reach amusing levels – try the correspondence between John Berger and Leon Kossoff in the Penguin Book of Art Writing;   no doubt, they are both most sincere in their mutual praise, but even so, it’s a bit much…

Michael Craig-Martin

What he said was that drawings of great artists from  all ages can “speak directly to each other” in a way that paintings and sculpture cannot.  “The drawings of Rembrandt can speak directly to the work of Beckmann or Guston, …Leonardo to Newman or Andre, Michelangelo to Duchamp…”; paintings are more rooted in historical values, have a “cultural as well as  a physical density” that it is hard to transcend.

I suppose this boils down to “Some drawings look as if they could have been done yesterday or a thousand years ago, because techniques of shading etc. haven’t changed that much”.  That sounds fair enough, but the rest of the assertions need clarification, at least;  HOW exactly do Leonardo’s drawings speak directly to Newman or Andre?  We’ll never know, because this is art writing.

Barnett Newman

Since I’ve mentioned him, I have to refer to his appearance on “Painters Painting” DVD I blogged about in 170.  Drink and smoke in  hand (like all the rest), a bit tearful, looking like  anything but an  American Ab Ex in his tight suit and thick  moustache.  In the Penguin art book, he makes the wonderful, wild assertion that the creative, artistic  urge came before anything else for primitive man.  The whole article is a statement of pride really in his “calling”, although I’m not sure he would have called it  that.  Anyway, after reading that, I saw  his green zip painting in the DVD – anything you say is right, Mr. Newman.

Tom McCarthy

While we are on assertions, lovely one in the Guardian Review today from the above; in Blake’s Tyger, Tyger the beast represents the Industrial Revolution.  Blackpaint says: No, it doesn’t.  I thought the stuff on Finnegans Wake was interesting, though, containing as  it did assertions with which I agree.

Work in progress, by Blackpaint

22.07.10

Blackpaint 170

July 22, 2010

Alice Neel at Whitechapel

At first glance, I thought these would be mediocre, a bit sketchy, not finished off properly, dull colours like Neue Sachlichkeit stuff – portraits, boring.  Second glance proved me drastically wrong. 

They look as if done quickly, impressionistic, an element of caricature and definitely a touch of NS, Christian Schad, Modersohn – Becker.  I even got a taste of Diane Arbus from the flat stares and awkward poses.  Sometimes, they taper off into mere outline (hands,  legs, sofas).  However, they clearly capture the idiosyncracies of the subjects – a frown, slight sneer, complacent smirk, nervous glance, effusive smile… 

The best portraits: the youth Hartley, Andy Warhol with his scars and several inches of underpants,  the two men immediately on your right as you enter – the serious man in the sleeveless pullover against the Duccio yellow background (or is it more Van Gogh sunflower?), and the fierce man with the slight sneer in the next picture.  Look at the shiny patch on his forehead. 

Her flesh tones are greenish, apart from the pregnant women and babies upstairs.  She used a heavy black outline in the 50’s and 60’s, changing to a Van Gogh-like light blue outline in the 70’s and 80’s.

Upstairs are the pregnant women, mothers and fat, staring, slightly sinister babies (Small Assassin, Ray Bradbury would have recognised them).  one of the women in particular looks dazed and desperate, the picture earning Neel feminist acclaim.  There is a beautiful, young, pregnant woman on a sofa facing the doors, the line of her figure strong and confident, as if done with one sure, single stroke.

In the next room, old age; dim eyes, arthritic knuckles, hunched postures – but still, all recognisable individuals with their vanities and concerns.  Her own self portrait is here, naked and unflattering (of course, stupid to think it might be).

There are some clinkers here, though; I thought the buildings were poor, as was most of the stuff from the thirties and the man with three pricks was like a really bad imitation of R. Crumb.  There were a couple of nasty caricatures, both of arty women.  A flattering portrait of a woman academic she obviously liked had a big patch of red, some ochre I think, and some grey scribble in the background, prompting someone to say on the blurb that this showed Neel could have been an Abstract Expressionist – utter rubbish on this evidence.  But, on the whole, a great exhibition.  I’d like to see it with some Lucian Freuds, to compare their approaches.

Painters on Painting 

DVD on sale at the Whitechapel; saw it at the ICA some months ago.  The magnificence of some of the paintings is too great to exaggerate; Hoffman, de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Johns, Pollock, Frankenthaler, underlining the sheer offensive silliness of that snide remark on the caption in the Neel exhibition.  Unfortunately, some of these boys can really ramble on.  Frank Stella is like Woody Allen, obsessed with critics who found his work cold compared with Ab Exes.  Jasper Johns, like a drawling character from Frasier and Jules Olitsky, obsessed with the edges of his paintings and brandishing a huge cat (as if about to dip it in paint and swipe it across the canvas.

Adrian Searle

In the Guardian, reviewing a drawing exhibition at the White Cube and a book by Deanna Petherbridge “the Primacy of Drawing” (says it all, really), quotes her as follows: “Drawing is the basis of all art and visual thinking…Drawing renders thoughts visible”.  Sorry, when I draw, I draw – when I paint, I paint.  I don’t, usually, do sketches.  I think painting is a different, but not lesser, process; unless, of course, you define sweeps of the brush or dabbles in the paint as drawing.  I think, unlike Robert Hughes and his followers, that you – sorry, some painters –  can produce magnificent paintings that are not based on drawing prowess, and many Ab Ex and others have done just that.

I’m pleased to say that Kenneth Noland more or less says just that in the DVD.  He calls it One Shot painting.  Good on you, Kenneth; RIP.

Hereward 1, by Blackpaint

Blackpaint

22.07.10

Blackpaint 148

June 8, 2010

Sistine Chapel

Yesterday, I described a sort of roughness in the close-ups of some of the Michelangelo figures on the ceiling of the Sistine, as shown in the Taschen book.  Actually, the ceiling paintings are very smooth, beautiful glowing flesh tones and superbly drawn features; only the surface cracking gives a scaly effect at close quarters which is quite pleasing.

The roughness, surprisingly, is in the wall characters, especially the demons and their agonised victims – I suppose this is appropriate (no, not that word again, as the boy in Outnumbered rightly complains).

At the bottom right is the portrayal of Minos, with his asses’ ears, and wound round the body by a large snake which is in the process of biting (off?) his penis.  This is actually a portrait of Biagio da Cesena, the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies, who had complained about the number of naked men and women in tortured and suggestive poses.  The snake is Michelangelo’s revenge.  Biagio spent the rest of his life trying to get the portrait removed.

I like to spot saints by their attributes; the following are easy – Catherine with her broken wheel; Simon with his saw; Bartholomew, carrying his flayed skin (which is a self portrait of M); Lawrence with his grill; Blaise with his sharpened combs; Peter with the keys; Sebastian with his arrows.  The Taschen identifies Dismas, the “good” thief, with the small crucifix and Simon of Cyrene with the large one. 

Saatchi’s Newspeak

Reading the reviews of this show by Sean o’ Hagan in Sunday’s Observer and Adrian Searle in yesterday’s Guardian, I was struck by one thing in particular: the manifest irritation of both reviewers at the lack of some unifying theme to the works on display.  O’ Hagan: “What we have here is a hotchpotch – of styles, approaches and strategies…”;  Searle”..the exhibition is a ragbag of sometimes good, often bad and mostly indifferent art.”  I suppose it makes a reviewer’s job much harder when one cannot “identify any shared direction, a flavour, a style or a zeitgeist “(Searle).  It means that each artwork must be discussed on its own terms, not easy in the context of a review of limited length.  They both mention the works of Jed Quinn, Goshka Macuga and Sigrid Holmwood, but do not agree on whether they are good; O’ Hahan’s review is the more favourable – he describes this as a “big, brash, if sometimes quietly surprising, exhibition.”  My review to follow soon – please try to be patient.

Moses down from Sinai by Blackpaint

Listening to Lane Hardin, California Desert Blues.

“Crossin that old desert mama, just like breaking that Hindenberg Line (*2)

If you get ditched off  that freight train, you know that will be the end of the line.”

Blackpaint

08.06.10